How to Get Free Books – Book Talk Episode 21

How does one go about getting free books?

Well, seeing as how I get free ARCs every week or so, I thought I’d share how this works, as well as giveaway contests, book fairies, and free libraries.

ARCS

Now, I’d like to start off by clarifying what an ARC is, because not everyone is aware, especially if they’re new to the world of reviews. An ARC is an Advanced Review Copy or Advanced Reader Copy. These can either be eBooks, or print proof versions of of books that are coming out in the near future. They are not final versions, and are sent out in order for books to gain reviews and generate discussion prior to their release.

I get eBook ARCs through websites such as Netgalley, and ARC Reviewers.

With Netgalley, the more reviews you share on your blog, booktok, goodreads etc…the more likely you are to be approved for the most anticipated upcoming releases. It’s also a good idea to make sure that you fill out your Netgalley profile completely, so that publishers know exactly what type of books you are looking for. I often get approved for manga review requests, because I read, and review them frequently on my blog and Goodread’s account. The same goes for children’s literature. With Netgalley, there is also a time limit for completing these books. Most ARCs expire by the books release date, or the week of, and depending on the demand, it can be hard to get approved for popular requests without prior reviews on your chosen platforms.

ARC Reviewers has a smaller selection of books available, but it is much easier to get access to new releases. Usually there are 3-5 eBooks to choose from, with a limit of 20 copies for each book. There is anything from romance, to sci-fi on the website, and it is a great way to build your review roster so that you can get approved for ARCs from larger, more competitive websites like Netgalley. ARC Reviewers also does not have a request system in place, so anyone can download an ARC. This is perfect for people starting out, as these ARCs do not expire after a specific time period, and reviewers can add these books to their reviews on Goodread’s, and other platforms to build a following.

Now onto physical ARCs. Physical ARCs have become much harder to come by in recent years, especially with the pandemic. The most common way to get them, is to work for bookstores like Indigo or Barnes & Noble. Publishers will often reach out to these stores directly when they are are looking for avid readers, to review ARCs because it helps to boost sales upon release. If employees at your local bookstore always seem to have read the latest releases, it is because publishers like Harper Collins, Penguin and Scholastic are reaching out to them with free copies of books, sometimes months in advance. By working at a bookstore, book lovers can get access to great programs, giveaways and much, much more.

This year, I became a Children’s and Middle Grade ARC Ambassador for Scholastic. As an ARC Ambassador, Scholastic sends me physical copies of books to read and review for these specific age groups. On occasion I will also receive books in other genres I enjoy, outside of young readers, such as Science Fiction. I get around 2-6 books to read every few weeks and usually these books are sent to me a few months before the actual release date, but sometimes I will get a recent release to review as well. These reviews I post here on my blog, as well as on Goodreads. I will also share my reviews with my team members, highlighting which customers I feel would enjoy reading that specific book. I always aim to add a personal touch to my reviews, especially when I connect well with a book, as I want my review to attract readers to their next favourite book.

ARC Review Etiquette

One thing to keep in mind is ARC Review Etiquette.

What do we do with DNF’d books or low ratings, if the book hasn’t hit the shelves yet?

My rule as a reviewer is, when it comes to Netgalley, send a direct message to the publisher with my concerns about an unreleased book. In these cases I will choose not to leave a public review, because I don’t feel it is fair to the author, and their team to publically slam an unreleased book. I contact them directly out of respect for the people behind the book, in hopes that any concerns I had with the book would be addressed and corrected before the final version was released. The last time I did this, was to address the descriptions of POC in a debut novel I’d gotten an ARC for. I had been extremely excited to read the book, but once the POC character’s were introduced, I noticed a lot of problematic descriptions, that I don’t believe the author or publisher even noticed as potentially harmful. Unfortunately these issues were not addressed, and the book received poor reviews and ratings. As you might notice, I’m not sharing the title of this book out of respect for the author and publisher. I’ve never posted my review either. To me, if I didn’t even finish the book (DNF) I don’t feel it is fair to post that review publically until after the marketing campaign is over. Although this book has been out for over a year now, I feel there are enough reviews on it, which address the thoughts I expressed in my direct message to the editor and publisher before the release. All I’ll say about that situation is, that there are certain tropes, stereotypes and descriptions that definitely need to be retired, and hopefully the author’s next book is a success. As a reviewer I like to be mindful and will always spend time determining whether or not a public review is necessary. If I do leave a public review, for a book I didn’t enjoy, I like to be as polite as possible. You can still be kind, while providing criticism or sharing your opinion. I don’t like chocolate ice cream, but I would never say “this is trash!” to my sister, who absolutely loves it. Just because I don’t enjoy something, doesn’t mean someone else won’t. Sometimes, it just isn’t for you, which brings me to my next point: with low ratings, it is proper review etiquette to provide readers with an explanation, as it’s unhelpful to those who rely on reviews to simply see a 2 star rating, without any reasoning behind it.

Now, everything I mentioned above in terms of Review Etiquette is something that reviewers often debate when it comes to ARCs and book tours. I always reevaluate this whenever I read a book I wasn’t fond of, and try to take into consideration the people behind the book, the amount of work they did, and whether or not what I have to say is thoughtful and worth contributing to the conversation. To completely trash a book during it’s release month or even worse, on the release date is just seen as poor review etiquette, at least amongst reviewers I follow and admire. This is why at times, you’ll see videos made say, three to six months after a book releases titled, “books I DNF’d.” Everyone however, has their own approach to this, but I do encourage people to really reflect before posting a review.

Giveaways

Now onto giveaways.

How does one find book giveaways?

Well, there are many places to look. A lot of giveaways are hosted by authors, publishers, bookstores and even reviewers. I follow the newsletters of several of my favourite authors, and they will announce giveaways a couple times a year, especially for new releases or special editions of books. These can be incredibly cool, and it’s always nice to win free stuff. It’s also beneficial to follow author newsletters because closer to the holidays, they might offer neat treats to their fans. One author I follow gave away Halloween themed goodies, designed by an artist friend of theirs since their novel took place in a haunted mansion!

Author Kami Garcia recently did a giveaway on Instagram for bundles of her novels, and the DC graphic novel series she’s been writing based on the Teen Titan’s characters.

Publisher giveaways tend to be hosted on a variety of social media platforms. Sometimes they’re done in collaboration with specific booksellers, or authors. Other times, it’s just a fun campaign for bookish peeps to check out. Some publishers will also give away tote bags with book related goodies, and exclusive content. I usually see these giveaways on Instagram, but have stumbled across a handful on Goodreads and Twitter over the years. I recently saw a very cool giveaway for Heartstopper to celebrate the film adaptation!

You can also type in #giveaways or #freebooks in the search bars of your favourite social media apps to find some neat stuff, however always be sure to read the details and guidelines of these contests carefully, and make sure that the host isn’t asking for anything sketchy in return. You should never be asked to pay a fee to enter a giveaway (unless it’s a raffle to raise money), or provide information such as your credit card.

One of the best ways to constantly find giveaway’s for books is Goodreads. I’ve entered lots of giveaways through the site, and recently hosted one for Vermin. It’s very easy for people to enter, and it’s also fun to scroll through and see what books are available. All that is required is a Goodread’s account, and Goodreads will of course send you a reminder to leave a review of the book once you’ve finished it.

Book Fairies and Free Mini Libraries

Earlier in this post I mentioned book fairies. Book fairies are very special, magical beings, who leave books around in public places for people to keep and take home. They are more common in the UK, and I’ve yet to catch a book fairy in action, however when I was little one often frequented my local Starbucks. Sometimes a book fairy will leave little notes or wrap the books to keep the contents inside a surprise for the reader! I heard a rumour that Emma Watson is actually a book fairy! Shh…it’s a secret though. The main goal of a book fairy is to provide books to those who may not have access to new books, but to also spread joy and the love of ones beloved stories to others. Perhaps one day I’ll meet one? Or…maybe I’ll find out I was one all along?

Lastly, free mini libraries. There are so many of these in my neighbourhood, and they’re absolutely adorable! The purpose of these is similar to that of the book fairies. Neighbours can take a book to borrow or keep, and can also leave books inside to share with others. It always makes me happy to see what books are in these tiny libraries, and it’s a lovely way to give back to your community. For those like myself, who are avid readers and constantly running out of space, it is also a wonderful place to donate gently used books to those who might not have access. I highly recommend visiting one if you get the chance, and if you have the means to do so, perhaps donate some children’s, middle grade and teen books to mini libraries located near under funded school districts. Some new parents, and young families may also appreciate seeing baby board books, and books for early readers as well! In my neighbourhood, people always donate children’s books, and the free mini libraries are close to the park. This is great because not everyone has access to transportation, but these are within walking distance of their house.

Another thing to keep in mind is that with book fairies, and free mini libraries, reviews are not a requirement. The goal is to merely share books with fellow bibliophiles, and to spread joy. I think that once I have a place of my own, I would love to set up a free mini library…perhaps book fairies will visit me? I’d love it if they did.

How to Get Free Books – Book Talk Episode 21

I hope that through my reviews you find stories that you absolutely adore, and that this post will also lead you to other ways to not only get your hands on a free book for yourself, but also introduced you to new ways to share books with your community as well.


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Somethings Wrong With Us – Manga Review

The other day I finished reading the first three volumes of Somethings Wrong With Us by Natsumi Ando. I picked up the first volume after looking it over a few times. I thought the cover was beautiful, and the blurb on the back was intriguing.

From Goodreads: A spine-chilling and steamy romance between a Japanese sweets maker and the man who framed her mother for murder–Something’s Wrong With Us is the dark, psychological, sexy shojo series readers have been waiting for!


This series has gone above and beyond my expectations. That’s not something I usually say when it comes to shojo. Most are predictable and follow the same set of rules, but this one reminds me of thriller series like Monster or Blood on the Tracks. It still encompasses shojo elements and tropes, but there is so much more to this story than two characters who seem drawn together. There is an eeriness…or a loneliness that lingers in the text. It’s almost worse than a cliffhanger. This is one of those series that I couldn’t put down. I had to know what was coming next. I needed to see how this mystery unravels.

Surprisingly…at least to myself, I don’t read a lot of mysteries. I enjoy them immensely, especially when I watch them. I read more of them as a kid but for some reason as I got older I strayed away from the genre. These types of books are always so much fun. I love trying to guess whats going to happen next. I love the how high the stakes are raised in these types of stories! It’s exciting!

This series blends genres so well, and on top of that the artwork is gorgeous. I can also tell that a lot of research went into this series. I’m not a confectioner or anything, but I’ve really enjoyed learning about how much work goes into creating sweets and the amount of attention to detail confectioners have. This really adds something to the characters…and although the two leads have this in common, their approaches to it are vastly different.

The leading lady of this story is Nao. It’s hard not to connect with her off the bat. She’s determined, thoughtful, and passionate. She seems like the type of person who would be a very loyal and compassionate friend.

Tsubaki on the other hand is difficult to read. His character is a puzzle itself, especially to Nao who knew him when they were children. His actions often don’t reflect what he says. The one thing that is clear about his character, aside from his disciplined actions is that he’s lonely.

I like that Nao and Tsubaki both contrast and compliment one another. Their dynamic is interesting. Nao seems to have a push and pull method to their relationship. She’s constantly fighting herself internally, as she doesn’t want to get close to him, while Tsubaki’s intentions are often confusing.

Personally, I think that he feels drawn to her but doesn’t know if he can trust her. He can’t even trust his own family members…which is sad. It’s as though both him and Nao are orphans, despite Tsubaki’s mother still being alive.

I’m very curious to see what’s in store for these two in the next volume!

My rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ultra Maniac – Manga Review

I started reading Ultra Maniac back in January while I was off work during our…second or third lock down. At this point I’ve lost count of how many lock down’s there have been but I had plenty to read so, it wasn’t like I was bored or anything.

Anyway, I remembered this manga being kind of silly as a kid. I didn’t read it at the time but had a lot of friends who absolutely adored it. I ended up reading up to the first bit of volume three before I switched to something else.

Compared to Marmalade Boy, this story more mild in terms of drama. In fact it kind of reminds me of a Disney sitcom, or even the older Sabrina the Teenage Witch comics, where every spell would get her into some kind of trouble.

I couldn’t help but think about Sabrina or the Bewitched series, while I read Ultra Maniac. It wasn’t because they were mimicking one another, or pulling directly from these sources but mainly because the witch character was this kind of goofy, always getting herself or others into mischief kind of girl. She’s that fun, quirky, kind of weird girl that you can’t help but like.

Ultra Maniac is all right. It’s not the best manga I’ve ever read but it isn’t bad. It’s a light hearted comedy about friendship, that also happens to involve a pinch of magic.

The character’s are fun, and the artwork is charming. It’s exactly what I would expect from a story about a seventh grade girl with a crush, who suddenly befriends a witch.

That being said, I think if I were younger maybe in the sixth or seventh grade I might have enjoyed this story a little more. However, I still read middle grade fiction every now and then and the majority of books I read at that age, that I still own, hold up to this day. Perhaps my initial disinterest in this series as a tween was because I just couldn’t get into the series. As far as middle school fantasy manga’s, I’ll stick with Sugar Sugar Rune.

My rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Three stars. It was okay. Not great. Not boring. Just, didn’t keep my interest to finish the whole series. However, if you like cute stories with magic, friendship and comedy I think it’s definitely worth checking out. Plus, I really loved the fashion in this series.


Is It Okay to Review a DNF?

I’ve heard several different arguments about this over the years, both on the side of the reader and the author. It can be a touchy subject but I do think everyone’s opinions on the matter are valid.

I know as a reader that when going through reviews of a particular book, I like to know why certain reviewers decided to drop the book. Their reasoning may be something that I too would find unappealing. I myself can usually tell if I like a book if I’ve sped through the first three chapters. If I start reading something, and by chapter three I’m still engaged it’s a good sign. 9/10 times this method works for me.

Unfortunately, during university I was forced to finish many books that I found dry, distasteful, etc…as we were expected to discuss them, and study them throughout the semester. Trying to break out of that habit years later has been difficult. Although I know that I’m no longer required to finish a book I don’t like, my brain keeps telling me to “give it a chance” as if this book might be on an exam or something.

In January I ended up reading two books that just weren’t for me. Both had things in them that I found problematic but I only reviewed the one I finished reading on my blog. The other, which I did not finish, was an ARC that I stopped reading around the 5th chapter. I was excited for the book. I really was…but I was disappointed. It fell short of my expectations and there was a lot of over explanation being done to the point where it distracted from the story.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t mentioned the name of the book. The main reason is that this book is another authors debut. Out of respect for the author, and because I received an advanced copy, I just don’t feel right about giving a full, proper review.

What I did instead was I submitted a private DNF explanation through net galley. I chose to do this rather than submit a review, as I would hate to discourage people from reading someone else’s work…or attack an author before their book is even released because of something I personally found problematic. That just isn’t fair. Someone else might love it.

There are points that I made in my DNF statement that I hope the author and publisher will take into consideration, but ultimately I know the opinions of one person won’t necessarily be enough for them to take those things into consideration. Had this book already been on shelves…say for a month or two, I would have considered doing a public review. A DNF review of ARC however just doesn’t seem fair…at least not to me. ARC reviews are supposed to help market a book. I personally don’t feel like I can give a proper, full review to something if I’ve only read 5 chapters. However, as I mentioned I think if the book had been released for several months and I purchased a copy, sharing my opinion publicly would be fair.

I honestly don’t know if I was just being nit-picky because of the problems I’d come across in the book I reviewed previously, or if there were were issues in the text. I know that based on feedback from ARCs, novels have been pulled and revised before publication and I am hoping for the sake of this new author, that their book does go through some revisions prior to its release.

Something that people don’t consider is that just because a book has a white protagonist, doesn’t mean it doesn’t require sensitivity/beta readers from a diverse group of people. I know that if I had say, been given the opportunity to read this book prior to this ARC…say as an editor, I would have definitely pointed things out to the author. They have a good concept. It’s clear they wanted to have a diverse cast…they just didn’t excecute it in a way that sat well with well…me a POC. Even stating this, I feel is too much. I don’t think it’s fair.

As I mentioned before, DNF reviews can be helpful to readers. However, the ones that simply say, “DNF. 1 star.” are neither helpful to the reader or the author. If that’s all a person has to say, then to me it seems well…pointless. I like to know why someone disliked a book just as much as why a person enjoyed it. If the person simply wants to avoid spoilers, that’s fine but they can still provide some brief explanation as to why.

An example could be: I didn’t finish this book because the introduction dragged on for too long.

That’s quick, simple and doesn’t give anything away to other potential readers. I’d consider that a fair DNF statement.

Other DNF statements that I find fair are the ones that go into length about issues they had with the book. I should add that I like the ones that are a little more respectful. I wish I could pull up an example of one that I saw recently by a fellow reviewer. Her DNF review was extremely throughtful. I won’t go hunting for it though as I didn’t ask for her permission. I will however be including her in my BookTuber’s to watch post.

I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on this subject? Have you ever left a DNF review? Do you find them helpful or do you think it’s only fair to review/consider reviews of something that’s been read completely?

Absolutely Delightful…

Have you ever been so immersed in a book it’s almost as if you were in a dream? I love when that happens, that moment you escape. I’ve read a lot of different books lately and with each one I’m praying for that experience of being drawn into the pages and disappearing inside them for hours.

I’m not sure why books induce this almost dream-like state but I feel well rested after as well. Writing about this now, I’m a bit embarrassed because I can’t help but think “this sounds insane” and yet I know there are people who’ve experienced this same thing.

Reading to me is no different than when I used to play dolls. Letting your imagination take charge and creating and exploring (sometimes the impossible!) in your head. It’s like the perfect balance between fiction and reality because you know in fact that it’s all a play but you engage with it because it’s absolutely delightful…or disturbing if you’re reading a horror novel…but then again some books (and films) can be disturbingly delightful.

In my last post I felt almost betrayed by what I’d read. Books for me have always been my favourite place…not just thing…but a place, because every book has a new setting, a new set of character’s to meet and new things to discover along the way. I love that about them. I like to venture into spooky old mansions, or travel across space…just from the comfort of my bedroom.

Each time I read a good book, it’s like being in a long dream. A good dream. A dream that keeps you guessing. A dream that gives you a warm feeling. A dream that lingers with you after you wake up. Books are beautiful in that sense.

Absolutely beautiful.

Saying Goodbye 2020

In a couple of days we’ll be saying goodbye to 2020.

I would say this year most of us were like Cinderella before she met her fairy god-mother. Or Rapunzel perhaps? I never thought I would ever compare myself to a lonely damsel, living a sheltered life…and yet, here we are.

I can honestly say that I did not reach very many of my goals for the year. I spent my birthday in lock down along with every holiday that followed. However, I’ve tried to make the most of it. I wrote, I learned some new songs on the guitar, I recorded a play and an audio book, I played games online with friends and family. I even reached my reading goal for the year…twice!

This year has so much heaviness attached to it, that I would love for it to vanish from existence but part of me also appreciates the time I’ve had to reflect on the world around me.

Books have always been my escape from reality.

As a child, they stopped me from feeling lonely when I started at a new school (for the 3rd time) and I got older, I read to keep my sanity during the days of high school drama, exams and rainy afternoons.

Reading brought me a sense of freedom and joy. It allowed me to explore and open myself up to infinite possibilities.

Now during 2020, I’ve come to realize how books have played such an important role in my life. Whether I was reading them or writing them, they acted as a security blanket, that I could clutch as I fell asleep at night.

When I needed something to hide behind, books were there. When I woke up from a nightmare, I could grab a book from my nightstand and read until my my heart stopped racing. There were even times when reading stopped my heart from breaking. This year, it connected me to new people: people who were new to reading, people who loved the same books I did and people who simply wanted anything to read because they too wanted a temporary distraction from all the pain in the world.

I’m not sad to see 2020 leave us. I can’t say I’m all that enthusiastic for 2021. Hopeful yes…but until my fairy god-mother appears, I won’t be stepping out in a pair of glass slippers. Instead I’ll stick to my pajamas and stay in to read a good book.

Which authors inspire you?

I love, love, love to read. If I wasn’t writing right now I’d be reading. Technically writing lets you read and write at the same time…but anyway, authors that inspire me.

I’ll have to start with Charles Dickens. I’ve read a lot of his work. My favourites are Great Expectation’s, Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities. I like how descriptive his writing is…although I won’t lie there are times I’ve skimmed through it to get back to the main story. Still, I admire it because he really does paint a picture for the reader. I’ve attempted to put that level of detail into my writing in the past but stopped out of fear that I might bore my readers. I actually prefer to write dialogue.

Io Sakisaka is also someone I admire. I still can’t grasp how she can so expertly express relationships through her work. I don’t think I’ve read a manga that had me blushing and crying within a few panels of each other. Since romance is her genre of focus, it’s very interesting how she goes about playing with concepts and ideas surrounding love, friendship and family.

When I first read, S.E. Hinton, I think that was when I told myself I wanted my work to be published one day. I wanted people to love my character’s as much as I loved hers. I also considered using a pen name at the time versus my own. I liked how she managed to weave her stories together and I’m glad that she had Ponyboy show up in one of her other novels.

If I’m being honest, I feel like every author I’ve ever read has inspired me in some way. Whether it’s through their use of descriptions, their pacing, their character’s. Whatever it was that drew me to their work, has also inspired my own writing over the years.

I love the different ways we writers weave our words. How those words lift off the page, creating images, mustering emotions and forming even the faintest of smells. How a single sentence can capture so much…it’s always fascinated me. I think that’s what I love about books. You can open one up and be transported.

Books to Read in October

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”


― L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

As we near the end of September, we are greeted with the warm comforts of Fall: pumpkin spice, reds, yellows, oranges and purples, scarves, hats and sweaters and cozy blankets for those chilly afternoons when we want to curl up with a book in our lap.

I find that I tend to read more in the Fall. I like being wrapped up in a soft blanket with a cup of tea or sitting up late at night with a book in my lap until I nod off to sleep. I also find that the books I read during the Fall tend to be either comforting or have me on the end of my seat, especially as October comes around.

Last night I started reading Mexican Gothic, which had me hooked in the first chapter. I also found my name in the book which never happens. Of course it was a reference to Elizabeth Arden and not me, Ardin but that is who I was named after so I like to think of it as…I was meant to read this book. It’s not every day I buy a book solely based on the title and synopsis. I got three chapters in before I fell asleep and it is exactly what I was hoping for. Gothic literature at it’s finest. I don’t know what it is about the genre that I like so much but it is one that sucks me in.

A slightly less spooky book that I think would be perfect to reread in the Fall is Fake Blood. The book makes so many references to Twilight and it’s a great read for a younger audience (ages 9-12). I had so much fun reading it and I’ve never read the Twilight series or watched or read Vampire Diaries. It was the perfect mixture of funny, sweet and spooky!

Another book which is for the YA audience is Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Now don’t be confused CAOS fans, this graphic novel isn’t chilling. It’s fun, it’s full of what I call Sabrina oopsies and Salem talks and is as sassy as ever. I also recommend Jughead and Sabrina because again Sabrina is absolutely hilarious along with all of the spookiness that goes on in Greendale. No matter how bad things or how big of a mess she makes she somehow manages to find a way to fix things (or at least temporarily).

I don’t know what it is about L.M Montgomery and Fall but I’m often drawn to her work at this time of the year. I suppose her stories, because of their familiarity in Canadian culture are comforting. Despite my love for Anne however I want to recommend Emily. I adore Emily’s story just as much. Her friendship with Ilsa, her unwavering dream to write. Emily is often viewed as rebellious by those around her but it is this side of her that makes her strong and resilient. I feel like she’s seriously underrated. A lot of people don’t know she exists, and so I think it would be nice to introduce yourself to Emily this October (there’s also an anime if anyone is interested).

Lastly a book series that I continue to recommend over and over, Monster. Monster is incredibly chilling, incredibly thrilling and is a story that draws you in with its characters and plot. Not only is it a manga, it’s a historical fiction set in Germany which follows a Japanese Doctor as he tries to track down a patient that he never should have saved. Trust me, this series will have you staying up all kinds of hours reading. You won’t want to put it down!

What books are you looking forward to reading this Fall?

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Book Talk Episode 17: Illustrated Covers

The other day at work, a co-worker of mine was admiring this beautifully illustrated book cover. I wish I could recall the name of the book so I could show an example, but her comment really made me think. She said, “I’m so glad that they’re going back to the illustrated version of this cover. I hate how boring a lot of covers have been these past few years.”

The two of us then went on to discuss how, since the first Twilight book came out a lot of book covers began to mimic the style and then ultimately readers were bombarded with stock images and lifeless photographs. Now, not to bash the creators of those types of covers…I believe that the covers for Twilight and their simplicity was actually well thought out. The issue that we discussed was that it seemed as though the plan was to get readers to buy a book because it had a similar cover to that of the Twilight series, versus coming up with something significant to the actual story.

I can clearly remember being a 13-15 year old wandering around my favourite bookstores and sighing at the cover art. I know that they say not to judge a book but it’s cover, but it’s the first thing a reader sees, not the review. Not the synopsis. Not the first page. The cover is what’s put on display for us.

Illustrated covers have always captured my attention. For example, the cover of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s absolutely beautiful. When I saw it, I immediately was drawn to the book! That is what a cover is supposed to do. It’s supposed to capture your attention.

The design itself isn’t too complicated, and yet it captures the eye. It stirs curiosity. It makes you wonder what’s inside.

Illustrated covers, in my personal opinion, do a better job of conveying certain types of stories. Especially within much of fiction. It makes them stand out more.

If you compare the classic horror book covers to current ones, you’ll find yourself greatly disappointed. A few of my friends who are avid horror readers lament over the lack of character given to horror books today in comparison to the ones printed in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Look at this cover of Misery by Stephen King.

The illustrated version of this cover is eye catching, whereas the version with the snow covered cabin doesn’t peak my curiosity as much. It doesn’t pull me in as much. This however, is my personal opinion. I have however, seen some horror book reviewers (along with friends of mine who adore the genre) discuss this in more detail.

I recommend checking out the video, Horror Books Have Lost Their Identity. I’ve linked it below because I think it really summarizes what I’m discussing in this post.

As YouTuber In Praise of Shadows states in the video, book covers are supposed to give the reader some indication of the genre as well as what the story is about. However in recent years they have had to scan the covers for small clues…such as a single word in a review in fine print on the cover like, “haunting,” “shocking” or “disturbing.”

The older covers made it very clear what the books were about. Right now all of the covers, across these vast genres are blending together in a mess of bright colours and large font.

This video really grasps what my co-worker and I were discussing the other day. At some point all the books blend together.

I know many people who believe that The Hunger Games and the Divergent series are the same, simply because of how the covers were designed. People who know nothing about the plots for either series. This assumption came with how the books were marketed. I know that when I first saw the Divergent cover, I thought it was a Hunger Games spin off series. That was until I read the synopsis. I remember being almost…frustrated by how so many of the covers that came out that year, resembled The Hunger Games (and Twilight). I was so frustrated by it I missed out on reading a lot of potentially good books, and lost interest in much of what was published that year.

Now, as someone who also reads comic books and manga, I know how much work has to go into the covers for those. I’ve seen examples of some of the covers done for the more recent releases of the Jughead comics. There were several options done for the front cover, before one was selected by the team as the perfect cover. Guess what? I bought that comic solely based on the cover art.

Based on the cover you already know that Jughead and Sabrina are going to get themselves into some kind of mess (or fun!). Your eyes are draw to the different parts of it. The colours are eye catching. It makes you interested in the story.

When I look at some of the books being printed over the last few years, my curiosity isn’t peaked. A catchy title may draw me in but it’s the cover that makes me flip to the synopsis to learn more. It’s the cover that captivates me visually and draws me into this world created by the author. It’s the cover fills me with excitement.

I’m not saying that today’s covers are boring or lacking creativity. I know that design takes a long time. I just think that the genres are all blending together…to the point where each cover is more or less the same.

Even earlier this morning while I was looking at books. I was trying to guess where they went in the store, solely based on the covers. The adult romance books and the teen romance books were all clearly romance however the contrast between them was almost non-existent. I wasn’t able to tell which was YA and which wasn’t. Normally the shirtless cowboys are a dead giveaway. Not anymore. The majority of the books that I assumed were adult romances were actually YA. Some weren’t even romance books at all. They were coming of age novels. I must’ve blinked the confusion from my face at least 30 times while going through these books.

The fact that myself and many other readers are excited to see these unique, illustrated book covers just shows how much is lacking on the shelves. We want books that upon first glance make us excited, curious and capture our attention. We want to run our hands along the covers as we examine every detail, before continuing our individual book choosing rituals. Reading is an experience and for those like myself who read a lot and collect books it is extremely sad when books lack character in their design.

Sure, we shouldn’t judge books by their cover but covers convey so much. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.