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Melanie's Week in Review - April 3, 2016


Melanie's Week in Review - April 3, 2016


Welcome to April everyone! I hope you didn't get fooled on April Fools Day. For once I didn't get suckered because I usually fall for something on that day. I had a much more productive week reading than I did last week. So what did I read?


Melanie's Week in Review - April 3, 2016
UK Cover
I re-read one of the books that was featured earlier this week in a cover reveal. I have chosen to use the cover from the edition that I read last August when the book was first released in the UK. Check out the gorgeous cover that will be used when the book is released in May in the US. You can also read how Saulter was involved in the cover design. This is really interesting so check it out here.

Anyway, I read book the book last year so I had a quick re-read to refresh myself of the plot. It wasn't hard - either to re-read this great book or to remind myself what happened. Unlike in book 2 - Binary - all of my favourite characters from book 1 - Gemsigns - are back. Gaela and Bal have continued to raise Gabriel who is now 18 along with his young, but human sister Eve. This plot centres around the gillung (amphibian humanoids) who have built a thriving community along the the Thames and have developed a new energy source. This has changed the balance of power between the human population and the gems which has led to violence and the inevitable propaganda against the gems which Gabriel is trying to resolve. This plot is interwoven with the that of Zavcka Klist, who is released from prison. What is almost more chilling than her release are the followers that are more than happy to help her gain the life she used to have. Can Mikael, Sharon Varsi, Herron, and Aryel succeed in helping the gillung bring parity to their race while at the same time thwart whatever plot Klist has in the making? I will leave that with you to find out.

Regeneration is a fantastic final book of a fantastic series. I loved every minute of reading and re-reading this novel. As I mentioned my favourite characters from book 1 were back, some of my faves from book 2 and I discovered some new ones. Ayrel is still very much the star of this series but is back to sharing the limelight with the uber antagonist Klist. While I did guess quite a few of the story's big reveals I still enjoyed the build up to the ending and how Saulter developed the characters along the way. You could read this as a stand alone book but why miss out on two other excellent books. Enjoy readers!


Melanie's Week in Review - April 3, 2016
I have been a big fan of Lois McMaster Bujold for a long time. I have read and enjoyed a number of the Vorkosigan series but boy I was let down this time by Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. This story starts three years after Aral Vorkosigan's death and Cordelia decides to take her life in a new direction by having the children they never had together. She decides to make the same offer to Aral's officer and companion Admiral Oliver Jole. Neither of their lives are ever going to be the same again.

My sister Lauranne and I had a big discussion about this book as she was an even bigger fan of the series than I was. We both felt let down by this book as it seemed incongruous with everything we were led to believe about Aral and Cordelia's loving marriage. Personally, I found the story too slow and didn't really think there was much of a plot. This was the only reason why I could read this book in a mere few hours whereas other books in the series took much longer. If you are a big fan of this series I would advise you to avoid it as you learn aspects of Aral and Cordelia's life that you would rather you didn't know and that didn't seem true to their characters.


Melanie's Week in Review - April 3, 2016
Book number 3 for me was The Demon's Librarian by Lilith Saintcrow. I apologise, dear reader, for exposing you to one of the worst book covers I have seen in some time. I know, I know...not the author's fault but this one is pretty poor. Qwill has found a different cover for the book. I digress.

Francesca Barnes is not your typical librarian. She kicks demon butt in her spare time. Orion is part demon but one of the good guys and when his partner goes missing he needs the help of a not so bookish librarian. With a dark force rising Francesca is key to stopping the evil but will she accept the help of a tall, hunky demon?

I thought this book was OK. Francesca wasn't a wimp which I appreciated although she seemed to swoon quite a bit. Orion or Ryan as he was called was your fairly standard, tall, dark and demon but otherwise, a good pairing for the not-so librarian. This is a quick, easy read for a slow day and overall, I didn't think it was a waste of time.


That is it for me for this week. I hope you have had a good week and until next Sunday, Happy Reading.




Regeneration
(R)evolution Book 3
Jo Fletcher Books, May 3, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - April 3, 2016
The gillungs are thriving. The water-breathing, genetically modified humans have colonized riverbanks and ports long abandoned to the rising seas and pioneered new high-efficiency quantum-battery technology.

But as demand grows, so do fears about their impact on both norm businesses and the natural environment. Then, a biohazard scare at Sinkat, their colony on the Thames, fuels the opposition and threatens to derail the gillungs’ progress. But is this an accident, or is it sabotage?

Detective Sharon Varsi has her suspicions, and Gabriel sees parallels in the propaganda war he’s fighting; politicians and corporations have stakes in this game too. And now there is a new threat: industry tycoon Zavcka Klist is about to be released from prison—and she’s out to regain everything they took from her.




Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen
Vorkosigan Saga 14
Baen, February 2, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Melanie's Week in Review - April 3, 2016
A NEW NOVEL IN THE AWARD WINNING SERIES FROM MULTIPLE NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHOR LOIS MCMASTER BUJOLD!  Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan returns to the planet that changed her destiny.

FUTURE TENSE

Three years after her famous husband’s death, Cordelia Vorkosigan, widowed Vicereine of Sergyar, stands ready to spin her life in a new direction. Oliver Jole, Admiral, Sergyar Fleet, finds himself caught up in her web of plans in ways he’d never imagined, bringing him to an unexpected crossroads in his career.

Meanwhile, Miles Vorkosigan, one of Emperor Gregor’s key investigators, this time dispatches himself on a mission of inquiry, into a mystery he never anticipated – his own mother.

Plans, wills, and expectations collide in this sparkling science-fiction social comedy, as the impact of galactic technology on the range of the possible changes all the old rules, and Miles learns that not only is the future not what he expects, neither is the past.




The Demon's Librarian
ImaJinn Books, February 28, 2009
Trade Paperback and eBook, 206 pages
Review Copy: Reviewer's Own

Melanie's Week in Review - April 3, 2016
It's not just another day at the library...

When demons are preying on schoolchildren in her city, Francesca Barnes does what any red-blooded librarian would do she does some research and goes hunting. But the books she finds in a secret cache don't tell her the whole story. Chess has no idea what she's just stepped into or just how special she really is...

Orion (Ryan) is Drakul, part demon, and a loyal servant of the Order. He doesn't expect a motorcycle-riding librarian to be messing around with demonic forces, and he doesn't expect her to smell so damn good. But Ryan's got bigger problems. His partner has disappeared, and the forces of Darkness are rising. Now Chess is Ryan's only hope of finding his partner, and Ryan is Chess's only hope of survival, because the demons now know Chess exists and that she is the heir to a long-lost power that could push back their dark tide.

If Ryan can keep her alive long enough, she just might be the key to destroying the demons completely. But Ryan doesn't know he's been betrayed by the very Order he serves. And if Chess does, by some miracle, survive, he won't ever be able to touch her again...


Cover Reveal - Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter


No Whitewashing! Author Input! – A Good Cover Design Story

To celebrate Regeneration’s US cover reveal, I thought I’d tell you a story. A true story this time, and like many truths, one that confounds conventional wisdom – in this case, the oft-repeated tale of woe in which an unapproachable and unaccountable publishing behemoth slaps an unrepresentative (or just boringly generic) cover onto a book and sends it out into the world, insensitive either to the text or to the opinion of the person who wrote it.

Sadly, we’re not talking urban legend here: this does happen. Even famous, best-selling authors bemoan having no input, nor even seeing their covers before they’re published. Sometimes, when the wrongness of what they’ve done hits a particularly frayed public nerve, the resulting furore becomes fierce enough to force a change on the part of the publisher. But the conventional wisdom remains that authors, as a matter of course, have no say in how their books are packaged.

Here’s the thing: while this may be often (and appallingly) true, it’s by no means universal; and it does a disservice to the publishers who do work with and listen to their authors to tar them with the same brush. Despite being neither famous nor best-selling (yet, they insist, just not yet), my publishers have always shown me my covers as works-in-progress. They have always asked for my feedback, and I’ve never been ignored. It’s been my experience through six covers now: the UK and US editions of Gemsigns, Binary and Regeneration, published by Quercus Imprint, Jo Fletcher Books in both markets (although the two series wound up looking quite different to each other).

Never has this spirit of enthusiastic, respectful collaboration been more evident, or more important, than in developing the US cover for Regeneration. It was the first time that I found myself not just suggesting tweaks to an image that I was basically OK with, but having to explain what was wrong with it and asking for it to be significantly reworked. Now that the final happy result has been revealed to the world, I want to share the story of its evolution from that somewhat shaky beginning. I pitched the idea to Quercus, who have very kindly agreed. We both think it’s important to demonstrate how things are done when they’re done well. And to tell more than one kind of story.

The following is lifted largely from our email correspondence, with some additional context from Quercus on how they approached the cover and responded to my comments.

§

Designing the US cover for Regeneration, the final book of the ®Evolution trilogy

The US covers for Gemsigns and Binary
Cover Reveal - Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter Cover Reveal - Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter


Round 1

Quercus’ original idea:

We were lucky to have the same cover designer, Daniel Rembert work on Gemsigns, Binary and now Regeneration. We have been very conscious of wanting all three covers to be coordinated so that the sense of a trilogy would be recognizable. There are several dynamic plotlines to pick from, but we chose to focus on the gillungs’ story – as it directly reflects the progression of the gems from chattel fighting for their rights, to better integrated members of society, to community leaders and innovators. We wanted the image to be underwater but to convey the idea of the quantum battery technology and its use as a power source.

Quercus initially approached Stephanie with the below first cover ideas for Regeneration:

Cover Reveal - Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter Cover Reveal - Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter

Stephanie’s original thoughts:

“These are beautiful as a picture, but: why is the central image of a naked nubile female? And: who is she supposed to be? The only teenage gillung woman in the text is Agwé, and Agwé is black. So if it’s meant to be Agwé it needs to look like Agwé, which means properly dark skin and CLOTHING. But much as I love her — and believe me, my soul would soar at the sight of beautiful black Agwé with her glowing green hair and cherry-red bodysuit as the cover image — she’s very much a secondary character, so I’m not sure why she’d be the cover? That suggests a YA novel. And she certainly wouldn’t be in such a passive pose, none of them would. If we’re going to do a gillung underwater against a turbine they should look more engaged, more dynamic.

“I think part of what’s thrown me as well is that this composition is such a departure from the Gemsigns and Binary covers, which had been developing a motif that I really liked: the raised arms/ fist, the crowd of people, the sense of an engaged urban community. Regeneration continues that whole theme of the collective and the communal, and brings it to a climax with the intersections of family, friends, workmates etc.

“(I’ve lost a bet with myself; I thought it might be an underwater viewpoint, but looking up through the water at the quayside crowded with people and the huge egg-shaped Thames Tidal building rising up alongside. Something that, when the reader got to the penultimate chapter with Gabriel desperately trying to get people to leave, they’d look back at the cover and go ah-ha! …Not saying it should be that, mind, it just seemed like it would be an obvious continuation of the motif.)”

Quercus’ cover design team went back to the drawing board with Stephanie’s suggestions in mind.

Round 2

Quercus’ thoughts:

“Stephanie provides fantastic, detailed feedback and we went back to the designer with it. We have been back and forth with the designer about these covers from the very beginning, so it’s no surprise that the first interpretation wasn’t quite right.

Featuring a gillung is essential, we agree, and I think the color palette here is good—figuring out how to pull off the composition in a way that captures the same sense of dynamism and community focus as the previous cover designs is just part of the challenge. We were not feeling 100% about the main figure (if we were to use her, our designer would definitely need to finesse some of the detailing with the wet suit and the skin tone but we really loved the general composition/direction.”

Cover Reveal - Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter Cover Reveal - Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter Cover Reveal - Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter

Stephanie’s thoughts:

“I too much prefer the overall direction of this composition, and in general I like the first image, with the central figure rising vertically and purposefully, best of all. The background figures are better in this as well; in the others it’s not clear whether they’re swimming or drowning, but in the first one it’s pretty evident they are all in their element. However I also like the fact that more of the topside buildings are visible in the second image; it sort of contextualises the swimmers. So I don’t know if it’s possible to maintain that general upward thrust of the figures in the first image while having more of the buildings from the second image as well? (I realise part of this also has to do with where the title sits on the cover, and the designer will no doubt play around with that far more efficiently than I can visualise it!)”

“As for the central figure, yes she’d need to be a bit darker and more detailed. I’d love her to be a teeny bit curvier and her hair a bit more cloud-like. The main thing to remember about the gillungs’ physicality — apart from skin tone — is that they are powerful people. This is a very subtle thing; I don’t mean to suggest that they should be large or blocky, but if you think of any aquatic mammal from otters to whales, there is a sort of muscular solidity about them.”

“You said you’re not 100% certain about the main figure; are you thinking about alternatives? Who/ what would you use instead? Because it does need a strong central component, I think, and at the moment she’s it …”

Round Three:

Quercus’ thoughts:

“We are always grateful for Stephanie’s very helpful and comprehensive feedback. Our designer has incorporated some of these tweaks. The differences are subtle but effective.”

Cover Reveal - Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter

Stephanie’s thoughts:

“I really like this, and I think it does the job well — it’s both attractive and accurate, if you know what I mean. Holding the earlier two covers up to look at all three in a row, it’s clear that although the images are different from each other they are thematically related, having a sort of family resemblance — the altered human figure against a crowded urban backdrop, the sense of energy and urgency. I like the cover itself, but also the sense of a continuum.”



The final cover:

Cover Reveal - Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter

Available in bookstores and online, May 2016!



Daniel Rembert's design work can be found at danielrembert.com



Click each cover to see it full-sized.

Melanie's Week in Review - April 3, 2016Cover Reveal - Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter

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