Monday, November 23, 2009

Old-Timey Cover Judging: The Quicksilver Pool

Donations are all the same, usually. Most days, the donation bin overflows with pocket-sized paperbacks that cost $6.99 at the grocery store. Sometimes, grandpa clears out his shelves and shelves of Louis L'Amour; other times grams is getting rid of evidence that links her to her romance novel obsession. Occasionally, we'll get a book-of-the-week type who reads their bestseller once before passing it on to us. But, for the most part, the bin is full of paperbacks that can fit in your purse.

Which is what made this most excellent novel stick out even more:
First Glance: It's got a bit of that oil-painty look often employed in Regency romance novel covers. But there's just something so adorably old-fashioned about this cover. Maybe it's her face, which has the pristine look of a 50s screen siren; maybe it's his lantern-jawed facial structure. It could be the font, which seems strangely old and modern at the same time. It might be the colors - raise your hand if you want that pink dress! I'm not sure, but the old-fashioned look of this book had me intrigued. Score: 4 out of 5

Second-Page Surprise!(forgive the photo, which was taken with a co-workers phone)
When one opens The Quicksilver Pool, one finds yet another detailed rendering of the story's characters. I'm assuming that's our heroine in the fabulous green dress, though her hair color seems to have changed. There appears to be a stiff, perhaps disapproving, matronly figure ensconced in the middle of the parlor. The red drapey curtains give it an ominous feel, so immediately I'm thinking the matronly figure might have sinister tendencies. Score: 4 out of 5

Title: The Quicksilver Pool - it's hard to judge this one by my usual standards, because I'm usually looking at books from the last twenty or so years. Also, I don't know anything about quicksilver as a substance, so I can't go into any symbolic connotations. But the name has a romantic sound to it, so I'm giving it high marks. Score: 4 out of 5

Back-of-the-Book (or Inside Flap, as is the case): This one is best described in movie-pitch terms: it's Jane Eyre meets Gone with the Wind, but with an angry ghost! Intrigued? Listen to this:
"The great Tyler mansion on Staten Island became a house of menace and hidden danger for Lora Blair from the moment she arrived there as the new bride of Wade Tyler."
House of menace and hidden danger! I love it!
"Years before, Wade's first wife Virginia had died there under mysterious circumstances. No one dared speak openly of her death to Lora, and every day Lora faced increasing hostility from everyone at the Tyler house."
I'm guessing that imperious-looking matronly character is the main source of the increasing hostility our Lora faces.
"With mounting horror Lora soon realized that some unseen, unknown person was maneuvering her to the edge of what could be a fatal "accident." Was the same death being prepared for her?"
I love the wording of the final question - what an odd concept, death being prepared. Plotted, yes. Planned, sure. But prepared? It sounds so strange, yet it makes me want to read the book, in hopes of finding more interesting, out-of-place phrasing. Score: 4 out of 5

Final Score: 16 out of 20 - Though qualifying for the Silver Deveraux, The Quicksilver Pool stands by itself in Cover Judging. It's not ridiculous or mock-worthy; it's also not the most amazing book cover ever. It's simply an interesting bit of forgotten-novel history.

P.S. Here are a few different paperback editions of the book:I think our cover is the best, though.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Report: The Luxe Style Edition

Awhile ago, I posted my thoughts about the great brain candy series The Luxe. The final book in the series came out a couple weeks ago and it was everything I hoped it would be: dramatic and romantic with lots of fabulous hats. Plus, Splendor has maybe my favorite cover of the series:
Gorgeous, right? I love the lavender and the sparkly appliques - and our cover girl is Diana, who is my favorite character.

So, here are a few gorgeous items, in honor of the fab New York socialites of 1900:

1. Necklace by Kay Adams, $945 at
2. Ring by Happy Max Designs, $16 at
3. Lavender Dress from theVINTAGEdress, $65 at
4. Red Poppy evening gown by rubypearl, $725 at
5. Rhinestone and pearl necklace by luxedeluxe, $128 at
6. Large gold bonnet by Natalilouise, $400 at
7. Midnight black fascinator by Natalilouise, $300 at

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cover Judging - Moon Awakening

But first . . . from our friends at the OED:

laird: A landed proprietor. In ancient times limited to those who held [land] immediately from the king. The southern form lord was as early as the 14th c. introduced into Scottish use in the English senses of the word.

highlander: A native of the Highlands of Scotland. Also, a soldier of a Highland regiment. First introduced in 1642 by James Howell's "Instructions for forreine travell."

So, in summation: laird rich, highlander ripped. Now that we've cleared that up . . .First Glance: My first instinct was "magical highlander." It's the background, really, that gives away the magic - the various textures layered on top of the ocean, the ethereal quality of the colors, the line drawing at the top that might be a griffin. These things all equal some sort of magic. Moving on to our hero, his chest tattoo may be magical. I'm guessing he belongs to some kind of order who claim the bear as their mascot (UC Riverside, mayhap?). Furthermore, the detailing on his boots looks pretty magical. And finally, while his ab and chest definition are impressive, I think the last word on his magical powers lies in his half-ponytail. Score: 4 out of 5

Title: Moon Awakening: Book One of the Children of the Moon - Initially, I thought Moon Awakening was meant to sound like "rude awakening." Perhaps a story about a naive young girl from a small Scottish village who meets a man who teaches her a few life lessons, most importantly how to love. They all live on the blustery moors ever after, the end. Maybe the magical element is just the magic of true love?

But then I saw the subtitle and came to the conclusion that werewolves are our magical element. Making this book a part of the apparently rich vein of were-hybrid romance. I suppose our hero is a werehighlander? Score: 3 out of 5 (for making me think it might be a pun, but then pulling the rug out with the subtitle)

Tagline: "Bestselling author Lucy Monroe introduces an enthralling new romantic tale that pushes the boundaries between love and hate, passion and pain - and man and beast."
Ummmmmmm, nope. I can see where they're going ("these things are opposites! but the story shows that they're not so different!"), but I'm not headed there with them. It's just not a very catchy tagline - it gets bogged down at the end with the weird sentence construction + overuse of the word "and." Oxford comma, friends: look it up! Score: 2 out of 5

Back-of-the-Book: I think, with this one, it will be best to just get into it:
"When Emily Hamilton's family is ordered to send a woman to the Scottish Highlands for marriage to the laird of the Sinclairs, Emily volunteers in order to save her younger sister from such a fate."
So, our brave heroine sets off for her new life as lairdess of the Sinclairs, only to find that her "stubborn streak" compels the laird of Sinclair to cancel the marriage. Emily's "stubborn streak" compels her to remain at the castle of her rejector, refusing to return home.

So, while Emily's dealing with the various effects of Stockholm Syndrome*, we learn a bit more about our hero. His name is "Lachlan (of course), laird of the Balmoral clan - and leader of his pack." So I guess that makes him a werelaird, rather than a werehighlander. Anyway, apparently he's quite villainous:
"One of the most feared werewolves prowling the Highlands, he is on the march against the hated Sinclairs . . . He kidnaps the sister of the Sinclair laird, planning to marry her off in revenge - but the woman he takes along with her proves to be the greater prize . . . "
Ugh, really? A double kidnapping? And what makes Emily the "greater prize"? She was only at the castle because she was refusing to leave - the Sinclair guy doesn't want her there. I don't see any substantial ransom coming your way, Lachlan buddy.
" . . . For Emily feeds a desire he never knew existed."
Oh. Of course. Right you are, then.
"And though Lachlan would not think of marrying a human - an English-woman at that - he must know how a mere woman could take his heart so easily . . . "
Um, because she offers you table scraps and scratches behind your ears? Score: 3.5 out of 5 (I only read the back of these novels and already I'm bored with the revenge kidnap that turns into passionate love storyline)

Final Score: 12.5 out of 20 - Moon Awakenings really should get the Steele Pendant, but I'm awarding it the Bronze Feather because of its strong showing in the First Glance category. They're lucky I'm a sucker for a magic man in a half-ponytail.

*I made the mistake of thinking I was clever with my Stockholm Syndrome joke, but apparently I've already used it in my critique of Miranda and the Warrior, a similar tale about the loving bond between kidnapper and kidnappee.