Random (but not really)

Sunday, December 24, 2023

The Covers of 2023: Fantasy

Back when I was in college, there were two types of fantasy covers: the amazingly gorgeous covers, such as those done by Thomas Canty, or there were the really awful covers you absolutely wouldn’t read in public.

There are still some horrible covers out there, but there are also very few with Thomas Canty-level gorgeous art.

Te current trend seems to feature silhouettes, and I honestly love it. But there were a variety of styles I liked this year as far as fantasy covers went.


Legends & Lattes (2022) by Travis Baldree

Legends & Lattes

Cover art by Carson Lowmiller & Cover design by Peter Lutjen

Published by Tor Books (Macmillan)

An orc hires a hob, a succubus, and a ratkin to help her build and run her dream: a coffee shop.

This cover is a throwback to those 80s and 90s covers, from the color palette to the fonts.

but once you look at characters and what they’re doing it’s obvious this is nothing like those fantasies from the 80s and 90s. There are baked goods–and not a single chain-mail bikini in to be seen.

Legends & Lattes has been described as a low-stakes cozy fantasy, and that’s a spot on.

Paladin’s Faith (2023) T. Kingfisher

Paladin's Faith

Published by Red Wombat Studio

As she publishes her own books, and as she also creates comics, I believe she makes her own covers.

This cover matches to previous books in the series, and I like the design.

The Saint of Steel: Paladin’s Grace (2020), Paladin’s Strength (2021), Paladin’s Hope (2021), Paladin’s Faith (2023)

That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Human (2023) by Kimberly Lemming

That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Human

Cover design by Alexia Mazis, Cover illustration by Kimberly Lemming

Published by Orbit (Hachette)

This series is ridiculous.

It is also a lot of fun, despite all the boinking.

This series was initially self-published, and then picked up by Orbit. This cover (and the earlier covers) were drawn by the author, which is freaking AMAZING and I adore everything about that.

Orbit is reissuing the books with different covers, and I feel like those covers weren’t drawn by the author–they have a very different feel–and I don’t like them anywhere near as much. I like the goofy comic/illustrated feel.

Mead Mishaps: That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon (2021), Mistlefoe: A Mead Realm Tale (2021), That Time I Got Drunk and Yeeted a Love Potion at a Werewolf (2022), A Bump In Boohail (2022), That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Human (2023)

The Bookshop and the Barbarian (2023) by Morgan Stang

The Bookshop and the Barbarian

Cover design by Etheric Designs


This is another self-published book, and the author did the work of giving their book a lovely cover. The design seems simple with fewer colors, but the art is pretty and represents various elements of the story.

This cover makes me think of The Lord of the Rings or The Princess Bride, although the story is like neither of those.

A Power Unbound (2023) by Freya Marske

A Power Unbound

Cover art by Will Staehle

Published by Tordotcom

The design matches the previous two books in the series, and although I don’t love the color choices (the pink is a bit much for me personally) I do love the elements and silhouettes and overall botany theme to the design, though this cover is trees, rather than flowers.

You can see it’s a Queer book, but it’s a bit subtle–and quite safe for public transportation.

The Last Binding: A Marvellous Light  (2021),  A Restless Truth (2022), A Power Unbound (2023)

Once a Rogue (2023) by Allie Therin

Once a Rogue

Published by Carina Press (Harlequin)

No cover artist listed.

As usual, Carina/Harlequin don’t give you the artist who created the cover, which is a damned shame, because like the previous book in this series–and the series before this, it’s a gorgeous cover.

I love the art deco elements and the silhouettes (I really love a nice silhouette), and I particularly love the single color theme each of these books has. I’m not sure if it was purposeful, but so far the palettes are matching the first series: red, followed by blue, and that is another lovely touch.

I just wish Carina Press told us the artist so we could appreciate them.

Magic in Manhattan: Spellbound (2019), Starcrossed (2020), Wonderstruck (2021)
Roaring Twenties Magic: Proper Scoundrels (2021), Once a Rogue (2023)

Lamplight Murder Mysteries by Morgan Stang

Murder at Spindle Manor Murder on the Lamplight Express

Cover by Inkwolf Designs; Etheric Designs


More self-published books with gorgeous covers. After discovering Morgan Stang I’ve been searching out and reading their books.

Again, the design seems simple, but the more you look at it, the more details you notice. I’d like to remind you that I hate spiders, but still think that is a pretty cover. I like trains, so nothing disturbing about the second cover.

Lamplight Murder Mysteries: Murder at Spindle Manor (2022), Murder on the Lamplight Express (2023)

Winter’s Gifts (2023) by Ben Aaronovitch

Winter's Gifts

Cover map image by Stephen Walter. Title lettering by Patrick Knowles

Published by Subterranean Press

I didn’t even know this was being published until Tania gifted it to me.

Although published by Subterranean Press (the main series was published first by Del Rey and the by DAW), all of the covers are clearly Rivers of London books with the gorgeous map background and the meandering title font.

Rivers of London: Midnight Riot (2011), Moon Over Soho (2011), Whispers Under Ground (2012), Broken Homes (2014), Foxglove Summer (2014), The Hanging Tree (2017), The Furthest Station (2017), Lies Sleeping (2018), The October Man (2019),  False Value (2020), Tales from the Folly: A Rivers of London Short Story Collection (2020), What Abigail Did That Summer (2021), Amongst Our Weapons (2022), Winter’s Gifts (2023)

The Eidolon (2023) by K.D. Edwards

The Eidolon

Primary Cover art by Dezaray Shuler, Secondary Cover art by Bethany Cath, Dust Jacket design and Magnus Academy seal by Justyna Chlopecka


Although his main series has a publisher, this novella is self-published, and he used fan art for (I believe) everything.

I particularly like the detail where Quinn seems to be tangled up in the things he is trying to manipulate (at least how that’s how it feels to me) which very much describes Quinn and what he has gone through in this book and the previous series.

The Tarot Sequence: The Last Sun (2018), The Hanged Man (2019), The Hourglass Throne (2022)
Magnus Academy: The Eidolon (2023)

Baking Up a Magical Midlife by Jessica Rosenberg

Butter, Sugar, Magic
Butter, Sugar, Magic (2022)
Bread, Coffee, Magic (2022)
Bitter, Sweet, Magic (2022)
Sweet & Sour Spells (2023)

Cover design by Karen Dimmick/ Arcane Covers

Published by Blue Octopus Press

I’m pretty certain it’s the color that I like so much about this cover, especially since the 4th book has a similar theme but a very different color palette, and I don’t like it nearly as well.

It’s a relatively simple design, but the blue elements make it pop and give it the feel of magic.

Liar City (2023) by Allie Therin

Liar City

Published by Carina Press (Harlequin)

This is the second Allie Therin cover to make the list, and like the first, Carina Press doesn’t credit the artist.

I don’t like this cover as much as the two historical series, but as this book is extremely different from the other to series–being an alternate timeline contemporary fantasy rather than an historical with hidden fantastic elements, it should look different.

The smoke / light winding around the needle give it a more subtle magical feel.

Sugar & Vice series

Little, Brown & Company: 1
Orbit: 1
Subterranean Press: 1
Carina Press: 2
Tor Books: 2
Blue Octopus Press: 4
Self-Published : 5

The Books of 2023: Yearly Reading Roundup

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am    

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Saturday, December 23, 2023

The Covers of 2023: Mystery

I’ve been reading mysteries for longer than about any other genre, and I don’t remember being taken by many (if any) of the covers of the books I read as a teen.

There were the silver Agatha Christie books with different highlight colors for each series, and there were the pulp James Bond covers I discovered, but not much else stands out. The first mystery cover I clearly remember being taken by was CS Harris’s What Angels Fear. And some of my favorite series have gorgeous covers (you’ll see a couple below).

This is the genre that has the most variety in covers. There are some illustrated covers, some that focus on the text, some that are seemingly simple yet striking, and others that are simply beautiful.


Lily Adler Mysteries by Katharine Schellman

The Body in the Garden Silence in the Library Death at the Manor Murder at Midnight

The Body in the Garden (2020)
Silence in the Library (2021)
Death at the Manor (2022)
Murder at Midnight (2023)

Cover design by Nicole Lecht

Published by Crooked Lane Books (The Quick Brown Fox & Company)

I discovered this series and then quickly devoured all four books.

As with many of the other series I especially like, each book has a similar design but a different primary color.

Once you look more closely you see elements of the design change on each cover, in this case different botanical elements giving you a sense of the different seasons.

They seem deceptively simple, yet are quite lovely.

A Fatal Illusion (2023) by Anna Lee Huber

A Fatal Illusion

Cover art by Larry Rostant

Published by Berkley (Penguin)

Every book in this series has a lovely cover that reminds you of a painting, which matches perfectly Lady Darby, who is a portrait artist.

Like most of the other covers, there are two primary shades–a background shade and strong share for the main character’s dress.

For this book, I really like the red and blue contrast, with that peculiar shade of blue you get as evening falls.

Lady Darby: The Anatomist’s Wife (2012), Mortal Arts (2013), A Grave Matter (2014), A Study in Death (2015), A Pressing Engagement (2016), As Death Draws Near (2016), A Brush with Shadows (2018), An Artless Demise (2019), A Stroke of Malice (2020), A Wicked Conceit (2021), A Perilous Perspective (2022), A Fatal Illusion (2023)

The Price of Lemon Cake (2023) by Jennifer Ashley

The Price of Lemon Cake

Cover design by Kim Killion

Published by JA / AG Publishing (Self-Published)

Although the series is published by Berkley, the novellas–such as this one–are self-published.

The Berkeley covers (which I do like) all have a woman on a staircase in period dress. The novellas all are food still-lifes.

A still life doesn’t necessarily say mystery, but it does say food and kitchen, and for a self-published book I think it’s quite lovely.

Kat Holloway: A Soupçon of Poison (2015), Death Below Stairs (2018), Scandal Above Stairs (2018), Death in Kew Gardens (2019), Murder in the East End (2020), Death at the Crystal Palace (2021), The Secret of Bow Lane (2022), The Price of Lemon Cake (2023)

A Sinister Revenge (2023) by Deanna Raybourn

A Sinister Revenge

Cover design & illustration by Leo Nickolls

Published by Berkley (Penguin)

I adore these covers.

More silhouettes (I hope they never go out of fashion), and that gorgeous embossed design.

The sepia tones here are plainer than other covers, but I don’t find it a bad thing, just a little different, and the sepia tones really seem perfect for the modern reading thinking back on that era.

Veronica Speedwell: A Curious Beginning (2015), A Perilous Undertaking (2017), A Treacherous Curse (2018), A Dangerous Collaboration (2019), A Murderous Relation (2020), An Unexpected Peril (2021), An Impossible Impostor (2022)

A Newlywed’s Guide to Fortune and Murder (2023) by Dianne Freeman

A Newlywed's Guide to Fortune and Murder

Published by Kensington Books

No artist credited.

I really do enjoy these covers. They’re fun and swirly and twisty and colorful.

I just wish the publisher had credited the artist.

A Countess of Harleigh Mystery: A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder (2018), A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder (2019), A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder (2020), A Fiancée’s Guide to First Wives and Murder (2021), A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder (2022), A Newlywed’s Guide to Fortune and Murder (2023)

A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons (2022) by Kate Khavari

A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons

Cover design by Nicole Lecht

Published by Crooked Lane Books (The Quick Brown Fox & Company)

This is such a pretty cover, with the flowers and the vial of (presumably) poison, and that border that subtly signifies “historical mystery”.

It’s lush, with deep colors, and immediately drew my eye.

I just wish I’d liked the story as much as I liked the cover.

Saffron Everleigh series

The Deadliest Fall (2023) by Charlie Cochrane

The Deadliest Fall

Cover art: L.C. Chase

Published by Riptide Publishing

Yes, I know. Another monochrome cover with silhouettes.

What can I say? I know what I like, and I am loving this trend.

There is again that shade of blue that says, “evening” and even “inky shadows”.

Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club The Man Who Died Twice The Bullet That Missed The Last Devil to Die

The Thursday Murder Club (2020) The Man Who Died Twice (2021), The Bullet That Missed (2022), The Last Devil to Die (2023)

Cover design by Richard Bravery, Hand lettering by Joel Holland

Published by Viking (Penguin Books)

These are relatively simple covers, but I really like that simplicity.

They remind me of some book series my parents had on their bookshelves, but I can’t at all remember anything about those books except bold text on a beige/tan background.

Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies (2022) by Misha Popp

Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies

Cover design by Trish Cramblet

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (The Quick Brown Fox & Company)

I wasn’t sure how I initially felt about this cover, but I found that it stuck with me as time passed, and that it was recognizable at a quick glance.

I feel like the knife is a bit over the top, but I suppose they needed some way to emphasize murder part of the mystery.

Pies Before Guys series

Mystery on the Menu: A Three-Course Collection of Cozy Mysteries (2023) by Nicole Kimberling

Mystery on the Menu: A Three-Course Collection of Cozy Mysteries

Cover Art by Amber Whitney of Unicorn Empire

Published by One Block Empire (Blind Eye Books)

I feel like the lemon slice is the focal point that tells you one of the characters works in food service. Where else, besides restaurants, do you really see lemon slices?

Oddly, the bloody knife isn’t immediately noticeable, as it’s directly below the red strawberries.

Kensington Books: 1
One Block Empire: 1
Riptide Publishing: 1
Self-Published: 1
Berkley: 2
Viking: 4
Crooked Lane Books: 6

The Books of 2023: Yearly Reading Roundup

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am    

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Friday, December 22, 2023

The Covers of 2023: Romance

Many dedicated romance readers–particularly Old Skool Romance Readers, hate the trend of illustrated covers.

I kinda love them. Almost as much as I hate clinch covers. (I’m not meaning to yuck anyone’s yum, I just do not like to look at click covers, old or new.)

The drawback is, of course, that you can’t tell the level of spice/heat in a book with an illustrated cover. If a cover has a naked or mostly naked model, you know there is going to be boinking. But you can’t easily tell with illustrated covers, unless you know the author’s reputation.

But to be fair, there are plenty of books with high heat/spice that don’t have hot/spicy covers. And I am always going to be a sucker for a pretty book cover.


Four Walls and a Heart (2023) by Celia Lake

Four Walls and a Heart

Cover design by Augusta Scarlett


I’ve read several books by this author–related and intertwined romantic fantasies, and although I love the world-building and the setting (late Victorian and early Edwardian eras) the writing … well, it feels like it was dictated and then published without editing, which I find extremely frustrating to read.

But I want to note this cover, which I really love. It’s set during the Mahdist War, and one of the characters was severely injured–which is made clear on the cover.

Of course there are silhouettes, and a two color scheme, which I liked.

And of course this is self-published and the author made sure to get a good cover that represented the characters.

Just wished the book had held up to the cover for me.

Bergman Brothers by Chloe Liese

Only When It's Us Ever After Always

Only When It’s Us (2020)
Ever After Always  (2021)

Cover Art by Jennie Rose Denton of Lamplight Creative


This series has been picked up by Berkley and is getting all new covers, and, to be honest, I really really prefer these covers she commissioned when she self-published them. Here, on the cover of Ever After Always, Freya is clearly curvaceous AND confident enough to wear a bikini.

I also like the solid color backgrounds that make the characters the focal point.

The new covers are illustrated clinch covers and nowhere near as interesting.

Bergman Brothers: Only When It’s Us (2020), Always Only You (2020), Ever After Always  (2021)

Donut Fall in Love (2021) by Jackie Lau

Donut Fall in Love

Cover illustration & design by Vi-An Nguyen

Published by Jove Books (Berkley)

Honestly, I just think this is a cute cover.

The Holiday Trap (2022) by Roan Parrish

The Holiday Trap

Cover illustration by Kristen Solecki

Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca

I hadn’t realized until I put this post together that these two covers used the same shade of blue.

As is the theme for many of the other covers I loved this year, it has a solid background and a relatively simply design.

I like the arrows, signifying the house switching the main characters do. I suppose the felt they had to use evergreens to signify Christmas, but that makes it hard to guess the second location is New Orleans.

Overall I find it pleasing.

Gouda Friends (2022) by Cathy Yardley

Gouda Friends

Cover design & illustration by Philip Pascuzzo

Published by Montlake

Cheese DOES in fact play a major part in this story, being both the reason Tam leaves her ex and the impetus for helping her get a new job.

My only ding is that I totally didn’t expect the amount of boinking this book had. The cover feels far more light-hearted than super-sexy.

Ponto Beach Reunion

Role Playing (2023)

Role Playing

by Cathy Yardley

Cover illustration by Leni Kauffman

Published by Montlake

Montlake is Amazon’s publishing wing, so I wonder if she had more say than she would with other publishers.

I hope so, because I really like everything this cover is doing. I love the moon as the “O”. The cuddling is adorable as is the look he is giving her, and the mini-figs on the table are marvelous.

Also, her comfy sweats and slouchy socks!

Teacher of the Year (2023) by M.A. Wardell

Teacher of the Year

Design & cover illustration by Myriam Strasbourg


I’ll be honest, the reason this cover made the list is solely because it’s a self-published book and she clearly went out of her way to have a cover that matched both the characters and the tone of the story–pastel and sweet.

And like all the other books on this list it’s got a solid background, emphasizing the characters.

Teachers in Love

Jove Books: 1
Sourcebooks Casablanca: 1
Montlake: 2
Self-Published : 4

The Books of 2023: Yearly Reading Roundup

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Thursday, December 21, 2023

The Covers of 2023: Science Fiction

I have gone whole years without reading a science fiction book, but in the past couple years I’ve read multiple SF books.

Of course, 93% of those have been Murderbot reads, listens, and rereads. (I just calculated; I’ve read 30 SF books since 2020, and all but two of them were Murderbot.)

The other two books were Claire O’Dell’s Janet Watson series.


The Hound of Justice (2019) by Claire O’Dell

The Hound of Justice

Cover design by Richard L. Aquan. Cover illustration by Chris McGrath

Published by Harper Voyager (Harper Collins)

This cover has the same feel as A Study in Honor. Everything is soft edged and you can’t clearly see what is happening, but the two women are clearly in a fight or flight situation. Even more importantly, both models match how the women are described in the book, and Sara looks pretty much how I’d have expected her to in that situation.

The cover gives you the sci-fi / mystery feel of the book, which is how I ended up reading the first book, wanting to see if the book read how it felt.

I fear that there shan’t be another book in this series, since it’s been four years, but the stories were interesting, even if they were SF bordering on dystopia.

The Janet Watson Chronicles: A Study in Honor (2018), The Hound of Justice (2019)

System Collapse (2023) by Martha Wells

System Collapse

Cover art by Jaime Jones

Published by Tordotcom (Macmillan)

There is nothing exceptional about this cover, except you know at a glance: MURDERBOT!

These covers don’t really give you the complete feel of the story–there is no sense of the humor and the snark–but you do get the sense of action and adventure.

Mostly I’m just pleased that after the series blew up they didn’t try to change the covers to something more… blockbustery.

The Murderbot Diaries: All Systems Red (2017), Artificial Condition (2018), Rogue Protocol (2018), Exit Strategy (2018), Network Effect (2020), Fugitive Telemetry (2021), Compulsory (2023), System Collapse (2023)

The Books of 2023: Yearly Reading Roundup

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Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Books of 2022: Fantasy Covers

I’ve been a fantasy reader since the 90s. I read it when I was younger, but never particularly sought it out until I was in college, and then it became my primary genre for half a decade.

Which means I had books with some amazing covers, but there was still a fair amount of sexist crap, and only very rarely would I see a book cover with a woman in reasonable armor. I bought Mercedes Lackey‘s By the Sword without even reading the description because I immediately feel in love with the cover.


The Hourglass ThroneThe Hourglass Throne (2022) K.D. Edwards (The Tarot Sequence)
Publisher: Pyr
Cover illustration Micah Epstein. Cover design by Jennifer Do
Urban, LGBT


Book three here, and each cover is clearly part of the same series. (The Last Sun, The Hanged Man)

This is my favorite cover of the series so far. Rune looks broody, while the sands passing through his fingers clearly reference the title.

Although all three books have the same illustrator, each new cover (IMO) is better than the previous.

WitchmarkWitchmark (2018) C.L. Polk (The Kingston Cycle)
Publisher: Tor
Cover design by Will Staehle
Historical, LGBT *


The cover of this book immediately drew my attention and I wanted to read it before I knew anything about the story.

The color is amazing, and the silhouettes evoke the sense of the magic in the story.

It’s gorgeous. I love it.

A Restless TruthA Restless Truth (2022) Freya Marske (Last Binding)
Publisher: Tor
Cover art and design by Will Staehle
Historical, LGBT *


Although I far prefer the color scheme of the first book, A Marvellous Light, this cover is clearly part of the same series. And the different colors draw your attention to the fact this second book is about different characters.

I really adore covers with silhouettes.

I want to point out that A Marvellous Light and Witchmark (above) have the same designer, but I would never have guessed that from just looking at them

Amongst Our WeaponsAmongst Our Weapons (2022) Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London)
Publisher: DAW
Jacket map illustration Stephen Walter. Jacket design Tomas Almeida. Jacket hand lettering Patrick Knowles.


I love all the covers in this series (except for the weird version the first American book had).

The map of London, the little drawings representing events in the story, it’s all wonderful, and quite unlike anything else.

Mead Mishaps by Kimberly Lemming: That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon (2021) and That Time I Got Drunk and Yeeted a Love Potion at a Werewolf (2022)
Cover art: Kimberly Lemming (?)
Romance *


That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon That Time I Got Drunk and Yeeted a Love Potion at a Werewolf Mistlefoe

A self-published series, and one (as best I can tell) for which she created her own covers.

To be honest, the covers are what initially drew my attention to the first book, and after reading the title I just had to know more.

You totally know what you’re getting from the titles, yet the cover and title are so over-the top you have to wonder if it will be as fun as everything suggests.

It is.

And me note again that I am pretty sure she created her own covers.

The Wisteria Society of Lady ScoundrelsThe Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels (2021) India Holton (Dangerous Damsels)
Publisher: Berkley
Cover art by Dawn Cooper
Historical 8


This cover is so so so very pretty.

I adore the preparing to pace-off for a duel position of the two main characters. It is quite clear that although this may be an historical, she is clearly not taking anyone’s shit.

Proper ScoundrelsProper Scoundrels (2021) Allie Therin (Roaring Twenties Magic)
Publisher: Carina Press
No cover artist mentioned or easily found.
Historical, LGBT *


This is a spin-off from the Magic in Manhattan series, and like that series this cover clearly gives you the time and place of the story, with the canes and the hats and the art deco flourishes, and the giant clock tower in the background.

And the red is a perfect eye-catching shade without making me think immediately of blood.

Pack of LiesPack of Lies (2022) Charlie Adhara (Monster Hunt)
Publisher: Carina
No cover artist mentioned or easily found.
Supernatural, LGBT *


This is a spin-off from the Big Bad Wolf series.

This is thematically quite different from the covers in the first series, but the blue-greys are very similar (especially to the first book,

I adore that the werewolf paws appear on all the covers, but those paw prints (along with the titles) are the only hints you’ve picked up a werewolf book. I mean, I love a good shifter story, but so many covers are extremely unsubtle about it.

I also love the snow-covered buildings and the giant moon. They’re eerie and beautiful at the same time.

BlitzBlitz (2022) Daniel O’Malley (The Checquy Files)
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Cover design by Lucy Kim
Mystery, Urban


All the books in this series feature a fancy coat of arms with unexpected bits in the center: bunny, castle, tentacle creature, teapot. Although those are references from the first story, it works well to keep continuity from book to book.

Initially I thought this cover had deviated significantly from the previous books, but after finishing the book, I realized it didn’t. It’s simply that the powers Myfanwy and Felicity have are quiet, internal ones, while the powers Lyn manifests are not quiet. Plus the second story line takes place during the bombing of London, so this cover does call for a lot more noise.

Plus, all the lightening is really very pretty.

HeartwoodHeartwood (2021) A.M. Rose (Daydream, Colorado)
Cover designed by BCJ Art & Design
Supernatural, LGBT *


All the covers in the series and bright and colorful and although they are busy, that matches the feel of the stories for me. Each cover is different, but very obviously part of the series. Daydream, Blindspot, Mischief

And yes, I generally don’t like busy covers, but self-published books are always graded on a curve, and they have done the work to make the cover art cohesive across the series.

Daydream is my favorite cover in the series, because the predomination of blues and whites feel calming, and the whole thing is something I might hang up near my desk to enjoy.


Deadbeat DruidDeadbeat Druid (2022) David R. Slayton  (Adam Binder)
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Cover design by Sarah Riedlinger
LGBT, Urban


This is the third book in the series and all the covers clearly belong together. Nothing flashy here, but I like the starkness, and the monochromatic themes of each book. (White Trash Warlock, Trailer Park Trickster)

Nothing fancy, yet eye catching never-the-less.

Bee Cave MagicBee Cave Magic (2020) Kelly Fox
Cover art: Kelly Fox
LGBT, Supernatural *


Considering the author made her own cover art, I’m pretty impressed.

To be truly honest, this book gives you no indication of what is happening (fated mates shifter romance with boinking) but it’s pretty, and there are no ridiculously air-brushed people. So even if it doesn’t especially match the story, it also doesn’t make me cringe or cover my eyes.

Mysterious Charm by Celia Lake: Outcrossing (2018), Goblin Fruit (2019), Magician’s Hoard (2019), Wards of the Roses (2019), In the Cards (2019)
Cover design by Augusta Scarlett
Historical, Romance *


OutcrossingGoblin FruitMagicians Hoard

This is another self-published author who got an actual artist to create her covers. They’re lovely, they give you a sense of time in how the silhouettes are dressed, and there is clearly a sense of magic in the swirl of stars (sparkles?) that appears on each cover.

Wards of the RosesIn the Cards

This series as a whole is extremely well done—and doubly so for a self-published series.

Prosperity series by Alexis Hall : Prosperity (2018),  Liberty & Other Stories (2018)
Cover art: Simoné
LGBT, Steampunk *

Prosperity Liberty & Other Stories

These are slightly older books, and self-published. However, note he paid an artist to create his covers.

They are evocative of the sense of the book: steampunk and a main character who is a bit of a charlatan.

Of Claws and FangsOf Claws and Fangs (2022) Faith Hunter (Jane Yellowrock)
Publisher: Ace
Cover art by Cliff Nielsen


I really like how the cover features three cats and zero humans. The stories are from both series, but of course Beast belongs on the top (“Beast is best hunter.”)

And the subtle bat piping design along the left side ties the book into Jane books (although both series have piping down the side).

Posthumous EducationPosthumous Education (2022) Drew Hayes (Fred, the Vampire Accountant)


I adore these covers almost as much as I adore the book. The first seemed ridiculous, but the fit the series so well I now love them all.


  • Ace (Penguin): 1
  • Berkley (Penguin): 1
  • Blackstone (small press): 1
  • Carina (Harper Collins): 2
  • DAW (Astra House): 1
  • Little, Brown & Co (Hachette): 1
  • Pyr (Start Publishing): 1
  • self-published: 8
  • Tor (Macmillan): 2


Self-published books are the clear winner here, which, for anyone who was reading self-published books a decade ago, is frankly amazing. I love that authors are hiring artists to create their self-published books (in some cases, the author themself) because it makes great books a great deal easier to recommend when the characters don’t live in the uncanny valley, the fonts are legible, and the use of photohop to piece together disparate elements isn’t glaring.

In fact, across genres, just over a quarter of the covers I especially liked were from self-published authors, and nearly another quarter were from small / independent publishers.

As for imprints, Berkley far and away had the greatest number of good covers (13%) which is what I’ve noticed in other years. So once again, whomever is charge of book covers at Berkley: you’re doing a fantastic job.


That’s it for my favorite covers of the year. I’ll be back with the books I loved after Christmas.

The Books of 2022: Yearly Reading Roundup

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Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The Books of 2022: Mystery Covers

I’ve been reading mysteries longer than any other genre, although unlike fantasy, mysteries rarely have covers that will enrage me with how awful they are (yes, I’m still looking at you Avon). But that doesn’t mean I don’t have preferences.

One trend I tend to dislike are the super twee covers of many cozies. You know the ones I mean, where it looks like the cat or dog is the one solving the mystery, and their titles are always horrible puns. I just can’t take those books seriously. I mean, I’m possibly missing some great books, but I find the idea of non-fantasy crime-solving animals incredibly off-putting. (However, give me an actual talking dog or cat and I’m all in.)

So here are the mystery covers I particularly liked this year.


The Missing PageThe Missing Page (2022) Cat Sebastian (Page & Sommers)
Cover by Bran at Crowglass Designs
Historical, LGBT *


Usually, Cat Sebastian’s covers are not for me. The covers for this series, however, I really like. It’s possible the switch from live models is due to these books being outside her regular genre (primarily a mystery instead of primarily a romance). Whatever it is, looking at these covers makes me want to read the series again.

This cover has many of the same elements as the cover for cover for Hither, Page, except the dark and light colors are switched top and bottom. The fonts, layout, art design, and even colors are the same or similar, clearly tying the two books together as part of a series.

I particularly love the simplicity of the drawings, which feel stark and a bit foreboding–a perfect mood for a murder mystery, but not so foreboding you don’t know things are going to work out in the end.


The Lords of Bucknall Club by J.A. Rock & Lisa Henry: A Case for Christmas (2021),  A Sanctuary for Soulden (2021)
Cover art by Mitxeran
Historical, LGBT *

A Case for Christmas A Sanctuary for Soulden

More self-published books with excellent covers.

The style of dress makes it immediately apparent these are historicals, and the details place them in the early 1800s.

I particularly like the contract between the characters on A Sanctuary for Soulden. You can clearly see a class difference between the two as well as a personality difference (neat as a pin versus a tiny bit wrinkled) and the doctor’s bag emphasizes those differences.


Purloined PoinsettiaPurloined Poinsettia (2022) Dahlia Donovan (Motts Cold Case Mystery)
Publisher: Tangled Tree Publishing
Cover designer: BookSmith Designs
Cozy, LGBT


They do a very good job tying the covers of this series (Poisoned Primrose, Pierced Peony, Pickled Petunia) together, as well as hinting this series and her London Podcast series are in the same world.

I very much like the simplicity of the drawings with the flowers and complimentary color schemes that pull everything together. And they are pulling no punches with the cat, making it clear he’s a (furless) Sphinx.

Plus the little pineapples are perfect.


The Mystery of the SpiritsThe Mystery of the Spirits (2021) C.S. Poe (Snow & Winter)
Publisher: Emporium Press
Cover art by Reese Dante


Although I have never felt like the cover model looks like Sebastian, all the covers are monochrome and the exposure is blown out — precisely how the world looks to Sebastian, which is a detail I very much appreciate every time I see it.

It lets the design of the colors be both simple, and very obviously part of the same series (while always giving you that detail about Sebastian’s visual issues).


Lady Odelias SecretLady Odelia’s Secret (2022) Jane Steen (Lady Helena Investigates)
Publisher: Aspidistra Press
No cover artist mentioned or easily found.


I love the silhouette trend—especially for historicals.

I’m sure they’re common partially as they would be less expensive than a live model shoot (as opposed to using stock images which so very many small press books do), but it also draws my eye to the cut of the characters clothes, helping to place it in history.

And it contains many details from the previous book, Lady Helena Investigates, such as the border, and a single background building.

The title font should differently have a much greater contrast to the background (since it’s not especially legible as a thumbnail) but that’s one of the things I’m willing to let slide on books put out by small presses.


Calypso, Corpses, and Cooking (2022) Raquel V. Reyes (A Caribbean Kitchen Mystery)
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Cover illustration by Joe Burleson


Admittedly, I don’t like this cover as much as that of her first book, Mango, Mambo, and Murder, but it does follow the theme of the first book —- and does give you a couple things from the plot (ie the pumpkins).

This is just on the edge of being too busy for me, but the blue calms it down enough for me not to find it overwhelming.


Renovated to Death (2022) Frank Anthony Polito
Publisher: Kensington
No cover artist given or easily found


I really liked the action in the cover. I just wish I’d liked the contents even half as much.


The Vanishing TypeThe Vanishing Type (2022) Ellery Adams (Secret, Book, & Scone Society)
Publisher: Kensington
From the dedication: To my favorite book designers and book cover designers: Hugh Thomson William Morris Margaret Strong Elbert Hubbard Mr. Boddington’s Studio (Rebecca Schmidt Ruebensaal) Coralie Bickford-Smith Hülya Özdemir


This is another cover that is on the border of being too busy—the lack of people and the slightly overexposed background help.

This is another series where I strongly prefer the earlier books in the series, which were a little less busy and a little more monochromatic (The Secret, Book, & Scone Society, The Whispered Word, The Book of Candlelight, Ink and Shadows, The Vanishing Type).


Murder Under Her SkinMurder Under Her Skin (2021) Stephen Spotswood (Pentecost and Parker)
Publisher: Doubleday
Cover illustration Rui Ricardo. Folio Art
Historical, LGBT


The design changed quite a bit from the previous book (Fortune Favors the Dead)—keeping only the authors name and colors consistent. But I did quickly recognize it as a sequel.

I don’t love this as much as the cover of the previous book, but there is plenty here to like. Your eye is drawn to the red at the center, and once you notice it, the woman’s outlines with her tattoos is a lovely touch.

It’s a nice cover, however, I’ll note a lot of the detail is lost in the thumbnail.


The Secret of Bow LaneThe Secret of Bow Lane (2022) Ashley Gardner (Kat Holloway)
Publisher: Berkley
Cover art by Larry Rostant


This is another cover that doesn’t do anything particularly outstanding, but it does match the previous books, especially the detail of the stairs.

Additionally, the locations have slowly shifted away from the house and out into the world–which matches the journey Kat has been making about her own circumstances as well as her relationship with her love interest. It’s subtle, but it is giving you a bit of Kat’s arc over the course of the series.

I know not everyone agrees, but if there is going to be a photograph I really prefer not seeing facial details—probably why I love the silhouette covers so much.


A Perilous PerspectiveA Perilous Perspective (2022) Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby Mystery)
Publisher: Berkley
Cover art by Larry Rostant


These covers always feel like small portraits; perfect since Lady Darby is a portrait painter.

And again, I prefer not to see the facial features of the cover models, because inevitably they feel wrong to me. (CS Harris’s Why Kings Confess was the worst for this.)


Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mysteries by Mia P. Manansala
Homicide and Halo-Halo (2022), Blackmail and Bibingka (2022)
Publisher: Berkley
Cover design and illustration by Vi-An Nguyen
Cozy, Culinary

Homicide and Halo-Halo Blackmail and Bibingka

I love the bold colors and designs of these covers.


A Brides Guide to Marriage and MurderA Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder (2022) Dianne Freeman (Countess of Harleigh Mystery)
Publisher: Kensington
No cover artist given or easily found.
Cozy, Historical


Although the font choice is harder to read than one might prefer, it’s not impossible, and it matches the rest of the series, as well as (to be honest) the tone of the books (trying just a tiny bit too hard to be fancy enough to fit in).

The drawn characters and background are lighthearted enough to show you this is a cozy mystery—there may be murder but it won’t be guts and gore and horror.

I also like that she always stands on her own—she is clearly linked to the male character here but isn’t swooning or requiring him for support, which tells you something else important about the book.


An Impossible ImpostorAn Impossible Impostor (2022) Deanna Raybourn (Veronica Speedwell)
Publisher: Berkley
Book design by Kristin del Rosario


I utterly adore these covers.

They look like nothing else, and are clearly are part of the same series: A Perilous Undertaking, A Treacherous Curse, A Dangerous Collaboration, A Murderous Relation, An Unexpected Peril

They are beautiful and immediately draw attention to themselves without the details becoming overwhelming.

They are lovely and some of my favorite covers going right now.


Here is the breakdown of the publishers.

Berkley is far and away the winner here, with about 30% of the covers, while self-published and Kensington each had about 20%. However, I choose to ding Kensington for not crediting their cover artists.


The Books of 2022: Yearly Reading Roundup

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Tuesday, December 20, 2022

The Books of 2022: Romance Covers

I am positive I have a very different take on romance covers than most romance readers.

I absolutely hate the clinch covers.


I hate the shirtless men, the utterly ridiculous muscles, the air-brushed perfection, I hate it all. If I was still reading primarily paper books I almost certainly would not pick up one of those books to even consider, I find those covers so off-putting. Luckily, I read primarily ebooks, so I don’t have to be bothered too much with covers I hate, since I don’t have to look at them unless I want to.

Which leads me to another point: As someone who primarily reads ebooks, I don’t care for the super busy covers with lots of detail, because I don’t see most of the detail, and it mostly looks like clutter. So to get my attention a book needs to look good as a thumbnail, since that’s what I’m going to see.

All these covers I particularly liked? Look good as thumbnails.

However, I will note a major issues with these covers: several of these covers are for stories that had a great deal of darkness to them. The bright and colorful covers give you no clue as to what you are actually going to find inside,


Agents of WinterAgents of Winter (2022) Ada Maria Soto (The Agency)
Publisher: Rookery Publishing
No cover artist given, but have a suspicion the cover was created by the author.

As much as I adore the first book in this series, His Quiet Agent  I don’t care for the cover. It’s not offensive, there’s nothing wrong with it, I just don’t find it interesting. And really, considering she treated the whole thing as an exercise in self-publishing, that’s totally fine.

But this cover is pretty.

I love the deep blue, and even knowing Christmas lights make everything 100% prettier, it’s still lovely.

And if you read the first book, you know there is a significant amount of darkness is Martin’s life, but that Arthur manages to help keep some of that darkness at bay, which is something else the cover is showing you.

Always Only YouAlways Only You (2020) Chloe Liese (Bergman Brothers)
Cover art by Jennie Rose Denton
Sports *

Female romantic lead with a cane.

On the cover.

An Agreement with the SoldierAn Agreement with the Soldier (2021) Sadie Bosque (Necessary Arrangements)
Cover art by Sadie Bosque
Historical *

This is a nice cover that wouldn’t garner much attention from me, except it’s self-published and she did the art herself and it is better than some “professionally” created covers.

Major kudos due here.

Additionally, the room she is in front of / looking into, is dark, which gives you a hint about some of the darkness in the story: she loses a sibling in war, and he has severe PTSD from that same war. It’s pretty, but it’s not hiding the darkness.

Husband MaterialHusband Material (2022) Alexis Hall (London Calling)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Cover design and illustration by Elizabeth Turner Stokes

I love Luc. He is such a mess.

This is clearly a call back to the previous book, Boyfriend Material and I love it just as much as the first. I think it’s the combination of all the straight lines and right angles and Luc slouching.

Delilah Green Doesnt CareDelilah Green Doesn’t Care (2022) Ashley Herring Blake (Bright Falls)
Publisher: Berkley
Cover art by Leni Kauffman

The tattoos. The just barely holding hands.

The purple!

Quibble: There are some dark currents in this book, including the repercussions of having lost one’s parents as a child, and completely and utterly toxic parental figures.

A Marriage of EqualsA Marriage of Equals (2021) Elizabeth Rolls
Publisher: Mills & Boon
No cover artist given, but this is a Harlequin imprint
Historical *

There is something about the way she is staring directly at the camera that I find incredibly compelling.

So it’s less the design and layout here, and mostly and selecting an amazing picture.

Dearest Milton JamesDearest Milton James (2021) N.R. Walker
Publisher: BlueHeart Press
Cover artist: N.R. Walker & Sam York

Very simple, but shows you the heart of the story—the lost letters.

Lifes Too ShortLife’s Too Short (2021) Abby Jimenez (The Friend Zone)
Publisher: Forever
Cover design Sarah Congden

I know a lot of people don’t like illustrated / cartoon covers.

Those people are wrong.

The bright yellow background draws your eye and the distance between the two characters on the cover shows you precisely how far apart the world views of the two characters are.

Quibble: there is a far amount of darkness in this book: grief, addiction, serious illness, which you don’t at all pick up from the cover.

Paris Daillencourt Is About to CrumbleParis Daillencourt Is About to Crumble (2022) Alexis Hall (Winner Bakes All)
Publisher: Forever
Cover design and illustration by Elizabeth Turner Stokes

Major quibble: this cover is it is so very bright and cheerful, it really doesn’t give you a hint as to how very dark and difficult parts of this book are: anxiety and a mental illness spiral, parental abandonment, racism. Although we get a happy ending, most of the book is not bright and cheerful. It makes this cover a bit of false advertising.

The Love HypothesisThe Love Hypothesis (2021) Ali Hazelwood
Publisher: Berkley
Cover illustration by lilithsaur Book

I love all the science about this cover, even if the awkward kiss is super awkward and I don’t like looking at it.

You’ll note there is an even split between independent / self published books and books from major publishers.

Do I hold the former to a lower standard? Yeah. I do. But I think in a lot of cases those covers are just as good if not better than what I see from the big publishers.

The Books of 2022: Yearly Reading Roundup

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Monday, December 19, 2022

The Books of 2022: Non-Fiction Book Covers

We’re starting with non-fiction not only because I have fewer covers in the category, but because I am less likely to read non-fiction in the coming days.

In some ways non-fiction covers are more difficult to judge because they need to reflect their subject. That said, I have read some non-fiction this year with singularly unappealing covers.

An Ugly TruthAn Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination (2021) Sheera Frenkel, Cecilia Kang
Publisher: Harper Collins.
Cover design by Nico Taylor

The expected here would probably be to go with the Facebook logo. But Zuckerberg isn’t simply the face of the company–he is the company, as this book lays out. So the sketch of half his face, with the only color fading tons of Facebook blue, is very eye catching and also very much reflected in the contents of the book.

Women Warriors An Unexpected HistoryWomen Warriors: An Unexpected History (2019) Pamela D. Toler
Publisher: Beacon Press.
Cover art: Jo Anne Davies for Artful Doodlers, based on woodblock print of Tomoe Gozen by Toyohara Chikanobu

The cover is relatively simple, divided into three sections, with a print of woman in battle. But that portrays precisely the contents of the book. (If only the contents had been as good as the cover.)

Women in White Coats: How the First Women Doctors Changed the World of Medicine (2021) Olivia Campbell
Publisher: Park Row
No artist or photograph information given, but this was published “by arrangement with Harlequin” and they are crap at crediting cover artists.

This is another eye-catching cover, giving you precisely the contents of the book.

And again, I wish I’d like the book itself as much as the contents.

A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha ChristieA is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie (2015) by Kathryn Harkup
Publisher: Bloomsbury Sigma
No cover artist listed or readily found.

I love the art deco look of this book, which matches the time Christie when Christie started writing. And the single color is Paris green, which is a perfect touch.

No Mans LandNo Man’s Land: The Trailblazing Women Who Ran Britain’s Most Extraordinary Military Hospital During World War I (2020) Wendy Moore.
Publisher: Basic Books.
Cover design by Ann Kirchner

This is another cover I really liked, and I think I prefer the grayscale to the sepia of the other book on a similar subject.

I also like the use of white space, which to me reflects much about the subject, from the outfits the women wore to the lack of modern knowledge about female doctors in the Great War.

For those who use eReaders, there are pictures in the back that shouldn’t be missed.

Monster, She WroteMonster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction  (2019) Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson.
Publisher: Quirk Books.
Illustrations by Natalya Balnova

Is the color Paris green? Possibly. I think I’ll assume it is and that someone was being very clever.

We're Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation We’re Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation (2021) Eric Garcia
Publisher: Mariner Books
Cover design by Pete Garceau

I live the simpleness of the cover. It’s text, with a mosaic motif, and it got my attention among a lot of covers I found busy, directed towards parents, or just uninteresting.

Basic Books (Hachette Book Group): 1
Beacon Press (Independent): 1
Bloomsbury Sigma (Bloomsbury): 1
Harper Collins : 1
Mariner Books (Harper Collins): 1
Park Row (Harper Collins): 1
Quirk Books (Independent): 1

No standouts here, aside from the fact there are three Harper Collins imprints.

The Books of 2022: Yearly Reading Roundup

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The Books of 2022: Yearly Reading Roundup

Impossible ImposterIt’s time for my yearly roundup of the books I’ve read!

I read way less than in the previous two years (by 75 to 100 books), however, that is still more than any year prior to 2020. So, this possibly means I’m getting back into pre-pandemic reading routines.

As usual, there will be multiple posts, divided into two sections: first section will be book covers I love.

WitchmarkIt feels like the list of covers is larger than previous years, which is a good thing. I’ll note the artist / illustrator when I know who it was, as well the publisher, as I think it’s interesting to note when a certain publisher seems to do a good job.

There weren’t any books by major publishers I truly hated this year, which is a vast improvement! But then I didn’t read many paranormal or m/f romances this year, so not many Avon books, and Avon generally leads my worst-of list.

Fantasy covers I loved
Mystery covers I loved
Romance covers I loved
Non-fiction covers I loved

Written by Michelle at 2:25 pm    

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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The Books of 2021: Mystery Covers

Apparently most of the new books I read this year were mysteries. Plus, I discovered some new-to-me mystery series that I devoured.


A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder (2019), A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder (2020), A Fiancée’s Guide to First Wives and Murder (2021) Dianne Freeman (Countess of Harleigh)

A Ladys Guide to Gossip and MurderA Ladys Guide to Mischief and MurderA Fiancees Guide to First Wives and Murder

Published by Kensington Books. Cover artist Sarah Gibb

Historical, Cozy Mystery

I love the covers of these books, from the quirky cartoon-like characters to the title font.

Yeah, I know the title font is all curly and hard to read, but I love it anyway.

Fortune Favors the DeadFortune Favors the Dead (2020) Stephen Spotswood (Pentecost and Parker)

Published by Vintage Crime. Cover illustration by Rui Ricardo / Folio Art, Cover design by Michael J. Windsor

Historical Mystery, LGBT

This cover really evokes the feel of the book, from the WWII look to the strong noir atmosphere with the woman in heels and a red dress.

An Unexpected PerilAn Unexpected Peril (2021) Deanna Raybourn (Veronica Speedwell)

Published by Berkley. Cover art and design by Leo Nickolls

Historical Mystery

All of the covers in this series are gorgeous, and I really love the silhouettes as well as the mountains in the background that reflect part of the mystery.

Death at the Crystal PalaceDeath at the Crystal Palace (2021) Jennifer Ashley (Below Stairs)

Published by Berkley.  Cover art Ernesto Rogata and NorthScape

Historical Mystery

Although this is a lovely cover, I actually prefer the look of the earlier books, which had a woman on the stairs, a hand on the railing as she goes.

This cover has the stairs, but there was something about the view being mostly of a hand and arm that I particularly liked.

Still, this is a perfectly fine cover.

A Wicked ConceitA Wicked Conceit (2021) Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby)

Published by Berkley. Cover art by Larry Rostant. Cover design by Emily Osborne

Historical Mystery

These covers are always gorgeous–the woman moving away from you in a gorgeous gown into an almost monochrome setting.

Murder Most FairMurder Most Fair (2021) Anna Lee Huber (Verity Kent)

Published by Kensington Books.

Historical Mystery

The feel of these covers is quite different from the Berkley covers for Lady Darby.

These covers show how things have changed in the years between 1830 and 1920. In both, the women’s clothes help set the time period, but also how much things had changed in the intervening years.

Dead Dead GirlsDead Dead Girls (2021) Nekesa Afia

Published by Berkley. Cover art by Emma Leonard. Cover design by Emily Osborne

Historical Mystery, LGBT

Another cover that evokes the time in which it is set–in this case the roaring twenties.

This book is set less than a decade after the Verity Kent books, but it’s clear just how much times have changed, in both women’s dress and how she is clearly relaxed and comfortable in a speakeasy. Yes, there were class differences, but many things shifted amazingly rapidly after the Great War.

Interlude Snow & Winter Collection Volume OneInterlude: Snow & Winter Collection Volume One (2021) (Snow & Winter)

Published by Emporium Press. Cover Art by Reese Dante

Contemporary Mystery, LGBT

This is an entry into her Snow & Winter series (a collection of outtakes and short stories) and it perfectly matches the look and feel of the other books in the series, the monochrome washed-out view of how Sebastian most likely sees the world.

Madison Square MurdersMadison Square Murders (2021) C.S. Poe (Memento Mori)

Published by Emporium Press. Cover Art by Reese Dante

Contemporary Mystery, LGBT

This is a new series set in the same world as the Snow & Winter series. Unlike the Sebastian books, we get color, however, I love how things are fractal and fractured, which gives me a feel for how the main characters brain processes and remembers things.

The Whispered Word (2018), The Book of Candlelight (2000), Ink and Shadows (2021) Ellery Adams (Secret, Book, & Scone Society)

Whispered Word   The Book of Candlelight   ink and shadows

Published by Kensington.

Contemporary, Cozy

These are a little busier than I tend to prefer but the more limited color palette helps, and the title formatting makes it clear these are part of a series.

Arsenic and AdoboArsenic and Adobo (2021) Mia P. Manansala (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen)

Published by  Berkley. Cover art and design by Vi-An Nguyen

Contemporary Mystery

I know lots of people hate the cartoon / line block drawing type covers, but I really like them.

This cover has lovely bold primary colors, I like the action of her cooking (even if I don’t understand where her other arm is, or how her dachshund got up on her shoulder).

Poisoned Primrose (2020), Pierced Peony (2021), Pickled Petunia (2021) Dahlia Donovan (Motts Cold Case Mystery)

Poisoned Primrose   Pierced Peony   Pickled Petunia

Tangled Tree Publishing. Cover Designer: BookSmith Design

Contemporary, Cozy, LGBT

Another series with a consistent design across the series and bold colors.

Plus the cat.

An Elderly Lady Is Up to No GoodAn Elderly Lady Is Up to No Good (2018) Helene Tursten translated by Marlaine Delargy

Published by Soho Crime.

Contemporary Mystery

I love everything about this cover.

It’s perfect.

Murder Most Actual
Murder Most Actual (2021) Alexis Hall

Published by Rakuten Kobo Inc. Original illustration & cover design by Monika Roe.

Contemporary, Cozy, LGBT

This is fun and queer and aside from her not wearing enough clothes in the cold and snow, pretty great.

I love the background bits of the guy falling down and the women in the window. They give you a hint as to how perfectly over-the-top this is going to be.

As in previous years, Berkley has the most great covers over-all, but Kensington was far closer than expected.

Berkley – 7
Kensington – 5
Tangled Tree Publishing – 3
Emporium Press – 2
Vintage Crime – 1
Soho Crime-1
Rakuten Kobo – 1

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am    

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Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Books of 2021: Fantasy Covers

What Abigail Did That SummerWhat Abigail Did That Summer (2021) Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London)

Published by Subterranean Press. Cover map image by Stephen Walter.

Supernatural Mystery

This is pretty clearly a Rivers of London book cover, but also there are plenty of signs it’s not a Peter Grant book. Like The October Man, the title has a backing, unlike Peter’s books, and even more noticeably, the Fox Whisperer Badge, which if you read the rest of the series you know refers to Abigail.

Trailer Park TricksterTrailer Park Trickster (2021) David R. Slayton (Adam Binder)

Published by Blackstone. Cover design by Sean M. Thomas

Supernatural Mystery, LGBT

This is a relatively simple cover design, but like the previous book, refers to events in the book. I also think the starkness of the nearly monochrome art is fitting for the story.

Paladin’s Grace (2020), Paladin’s Strength (2021), Paladin’s Hope (2021) T. Kingfisher (The Saint of Steel) 

Paladin's Hope   Paladin's Strength   Paladin's Grace

Published by Red Wombat Studios


My guess is that the T. Kingfisher / Ursula Vernon designed these herself, so kudos for that!

My favorite of the three is Paladin’s Grace, with the blue and green hues, but all three covers are striking, and quite clearly the same series.

Out of House and HomeOut of House and Home (2021) Drew Hayes (Fred the Vampire Accountant)

Self Published


This is another self-published author with a very distinct cover style, and all of them are good–better than some traditionally published novels, really.

Fred books all have accounting papers, blood drops, an item related to the story, and the title done as an old label.

Cry WolfCry Wolf (2021) Charlie Adhara (Big Bad Wolf)

Published by Carina Press

Supernatural Mystery, LGBT

This series also has a distinct look to its covers. All have the elements of earth and water and wolf prints.

It’s simple, but it’s also effective and I quite like it.

Daydream, Colorado: Blindspot (2021) Mischief (2021), Faces (2021); A.M. Rose

Mischief   Blindspot   Faces

Self Published. Cover designed by BCJ Art & Design

Supernatural Romance, LGBT

Seeing all three together, it’s clear that the first two books are part of a series, and the third is not.

The two styles are very different, but all are good.

I think the cover for Faces especially is good, since the outlines hint at the blindness of one of the characters, but also of two people finding each other.

The other series is playful and colorful, which also works well for that series.

The Noblemans Guide to Scandal and ShipwrecksThe Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks (2021) Mackenzi Lee

Published by Tegen Books. Photo composite by Travis Commeau Cover design by David Curtis

Historical Fantasy

I’m guessing about the cover artist since I can’t find the copyright page for this book (borrowed from the library) but the design is very much like the previous two books in the series.

The dress tells you immediately this is an historical, but I absolutely love the whimsy of the font and the doodled elements.

This is hands-down my favorite fantasy cover of the year, and might be my favorite cover of any genre from this year.

The Fog of War (2021) The Quid Pro Quo (2021) A.L. Lester

The Fog of WarThe Quid Pro QuoPublished by JMS Books LLC. Cover Design: A.L. Lester

Historical, Supernatural Mystery, LGBT

Another self-published author that does their own covers.

Simple but the design tells you this is an historical, and that the pairings are likely same-sex.

I also adore the font, and the decorations above and below the title.

A Marvellous Light (2021) Freya Marske

A Marvellous LightPublished by Tor. Cover art by Will Staehle Cover design by Christine Foltzer

Historical, Supernatural Mystery, LGBT

More silhouettes. Single color. Wallpaper-type background.

It’s eye-catching and lovely.

Looking at which publishers came out on top:

self – 7
Katherine Tegen Books
Subterranean Press

Self published authors blew away all other publishers, which is quite impressive.

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am    

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Monday, December 20, 2021

The Books of 2021: Romance Covers

Apparently “cartoon” covers are the current big thing in romance, and I’ll be honest–I don’t hate it. I’ve never liked clinch covers, or models with the clothing falling off in a ridiculous manner. So I liked most of the covers this year.

Which means that pretty soon it will once again be shirtless men and clinging partially-clad women.


The Charm OffensiveThe Charm Offensive (2021) Alison Cochrun

Published by Atria Books. Cover illustration and design by Sarah Horgan

Contemporary, LGBT

This cover does an excellent job giving you an idea about the characters in the story. Charlie lost his job as a tech CEO due to his compulsive (and other) issue, and is looking to rehabilitate his image by going on a reality dating show.

Dev is a handler for THE reality dating TV show, whose job is trying to keep Charlie from losing it.

I really love how Charlie looks uncomfortable in the spotlight, while Dev is hovering in the background, waiting to come in with a quiet word.

The Love StudyThe Love Study (2020) Kris Ripper

Published by Carina Press

Contemporary, LGBT

This cover is also cute, and the heart as an O actually fits both the concept of the podcast episodes the two are doing and the feel of the story.

I think they could have done a better job making it clear the story centered around a podcast, but at least they have the technology bits correct.

It is an appealing, eye catching cover, with bright colors and easily readable fonts.

Rosaline Palmer Takes the CakeRosaline Palmer Takes the Cake (2021) Alexis Hall (Winner Bakes All)

Published by Forever. Cover design and illustrations throughout by Lila Selle.

Contemporary, LGBT

Rosaline is a single mother who loves to bake and so decided to take a chance on a popular British baking show.

This is one of the few covers I really liked that does not have a couple on the cover, but instead has Rosaline standing by herself, in the kitchen.

Despite the hearts in the background, that might make people think this was not a romance, however, as there are several things about the story that are not traditional for a romance, I think that works quite well.

I also really like the clean look of the solid background, which drew my eye to the title.

Sweetest in the GaleSweetest in the Gale (2020) Olivia Dade

Published by Hussies & Harpies Press


This is another drawn covers, but unlike the three above, the characters are more detailed, and it’s absolutely clear this is a romance.

It’s also clear that the women (women) in these stories are plus sized, which is Olivia Dade’s thing, and absolutely fantastic.

Even though yellow is not one of my favorite colors, it works well here, and I love the dappled light.

Best Laid PlansBest Laid Plans (2021) Roan Parrish (Garnet Run)

Published by Carina Adores

Contemporary, LGBT

I love the sunrise / sunset color here.

It is interesting that all three books in this series have very different covers. Especially since the series prior to this (Riven) had covers that were very strongly all of a series.

I don’t think the elements of home renovation are quite as clear as they could be, since this house is barely visible, and the drafting lines aren’t at all clear in a smaller size, however, the wide open spaces around the couple do match the feel of the characters, that they are just a little bit apart from the world.

Especially since this isn’t initially the case with Charlie, who seems to be friends with everyone in town, but still feels isolated and alone.

A Ladys Formula for LoveA Lady’s Formula for Love (2021) Elizabeth Everett

Published by Berkley. Cover design by Rita Frangie


I really love this cover: the color, the silhouettes, the flask of bubbling chemicals. Even the mismatched fonts work for me. All of it makes it clear at a glance this is an historical with a lady scientist.

I also love the two-color look, with everything seemingly in shades of the two strong colors.

Sadly for me, the story didn’t live up to the color.

Bringing Down the DukeBringing Down the Duke (2019) Evie Dunmore

Published by Berkley. Cover design and art composition by Farjana Yasmin


Another silhouette design (which I really like). Everything tells me this is an historical romance.

Although he is most likely the one in charge of the horse, she is still in front of him from the viewers point of view, and they are off doing something and having some sort of adventure. I especially love the sense of movement that comes with the horse.

I also love the font and bold blue for the title and author.

Sadly, the story wasn’t for me.

The Labours of Lord Perry CavendishThe Labours of Lord Perry Cavendish (2021) Joanna Chambers (Winterbourne)

Self published. Cover art: Natasha Snow

Historical, LGBT

I love all the covers she has done for this series. They are simple and evocative. I could probably have done without Lord Perry being in a super curly script, but at least it’s a legible even at a smaller size.

And the blue is very very pretty.

Especially the splat of paint, which very much fits with the story.

My only ding is that it’s not clear this is a romance–and a MM romance at that–which could be problematic for some readers. However, it is obvious it’s an historical, and since it’s a later book in a series, you’re probably already aware it’s a MM romance.

A Ladys Guide to Mischief and MayhemA Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem (2020) Manda Collins

Published by Forever. Cover design and illustration by Sarah Congdon.


Another book with a very pretty cover. The title font should have been easier to read, but it’s illegible at a smaller size. Just a bit of a struggle to parse initially. And like Bringing Down the Duke above I very much like the line drawings of the city behind them, as well as the two primary colors for everything.

Sadly, I didn’t like was the romance. Or much about the story.

Here is a breakdown of the publishers:
Carina – 2
Berkley – 2
Forever – 2

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am    

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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Books of 2020: Great Romance Covers

I read a lot of romance this year. As the dumpster fire that is 2020 continued, I simply couldn’t stand to read anything that wasn’t going to end well. Really, I picked mostly happy, fluffy books, with little to no angst.

Because 2020.

Something to Talk About

Something to Talk About (2020) Meryl Wilsner – Berkley
Contemporary, LGBT

Cover design and illustration by Vi-An Nguyen

Cover the first that promoted me to read a book that I might not otherwise have been interested in.

The story was fine, but I didn’t like it as much as I liked the cover.

There’s something her that makes me keep looking at all the different bits, as my eye rovers around. In some ways it’s very simple–almost a line drawing–but you also see immediately what is happening–one woman is whispering into the ear of the other. It’s also a scene from early in the book, which is lovely.

Boyfriend Material

Boyfriend Material (2020) Alexis Hall – Sourcebooks Casablanca
Contemporary, LGBT

Cover design and illustration by Elizabeth Turner Stokes

I love absolutely everything about this book.

I love the bold colors and the boxes and subtle drawings of things and how Luc (it’s obviously Luc) is leaning casually while Oliver is upright and in a suit.

All I can think of is Luc saying “In the end I went with my skinniest jeans, my pointiest shoes, the only shirt I could find that didn’t need ironing.” Even if he’s not wearing a jacket here.

UGH. This story. Even looking at the cover makes me want to read it all over again.

Blank Spaces

Blank Spaces (2016) Cass Lennox (Toronto Connections) – Riptide
Contemporary, LGBT, Mystery

Cover art: L.C. Chase

This is another perfect cover. I love all the things about it–the colors, the space between the two, the pinkie join–everything.

Real Men Knit

Real Men Knit (2020) Kwana Jackson – Berkley

Cover art and design by Farjana Yasmin

This is another book where I was drawn to read book because of the cover, and ended up disappointed, because the story didn’t live up to the cover. Which makes me sad because I love almost everything about this cover, from the colors to the guy knitting to the yarn loops around the title.

Kiss Quotient

The Kiss Quotient (2018) Helen Hoang – Berkley

Cover design and illustration by Colleen Reinhart

I think these drawn / comic style covers just really work for me. But the fact they’re standing on the long division symbol makes the entire cover for me.

Get a Life Chloe Brown

Get a Life, Chloe Brown (2019) Talia Hibbert – Avon

Cover design and illustration by Ashley Caswell

Chloe looks precisely as described in the book.


I love all the rep this cover gives. It’s lovely.

Meet Cute Club

Meet Cute Club (2020) Jack Harbon (Sweet Rose)
Contemporary, LGBT

Cover by Jack Harbon

He designed his own cover.

Let that sink in for a minute.

This cover that initially drew my attention to the book, was made by the author.

This shames every single terrible cover we’re still getting from major publishers.

Upside Down

Upside Down (2019) N.R. Walker – BlueHeart Press
Contemporary, LGBT

N.R. Walker & SJ York

This is a non-comic/drawn cover (thus breaking the trend) but I really adore it because everything about it matches the story. It’s simple and eye catching and cute.

Glass Tidings

Glass Tidings (2016) Amy Jo Cousins
Contemporary, LGBT

Cover art: L.C. Chase

This cover is gorgeous. No, it doesn’t tell you it’s a romance, although it does give you a hint of the story, with Eddie walking away.

But mostly it’s just so very pretty and evocative and I really want that as a Christmas ornament for my tree.

The Remaking of Corbin Wale

The Remaking of Corbin Wale (2017) Roan Parrish – Monster Press
Contemporary, LGBT

Cover design by Natasha Snow

Again, this book doesn’t tell you it’s a romance, but it also isn’t something you’d likely be seeing on the shelves of stores, and chances are someone looking at this story already knows about Roan Parrish, so if that is the case it does hint that this is going to be a somewhat less angsty story than is normal for her.

It also gives hints to the fact that you’re never quite sure if this is actually a fantasy or not. (I lean towards not.)

All the blues blues and the sky and the snow–it’s just another flat-out gorgeous cover.

The Books of 2020

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am    

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Monday, December 21, 2020

The Books of 2020: Great Mystery Covers

A Murderous RelationA Murderous Relation (2020) Deanna Raybourn (Veronica Speedwell) – Berkley

Cover art and design by Leo Nickolls

I love the covers for this series. Just two colors with everything looking embossed. Embossed shapes above the silhouette of Veronica. It’s just so simple and lovely.

Who Speaks for the DamnedWho Speaks for the Damned (2020) C.S. Harris (Sebastian St. Cyr) – Berkley

Jacket art: cloaked running man by Roy Bishop / Arcangel
Jacket design by Adam Auerbach

Although my favorite cover will always be the original first book in this series, I do like these covers. Again, we have the character in silhouette, and everything monochromatic.

I love the ships in the background.

I love that although the basics of the above to covers are the same (two colors, characters in silhouette) each is recognizable as being to that author and that series.

A Stroke of Malice

A Stroke of Malice (2020) Anna Lee Huber (A Lady Darby Mystery) – Berkley

Cover by Larry Rostant

This cover is also primarily composed of two colors (although some of the earliest books in this series had far more color) but is quite different from the other two, and also recognizable as a Lady Darby cover, with her in the foreground, facing away from you looking towards a somewhat barren or empty landscape.

The green here is lovely and eye catching, really making the cover, especially since greens often look artificial to me.

The Art of Theft

The Art of Theft (2019) Sherry Thomas (Lady SHerlock) – Berkley

Cover Design by Vikki Chu

This cover also follows the pattern of the previous books in the series, with Charlotte Holmes centered and looking behind her, mists or fog obscuring the scene beyond her.

As you might have noticed, Berkley swept the field this year, which isn’t a surprise because they produce my favorite mystery covers, year after year.

The Books of 2020

Written by Michelle at 8:00 am    

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