Friday Five: Book Cover Art that I Absolutely Love

Even though I travel overseas frequently and rely on e-readers to keep up with my “to read” list, there’s something profound about holding a physical book in my hands. Part of it is the smell of the paper and ink, the feel of the pages as I turn them. But part of it is the physical appearance.

I’ll come right out and say it: I judge books by their covers.

Book covers are works of art. Some aren’t particularly good works of art, but some of them are masterpieces. A stunning cover is what catches your eye in the store and makes you pick up a book that you otherwise would have passed over.

Here are five of my favorite (non-traditional) romance novel book covers, with a twist: all of the covers share the same color scheme.

The-Night-Circus-CVR Summary: There is a traveling circus which appears without warning in towns around the world. And if the wonders inside seem magical, it’s because they are; the circus is actually a battle-ground for magicians Celia and Marco.

This is one of my all-time favorite romances, mostly because it’s so much more than a love story. It’s about magic and dreams and believing in yourself. It’s about refusing to give in to other people’s expectations and doing what you want. It’s about friendship and family and the bonds that define us as human beings. But yes, it’s also about love.

The cover art on all of the editions perfectly fits the whimsical and magical feel of the circus. I love the sharp contrast of the red (a distinctive trademark of frequent visitors to the circus) and the cutouts of the couple on the cover. (Cover Artist: Helen Musselwhite or Pei Loi Koay, I couldn’t find for sure)

stiefvater-ravenboysSummary: Blue Sargent is a normal girl in a family of psychics. She’s been told since she was a little girl that if she kisses her true love, he will die. So when she has a vision of a soon-to-be-dead boy named Gansey, she knows his death will be her fault.

The Raven Cycle quartet (book four is due in 2016) is probably one of the most amazing YA series that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. It’s smart, witty, and incredibly original. The characters are teenagers who deal with normal teenager things– school, crushes, family– but also issues like fate, destiny, and magic.

The cover art here is something I would hang on my wall in a heartbeat. Stunning, dark, and with very cool details hidden within. (Cover Artist: Adam S. Doyle)

Summary: If you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you might not know about the Hunger Games. A dystopia where every year one male and one female ‘tribute’ from each District is sent to the Capital to fight to the death.

I do consider this series to be ‘romance’, even though I know some would disagree; I love gritty novels where the romance is fought for every step of the way, and hard-won in the end.

These gorgeous covers are part of the Australian luxury editions, with metallic-edged pages and a raised cover. Even though I already owned all three books in the trilogy, I had to buy these beauties when I found them overseas! (Cover Artist: Unknown)

murakami-windupbird Summary: A man named Toru Okada is searching the Tokyo suburbs for his wife’s runaway cat, but soon finds himself searching for his missing wife as well. He goes to a sub-Tokyo world, and there meets a series of characters on his quest.

When this novel was first published almost twenty years ago, the New York Times called it, “a big, ambitious book” which deals with, among other things, “the transitory nature of romantic love”. Murakami’s novels have always read as love stories to me, even though they in no way resemble a traditional romance.

I love the simplicity of this cover and the other Murakami covers by this artist, released by Vintage and used, it seems, primarily on the Amazon Kindle editions. Very much “modern art”, and very cleverly designed too! (Cover Artist: Noma Bar)

Consentdarkercoverjpg_zps397820fdSummary: Gavin DeGrassi is a detective who gets handed a unique murder case. The victim was part of the BDSM lifestyle, and it looks like a serial killer is targeting Doms within the community. Enter Ben Haverson, a psychologist and Dom who works with Gavin as a consultant, and then becomes something more to Gavin as he begins to explore the lifestyle for himself.

Gavin and Ben are a gorgeous couple, and the process of Gavin coming to terms with his sexuality and the fascination he has with the BDSM lifestyle is written so perfectly.

This cover is from the third book in the trilogy, but all three covers follow the same theme. I love the stark contrast of a single character suspended in the middle of the image.

(Cover Artist: Theo Fenraven)


Friday Five: My Top Moments from Comic-Con

Window art at the neighboring Starbucks.

Window art at the neighboring Starbucks.

I went to Comic-Con with every intention of blogging the entire event… but as you can see, that didn’t happen. What did happen was a solid four and a half days of meeting up with old friends, having adventures, and generally not sleeping enough. It was a crazy weekend, and I walked away with some fantastic memories! Now that I’m home from my vacation, here are my top five moments from SDCC 2015:

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Maggie Stiefvater, Kami Garcia, and more on the

Maggie Stiefvater, Kami Garcia, and more on the “Fantasy Literature” panel.

1. Meeting Maggie Stiefvater. I’m a huge fan of The Raven Cycle series, and was looking forward to her one panel at the con, Fantasy Literature. It was a great panel, but the highlight was actually meeting Maggie herself at a signing after! She autographed my copy of The Raven Boys and a copy of The Dream Thieves for my friend, and was nice enough to take a picture with me (which I won’t be sharing, sorry!).

Two of the many amazing “Frozen” cosplayers.

Racers, start your engines!

Racers, start your engines!

2. Cosplayers. Oh man, I love meeting creative people who sew their own costumes and transform themselves into their favorite characters. Cosplaying (costume roleplaying) is such a strange concept, when you stop to think about it; people spend hundreds of hours of their lives to turn themselves into their favorite fictional persona, all for a day or two of entertainment. I love it! Maybe one day I’ll get up the courage to get a costume on…

Lev Grossman at his spotlight panel.

Lev Grossman at his spotlight panel.

3. Seeing the trailer and a special scene from The Magicians television show. Based on the best-selling trilogy by Lev Grossman, the show is not airing on SyFy channel until 2016. But we got to see the never-before-seen trailer at a Book to Screen panel, and then a clip from the first episode at Lev Grossman’s spotlight panel. I love these books (which are like Harry Potter goes to college), and the show looks awesome!

Photo by @fiercereads on twitter.

Photo by @fiercereads on twitter.

4. Meeting Leigh Bardugo and getting an ARC of Six of Crows. I love Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy, and was thrilled to see that she was doing a signing at SDCC. And even better, the nice lady at the booth informed me that she’d be giving away signed copies of her newest, unreleased novel, Six of Crows… but only to the first fifteen people in line! While my friends were camping out overnight to go see some movie panels in the massive Hall H, I was lining up at 6:30am to be the first in line to meet Leigh Bardugo, who is hands-down one of my favorite authors! (PS, I totally was the first in line. YAY!)

Just one of the many aisles in the Expo Hall.

Just one of the many aisles in the Expo Hall.

The Penguin booth during a book giveaway.

The Penguin booth during a book giveaway.

5. People-watching. SDCC is a madhouse at the best of times, and a chaotic vortex at the worst. There are 200,000 people crammed into a space with the physical capacity from probably only 199,999, which means everyone is just a bit too close, and there are crowds everywhere you look. But there’s something very comforting about being surrounded by so many people who are so passionate about the things they love. No one there can judge you if you’re obsessed with Spiderman, or My Little Pony, or if you line up before sunrise to meet an author you love!

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So thanks for a great Comic-Con, San Diego! I’m not sure if I’ll be back next year, because I really want to attend Book Expo America and maybe one other book con, but I’ll definitely do my best!

Friday Five: My Favorite Quotes for Readers

I have a few quotes on my walls at home and around my desk at work. Among my favorites are, You musn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling (Eames, Inception), and, The most dangerous phrase in the language is “we’ve always done it this way” (Unknown, but possibly Grace Hopper?).

But there are some fantastic quotes for and about readers that I really love. Here are my top five:

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“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” said Jojen. “The man who never reads lives only one.” (George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons)
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We don’t read novels to have an experience like life. Heck, we’re living lives, complete with all the incompleteness. We turn to fiction to have an author assure us that it means something. (Orson Scott Card)


[A library] is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you — and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life. (Isaac Asimov)


I have stolen ideas from every book I have ever read. (Philip Pullman)

graphic by howriddikulus (

graphic by howriddikulus (

Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. (John Green, The Fault in Our Stars)

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Friday Five: Upcoming June Releases

Ahhh, it’s finally warming up in the Northern Hemisphere after a long and messy winter! It was snowing in Colorado just a month ago, and the piles of snow in Boston still haven’t melted… insane, right? Thank goodness summer is finally here!

(Okay, where I live it’s always summer, but that’s beside the point.)

Summer is the best time of year for Romance books in my experience, and there’s nothing more perfect than the combination of a good book, a warm breeze, and blue water lapping at your feet.

So far, June has been a great month for new releases, with amazing novels from Rhys Ford, Lauren Gallagher, and Alexis Hall, to name a few. And the rest of the month has me bouncing with excitement.

Here are five books that I can’t wait to read in the second half of June:

Cover Artist: L.C. Chase

Cover Artist: L.C. Chase

The Deep of the Sound, by Amy Lane (Riptide Publishing, June 15)

Cal McCorkle has lived in Bluewater Bay his whole life. He works two jobs to support a brother with a laundry list of psychiatric diagnoses and a great-uncle with Alzheimer’s, and his personal life amounts to impersonal hookups with his boss. He’s got no time, no ambition, and no hope. All he has is family, and they’re killing him one responsibility at a time.

Avery Kennedy left Los Angeles, his family, and his sleazy boyfriend to attend a Wolf’s Landing convention, and he has no plans to return. But when he finds himself broke and car-less in Bluewater Bay, he’s worried he’ll have to slink home with his tail between his legs. Then Cal McCorkle rides to his rescue, and his urge to run away dies a quick death.

Avery may seem helpless at first, but he can charm Cal’s fractious brother, so Cal can pretty much forgive him anything. Even being adorkable. And giving him hope. But Cal can only promise Avery “until we can’t”—and the cost of changing that to “until forever” might be too high, however much they both want it.

Cover Artist: Unknown

Cover Artist: Unknown

Just Business, by Anna Zabo (Random House/InterMix, June 16)

Justin White may not look like an up and coming corporate superstar, but his new boss knows he has the smarts, grit, and determination to succeed. Now he just has to convince his company’s CFO, Eli Ovadia. Unfortunately, Justin can’t seem to keep his cool around the domineering Eli—and soon he finds himself taking their heat from the boardroom into the bedroom….

Still haunted by a tragic accident that left him with a wounded leg and broken heart, Eli has a need to be in control. But his desire for Justin makes him want to lose that control—and push them both far beyond their limits. But will his need to dominate Justin drive him away—or will Eli find a way to be the man he needs for both of them?

Cover Artist: Kanaxa

Cover Artist: Kanaxa

The Girl Next Door, by Amy Jo Cousins (Samhain Publishing, June 16)

Charles “Cash” Carmichael traded his high-rise condo and family-firm career for a job coaching soccer for Chicago’s inner-city kids. He’s adjusting to living on minimum wage when his young cousin, newly out and running away from home, shows up on his less-than-luxurious doorstep.

Angsty teens definitely aren’t Cash’s thing. He needs local backup, and there’s only one name he can think of: Stephany Tyler. Back in the day, the bisexual Steph was the perfect friend with benefits until she fell in love with a woman.

To his relief, his former friend steps up to the plate. Soon, though, Cash finds himself feeling the familiar need to keep her in his bed, and in his life. But Steph, burned by the ex-girlfriend and by the absentee dad she’s been trying to connect with, won’t risk her heart again.

Good thing Cash believes in leaving it all on the field. If he can just convince Steph to get in the game, there’s a chance they can both win.

Cover Artist: L.C. Chase

Cover Artist: L.C. Chase

The Tide of War, by Lori A. Witt (Riptide Publishing, June 22)

Lieutenant Commander Kyle West is one of Earth Fleet’s greatest fighter pilots. Every day, he leads his squadron into battle over Earth’s cities in a seemingly endless war against a vicious alien race, defending his home and his loved ones.

Millions of miles away, the Fleet’s Elite Squadron attacks from another angle, engaging the enemy on its home turf. Casualties are high, and the Squadron needs more of the Fleet’s very best. But joining the Elite is a death sentence—a surety Kyle isn’t willing to face. Until a devastating attack wipes out the family he refused to leave.

Commander Andrei Dezhnyov, an Elite Squadron gunner, isn’t sure what to make of the cocky new American pilot. Kyle is equally uncertain about the snarly Russian, but as they warm up to each other, their tentative alliance becomes a deep bond—one that endangers them both when a daring and disobedient rescue reveals secrets that call into question everything they’ve ever believed about their enemy. Secrets that their superiors would kill to protect.

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

The Peach and the Poppy, by Caesar J.M. Kauftheil (Less Than Three Press, June 24)

After an unpleasant breakup with her girlfriend, Poppy goes on a solo trip to Paris. Her first morning out she encounters a beautiful stranger, but it proves to be the only good part of the day. Though she tries to appreciate the beautiful city she’s come to escape in for a time, Poppy can’t help but feel something is lacking.

When her best friend suggests what she needs is a fling to clear away her ex for good, Poppy approaches the beautiful woman from before to be her tour guide for the duration of her vacation, but as the trip draws all too quickly to an end, Poppy realizes that in seeking a cure for heartache, she may instead have just made the problem worse…

Cover Artist: Unknown

Cover Artist: Unknown

Bonus: The Long Fall of Night, by A. J. Rose (June 2015 est.)

When NYU student Asher Caine’s uncle calls to warn him something big is coming, he has no idea it will be so devastating. Not even years of training can prepare him for what he’s about to face. The only plan he has is to get his sister and nephew across country to safety, whatever it takes.

Elliot Davenport isn’t about to let his Chemistry lab partner leave him behind, though he’s never done a spontaneous thing in his life. Ash is mysterious, aloof, and so damned sexy, Elliot can’t get the guy out of his head. But his crush takes a backseat as the gravity of the situation becomes clear: the eastern two-thirds of the United States has gone dark.

Friday Five: Free Fiction

I know, the alliteration is cheesy, but I couldn’t help myself.

It’s Friday, which means the weekend is almost upon us! And since everyone loves free things, I wanted to recommend five of my favorite novel-length romances… all 100% free to read online! So if you’re not sure what to do with your weekend, give one of these recs a try; you may end up getting so hooked that you’ll forget to do laundry and run errands, but you won’t regret it!

In no particular order…

More Than You Know, by ColdCoffeeEyes25: She’s an incognito pop star trying to break away from her white-supremacist family while fighting off paparazzi, homesickness and forbidden romantic feelings that could sever her family ties once and for all. This novel is absolutely beautiful! Pop star Liberty was raised by a prominent white-supremacist family, but has finally left her childhood home to go to college and study music. There, she meets Max, whose dark skin is almost as forbidden as the sexual relationship she offers. Liberty slowly grows into her own person with her own opinions as the relationship blooms between her and Max.

Shadow of the Templar, by M Chandler: Simon Drake is an up-and-coming young FBI hotshot, an agent with a personal track record so outstanding that it borders on unbelievable. Jeremy Archer is the brilliant and unpredictable scion of a long line of international art thieves, and one of the most infamous criminals in the world. This is a classic, although I’m surprised by how many people haven’t heard of it. Simon is snarky and rude, but the best at what he does, and he has an amazing team backing him up at the FBI. But when he ends up having to work with Jeremy Archer– sarcastic but brilliant– to stop a dangerous criminal, sparks start to fly. Simon plays by the rules, and Jeremy doesn’t even know what rules are! (Short version: like the gay version of White Collar, but with more profanity.)

Failte-GirlForMeThe Girl for Me, by failte200:
Straight jockboy Kevin thinks he has gay, cross-dressing Danny under his thumb. Kevin only likes girls. So… why does he keep thinking about her? Or him. Whatever. (Warning for dubcon.) Kevin is kind of an idiot, but he’s amazing at reading people and knowing if they’re genuine or phony. When he first sees Danny at a party in drag (going by Dani), Kevin isn’t sure what to think; his instincts tell him that Dani is genuine, and a beautiful woman, but his mind tells him that it’s just a guy in a dress. But Kevin isn’t as dumb as he looks, and he quickly learns to accept Dani for who she is. Some of the plot is a bit over-the-top, but Kevin’s progress from dumb, lazy jock to caring boyfriend is actually really great.

Close Protection, by Cordelia Kingsbridge aka ckingsbridge: After three consecutive expulsions for sexual misconduct, Luca D’Amato has no choice but to return to America. Jacob Ryder is the man charged with protecting him from his family’s many enemies – but who will protect Ryder from Luca? This story is hot, hot, HOT. Luca is wealthy, spoiled, and attractive, all of which help his craving for sexual relationships. Ryder is Luca’s bodyguard, openly gay, and is the first person Luca’s met who won’t respond to his advances. Luca wants what he can’t have, but Ryder isn’t willing to give in to his own attraction. The relationship here is stunning; Luca is smart and calculating, but also fragile, and Ryder is struggling to protect Luca from attacks on his life while trying to maintain a professional relationship.

ChaosLifeLogoChaos Life, by A. Stiffler & K. Copeland: ChaosLife is a semi-autobiographical comic, focusing on a queer relationship between A. Stiffler and K. Copeland, who create the comic! It also delves into politics, GSM issues, mental health, pop culture, cats and other randomness. While technically not fiction, I’m still including it on this list because it’s a really great (and funny) look into the creators’ relationship. It’s also been running for almost four years, so I think it qualifies as ‘novel-length’ by comic standards! Stiffler and Copeland are a married couple, and are super geeky and hilarious. My favorite comics are about their ridiculous cats, but they also talk about being agender, weird animals who are not their cats, and Batman’s beauty regime (which is actually the comic that first brought me to their site). Start from the beginning and read them all, I highly recommend it!

There are hundreds more free stories out there, and some are extremely well known, but I’d love to know if anyone else has recommendations! All images are (c) their respective authors/artists.