27 Jan 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Cover Design

 I'm a sucker for a book with a pretty cover. I also have zero willpower, which is how I ended up with multiple editions of Austen and Brontë novels. I definitely think that people should judge books by their covers because it is the cover that will tell you how much a publisher thinks a story is worth. With that in mind, I picked some of my favourite book designs.

I think one of my favourite thing about these series is that the designers have let the books speak for themselves. Publishers are all about quotes and recommendations, and tempt buyers with extra content and freebies like stickers and bookmarks and whatnot, it's nice to see a return to good design: imagery designed to evoke a certain feeling or mood and typography.

Mr Boddington's Studio x Penguin Classics

I'm not sure how I feel about this cover for Wuthering Heights.
On the one hand, it is gorgeous. On the other hand, it
doesn't really capture the feelings of hate and obsession and
the destruction that Heathcliff's "love" causes, and book
covers should really capture the essence of a novel.

I suppose the same could be said for this cover of
Pride and Prejudice.

The covers are gorgeous and have a lovely vintage-y feel for them AND they look great on my shelf. Exclusively sold through Anthropologie, these books are no longer available for purchase.

Rifle Paper Company x Puffin - Puffin in Bloom

I showed a bit of self-restraint with this series and didn't immediately go out and buy all four (I only bought Heidi and A Little Princess, the only two I didn't already own). That doesn't mean I'm not still contemplating adding the other two to my collection. There are decorative endpapers featuring Anna Bond's distinctive illustrations, and beautiful gold detailing on the covers. The series is obviously designed for a younger audience (hence the series title name - 'in bloom,' on the cusp of change, its basically designed for young girls around the ten-twelve) but the young at heart can swoon over these gorgeous covers too.

Vintage Classics Austen series

 My favourite covers are definitely Emma (my favourite Austen work) and Mansfield Park (my least favourite Austen work), but really - the entire series is gorgeous. Fun fact: the endpapers for each book are taken from the cover of another book in the series. So, the endpapers for Sense and Sensibility is Pride and Prejudice (and vice versa), Mansfield Park's is Persuasion (and vice versa) and Emma's is Northanger Abbey (you got it... and vice versa). They also have some pretty interesting introductions by authors and scholars (probably the most well-known would be novelists Alexander McCall Smith - who wrote a modernisation of Emma for The Austen Project - and P.D. James, who wrote the popular fanfiction Death Comes to Pemberley). It's a lovely little series.

White's Fine Editions

I believe that White's is no longer in operation and these books were only printed in a small run, so these books are basically collector's items - you're already looking at paying about $400 - 700 for a used copy of Pride and Prejudice, although you can still buy Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre for around $20 - 30 each brand new. The books are clothbound, with silken bookmark ribbons and the endpapers feature an inverted design of the cover.

Penguin Virginia Woolf series

The dust jackets for this series feature abstract images that were designed to look like the textile designs of the Omega Group, of which Woolf and her sister, artist Vanessa Bell (as well as other members of the Bloomsbury Group), were founders. The fonts used are also taken from the period. Also, check out what's under the dust jacket:

GORGEOUS, am I right?

Penguin Fitzgerald Series

 I love pretty much anything Coralie Bickford-Smith designs, but she really outdid herself with this series. They are designed to evoke a sense of the glamour and elegance of the art deco period. The dust jackets are made of metallic foil and matte paper and they look so good lined up on a shelf together.

Tundra Books - Anne of Green Gables & Emily of New Moon series

Penguin Australian Children's Classics

 I had to include these because they celebrate some of the greats in Australian literature. These aren't all of the books in the series, but these three are my favourites. Despite being marketed as 'children's classics,' I'd say this series is aimed more at young adults.  The books are all brightly coloured with simple illustrations (which actually kind of remind me of Anna Bond's illustrations for Puffin in Bloom), which give the books an old-fashioned kind of feel.

Puffin Chalk

How stunning are these books - the colours, the illustrations. I feel like I'm five years old and drawing up a hopscotch square with a jumbo piece of chalk all over again! If you're as fascinated as me in the work that goes into creating these covers, you can check out a behind the scenes video on Dana Tanamachi's blog.

Penguin Threads

No, you don't get your own piece of embroidered goodness. It's been specially printed so you get pretty close to it (some kind of embossing, I think). When you flip the cover you get the back of the embroidery. Does anybody else think that the mess on the back still looks like the image on the front? No, just me projecting? Okay.

23 Jan 2015

Reread 2015: Rilla of Ingleside

First Published: 1921
Country of Origin: Canada
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover | Purchased

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I first read Rilla of Ingleside when I was in high school, although I can't be precisely sure when.

Jem, Walter and Shirley all sign up for WWI at various stages, and Anne is devastated by it... that's pretty much all.

I kind of felt like I hadn't given Rilla Blythe a fair go the first time around. Rilla is a lot more self-centred and vain than Anne Shirley ever was, and she takes herself even more seriously.

 Oh boy, oh boy. I think Rilla of Ingleside is my favourite in the series after Anne of Green Gables.
It's interesting to read about characters who are so patriotic about a country they've never seen - it's so easy to do, because Australians used to have a similar attitude; referring to England as 'the Mother Country' and radio announcers putting on this weird accent that was a cross between Australian and RP English. Despite the idealistic tone of the series, Montgomery does not hide the ugliness of war.  It's hard reading about Rilla, who at one point exclaims, "Our sacrifice is greater than his. Our boys give only themselves. We give them," getting up at a meeting and encourage boys, really, to sign up for the war. It's hard reading about Anne's grief, and her struggle to deal with losing yet another child. It's hard reading about the Blythe's dog Monday, who refuses to leave the train station until Jem returns home. Even though it centres around people who did not go off to fight in a war, the book still manages to impress upon you the savageness of war, and how the world changed forever because of it. This book is not children's literature, but a classic about World War One, deserving of a place beside All Quiet on the Western Front and A Very Long Engagement.

Without a doubt, it is now a beloved favourite.

Reread 2015: Rainbow Valley

First published: 1919
Country of Origin: Canada
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover | Purchased

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I can't remember when I first read Rainbow Valley, but I know I read it later than the others because I was so disappointed that Anne of Ingleside had pushed Anne into the background. I think I was in Year 10.

Again, not a lot. I remembered Faith, mostly because she reminds me of Anne when we first introduced to her, and I  remembered Carl and his little menagerie of reptiles, but that's about it.

I wanted to give the later Anne books another go! A lot of people complain that Anne has lost her charm in the later books - which, as a teenager, I definitely agreed with - but then again, we can't expect Anne at forty to behave the same way she did when she was eleven.

This book is even less of an Anne book than Anne of Ingleside. Neither Anne, nor Gilbert, nor their children get centre stage in this book - instead, it centres around the Meredith children, who one day befriend the Blythe children in Rainbow Valley. John Meredith is the new Presbyterian minister, a young widower with four children - Jerry, Faith, Una and Carl. However, Mr Meredith usually has his head in the clouds and his nose in his books, and is completely at a loss when it comes to bringing up his children. The Meredith children cause a lot of scandal in Four Winds, and are deemed wild. 

I definitely enjoyed Rainbow Valley more than Anne of Ingleside - the children were older, which meant less of the 'cutesy' and more heartfelt. The Meredith children especially tugged at my heartstrings - underneath all of the scrapes was a desire to be loved by their father and respected by the people in their community (remind you of anyone?). I think it also helped that, unlike Ingleside (and I think also Windy Willows) is that this was written before Montgomery fell out of love with her own creation, and it shows. The characters are lively and jump off the page. I had a very strong reaction to Mary Vance, who, despite being very unlikeable (too sharp a tongue and too high an opinion of herself), is very memorable and dynamic. Faith is a joy to read. And although I found John Meredith to be a neglectful father, there were still moments were I really felt for him.

Although not my favourite of the series, the plot of the book is so far removed from the others that I would gladly reread this as a standalone novel.

Reread 2015: Anne of Ingleside

First published: 1939
Country of Origin: Canada
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover | Purchased

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 I first read Anne of Ingleside when I was eleven or twelve. I was definitely less interested in grown-up Anne, Anne the mother and wife and dutiful neighbour.
 To be honest, I didn't remember that much about this book! I think the reason for this is because it's not really an Anne book: Anne has mostly become a secondary character in her own series. Instead, her children take centre-stage in this book, and while they manage to get themselves into a lot of scrapes, they aren't as winsome and charming as their mother was.
 I don't remember a lot about the later Anne books - I think my first reads of the last three books were kind of half-hearted at best.

 The blurb on the back of my edition reads:

Anne Shirley can think of no place she'd rather be than her beloved Ingleside. At least not until the day she begins to imagine that her cherised Gilbert doesn't love her anymore. Could it possibly be true? In her heart Anne knows she's still the same fiery red-head who came to Green Gables all those years ago. She hasn't changed, but has he?
I feel like this is misleading, because this isn't a storyline that's picked up until the last two or three chapters of the book, and is resolved fairly quickly.  It would've been interesting had this been the main point of the book, but it isn't. In fact, despite the title, this book isn't really an Anne book, and what I mean by that is that it isn't Anne's story any more - she's faded into the background. This is the story of Jem and Walter, of Nan and Di, of Shirley and Rilla. Like the other Anne books, they're quite anecdotal, and the chapters usually focus on one of the Blythe children. However, with so many children to focus on, I ended up feeling like I didn't really know any of the little Blythes at all.

Nevertheless, it was wonderful to return to Avonlea and Green Gables at the beginning of Anne of Ingleside (I still prefer Avonlea and its inhabitants to Four Winds, I'm afraid to say), and revisit all of Anne's childhood haunts - and to see Diana again!

If I was doing a series reread again, then yes - but I don't think that this would be one that I'd just pull off the shelf and read for the sake of reading.

14 Jan 2015

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: The Illustrated Edition

Scholastic & Bloomsbury are releasing illustrated editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone! Jim Kay, an award-winning British artist, has been commissioned for the project. The new deluxe hardcover editions will feature 110 illustrations, along with a new cover image (the US and UK editions will apparently have different covers).

In a press release from Scholastic, Kay said "To be given the opportunity to design the characters, the clothing, the architecture and landscapes to possibly the most expansive fantasy world in children’s literature, well let’s just say I’m extremely excited about it."

Kay will also be illustrating the other six books in the series, with one book being released each year (that means Deathly Hallows will be re-released in 2021!) I've got to admit, it's going to be like reliving my childhood all over again.  Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is currently slated for release on the 6th October 2015. Let the countdown begin!

Hermione Granger
This picture of Hermione is my personal favourite - if you look closely, not only will you see a tribute to JKR, but you'll also find the names of different characters graffiti'ed on the wall behind her.
Ron Weasley


Draco Malfoy

A black and white draft of Harry...

... and the coloured final

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