Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover Issue 85: Contemporary (Part 17)

Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I pay tribute to some of the best and brightest the publishing world has to offer in the way of book cover design. This feature is inspired by Katie’s feature Cover Love on her blog One Page At A Time. The idea is being used with her gracious permission.

Some of my favourite covers this week include My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma, From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon, The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo, A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena, Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks, Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner, Notes From My Captivity by Kathy Parks, Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry and Valley Girls by Sarah Nicole Lemon.

Please Note: I’ve done my best to credit the designers and artists responsible for the beautiful covers below, but was unable to find this information for a number of those listed. If you know of an uncredited designer responsible for any of these book covers, please let me know and I would be happy to include proper attribution in this post. Their work is lovely and deserves to be credited.

01. My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma
02. From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

03. The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo (Cover designed by Elizabeth Clark)
04. A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena (Cover designed by Elizabeth Clark)

05. A Totally Awkward Love Story by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison (Cover art by Libby VanderPloeg)
06. Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks (Cover art by Faith Erin Hicks)

07. We Regret To Inform You by A.E. Kaplan
08. Remind Me How This Ends by Gabrielle Tozer

09. Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner (Cover art by Kyle Hilton)
10. Notes From My Captivity by Kathy Parks (Cover designed by Heather Daugherty, Cover art by Helen Crawford-White)

11. Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry (Cover designed by David Curtis, Cover art by David Curtis)
12. Alternative Remedies For Loss by Joanna Cantor

13. Picture Us In The Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert
14. Leah On The Offbeat by Becky Albertalli (Cover designed by Alison Donalty, David Curtis, Molly Fehr, and Michelle Cunningham, Cover art by Chris Bilheimer)

15. I’m Not Missing by Carrie Fountain
16. Valley Girls by Sarah Nicole Lemon

Now it’s your turn! What are some of your favourite Contemporary covers? Did I list one of your favourites here or is there one I forgot that just has to be included? Let me know in the comments!

New Kids On The Block 2018 with Lyndsay Ely

New Kids On The Block is a year-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader meant to welcome and celebrate new voices and debut authors in the literary community.

Are you a debut author whose book is being published in 2018? It’s not too late to sign-up! If you want to participate in New Kids On The Block this year, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! You can send a tweet or DM on Twitter to @Pop_Reader or email me at Jen@PopGoesTheReader.com. I would love to collaborate with you!


About Lyndsay Ely

Lyndsay Ely (pronounced “eel-y”, as in those eels are looking very eel-y today) is a writer who currently calls Boston home. She is a geek, a foodie, a feminist, and has never met an antique shop she didn’t like. Her favorite color is crimson, and her favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo. Gunslinger Girl is her debut novel.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads


A question I get a lot is “What inspired you to write Gunslinger Girl?” That’s easy to answer — when it comes to protagonists, women are an underrepresented group in Westerns (though certainly not the only underrepresented group). More complex are the inspirations for some of the bits and pieces that came to make up the story. I drew from a lot of places, both fiction and nonfiction, and some of those places were movies and tv shows.

At first, I thought it was going to be hard to compile a list of my top ten Western shows and movies. Turns out, I had ten with plenty to spare! Granted, not all are traditional Westerns…but then again, neither is Gunslinger Girl.

Please note: While everything on this list includes some level of violence, the ones marked with an asterisk (*) may, in particular, feature sexual violence or assault, or other potentially triggering material.

Top Ten Western Television Shows and Movies

1. Brisco County Jr.
A lot of people wonder where I got on the idea of a Western blended with scifi. If I’m being honest, it traces back to Brisco County Jr., a short-lived Western show from the 90s, starring Bruce Campbell. I loved this show. Ahead of its time, it was a Western adventure (Campbell’s character was avenging his father’s murder) mixed with science fiction (there was a mysterious “orb” that gave people powers) and comedy (Brisco’s horse, Comet, was one of the best characters on the show). It was dramatic, it was campy, and it was exciting — but most of all it showed me the versatility of the Western.


2. The Quick & the Dead
I am basically incapable of turning this movie off when it’s on TV. There aren’t many female gunslingers out there, and Sharon Stone’s The Lady is one of my favorites. She was skilled, she was no-nonsense, and she was as unapologetic about a gunfight as she was about hooking up with Leonardo DiCaprio’s The Kid character (even if that was a little cringy).


3. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
I’ve seen this movie a lot. More times than I can remember. It’s a classic, with all the Western trimmings right down to Clint Eastwood himself. It also contains one of my favorite movie lines of all time. A bounty hunter gets the drop on a bathing Tuco (the Ugly) and starts monologuing at him. Tuco, who has a gun in the tub with him, kills the bounty hunter, following up with the perfectly timed “When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.”


4. Preacher*
First of, this comic book series is rated M for mature. Like, total disclaimer that I don’t encourage anyone under 18 read this. The TV show? Not as messed up by half. You’ve been warned.


Even though it’s not traditionally a Western, Preacher is a rollercoaster of a story that incorporates a lot of Western elements — a tortured hero obsessed with justice, a gun-toting “angel” of death, and the guiding spirit/hallucination of John Wayne. Y’know, the usual.

5. Deadwood*
I’m still mad HBO cancelled Deadwood. This show was So Good™, and a major influence when it came to writing Gunslinger Girl. I loved how the line between hero and villain was constantly being blurred, and how the disparate cast of characters could be at odds one minute and end up working together the next.


6. Westworld*
Okay, HBO might redeem themselves for Deadwood’s cancellation with Westworld, we’ll see. For the moment, Westworld is pretty awesome — peak sci-fi Western, and Thandie Newton is absolutely killer (in so many ways). Also, what’s not to love about a story where you can kill off your characters over and over and simply bring them back?


7. Django Unchained / The Hateful 8*
I was torn about including Tarantino’s films in this list, given his close association with Harvey Weinstein, but excluding them would be excluding some really amazing performances by actors like Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, and Jennifer Jason Leigh. If there’s anything Tarantino does right, it’s allow the actors to really let loose in their roles. A very special shout out for Daisy Domergue, the extra-rare — and genuinely fear-inducing — Western villainess in The Hateful 8. As far as I’m concerned, Jennifer Jason Leigh was robbed of that Oscar!


8. The Dark Tower series*
I feel both “ahhhh!” and “meh” about The Dark Tower, depending on where I am in the book series. (That being said, I think it has one of the best first lines and best endings of all time.) But I included it in this list so that I could plug the Marvel comics series that built onto the story told in Wizard & Glass, as well as another rare girl with a gun, Aileen Ritter. In the world of the Dark Tower, girls can’t be gunslingers. Does that stop Aileen? Of course not.


9.Cowboy Bebop
I almost forgot to include this show, which would have been a sin. Move over Firefly, the best Western-in-space is inarguably Cowboy Bebop. It is genre-bending at its finest, with some of the best characters of all time: hitman-turned-bounty hunter Spike Spiegel, former lawman Jet Black, hard-luck gambler/grifter Faye Valentine, hacker extraordinaire Edward Wong, and genius Corgi, Ein. Give this one a try if you haven’t yet; The Ballad of Fallen Angels episode gets me right in the feels every time.


10. Once Upon a Time in the West*
Sergio Leone. Ennio Morricone. I already listed The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly earlier, but this is really the pinnacle of classic Western films. It’s a slow burn, epic film kind of move. Every scene is genuinely mesmerizing. Whether you are a fan of Westerns or film-making in general, this is not one to be missed!

That’ll do it! But I’m always looking for recommendations for new Western media to check out, so if you have any favorites I missed, comment below!

Title Gunslinger Girl
Author Lyndsay Ely
Pages 432 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Historical Fiction
Published January 2nd 2018 by Jimmy Patterson
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Seventeen-year-old Serendipity “Pity” Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She’s been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great…

In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity’s struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.

Waiting On… White Houses, All The Beautiful Girls and Rainbirds

Waiting On Wednesday is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I highlight forthcoming titles which I’m particularly excited about and looking forward to. This weekly event is hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.


Publication Date February 13th 2018 by Random House
GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

For readers of The Paris Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue comes a love story inspired by “one of the most intriguing relationships in history” between Eleanor Roosevelt and “first friend” Lorena Hickok.

Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt’s first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, “Hick,” as she’s known to her friends and admirers, is not quite instantly charmed by the idealistic, patrician Eleanor. But then, as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love, and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as “first friend” is an open secret, as are FDR’s own lovers. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, promoting and protecting both Roosevelts, she comes to know Franklin not only as a great president but as a complicated rival and an irresistible friend, capable of changing lives even after his death. Through it all, even as Hick’s bond with Eleanor is tested by forces both extraordinary and common, and as she grows as a woman and a writer, she never loses sight of the love of her life.

From Washington, D.C. to Hyde Park, from a little white house on Long Island to an apartment on Manhattan’s Washington Square, Amy Bloom’s new novel moves elegantly through fascinating places and times, written in compelling prose and with emotional depth, wit, and acuity.





Publication Date March 6th 2018 by Ballantine Books
GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

A powerful novel about a gutsy showgirl who tries to conquer her past amongst the glamour of 1960s Las Vegas — and finds unexpected fortune, friendship, and love.

It was unimaginable. When she was eight years old, Lily Decker somehow survived the auto accident that killed her parents and sister, but neither her emotionally distant aunt nor her all-too-attentive uncle could ease her grief. Dancing proves to be Lily’s only solace, and eventually she receives a “scholarship” to a local dance academy — courtesy of a mysterious benefactor.

Grown and ready to leave home for good, Lily changes her name to Ruby Wilde and heads to Las Vegas to be a troupe dancer, but her sensual beauty and voluptuous figure land her work instead as a showgirl performing everywhere from Les Folies Bergere at the Tropicana to the Stardust’s Lido de Paris. Wearing sky-high headdresses, five-inch heels, and costumes dripping with feathers and rhinestones, Ruby may have all the looks of a Sin City success story, but she still must learn to navigate the world of men-and figure out what real love looks like.

With her uncanny knack for understanding the hidden lives of women, Elizabeth J. Church captures both the iconic extravagance of an era and the bravery of a young woman who dances through her sadness to find connection, freedom, and, most important, herself.





Publication Date March 6th 2018 by Soho Press
GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

Set in an imagined town outside Tokyo, Clarissa Goenawan’s dark, spellbinding literary debut follows a young man’s path to self-discovery in the wake of his sister’s murder.

Ren Ishida has nearly completed his graduate degree at Keio University when he receives news of his sister’s violent death. Keiko was stabbed one rainy night on her way home, and there are no leads. Ren heads to Akakawa to conclude his sister’s affairs, failing to understand why she chose to turn her back on the family and Tokyo for this desolate place years ago.

But then Ren is offered Keiko’s newly vacant teaching position at a prestigious local cram school and her bizarre former arrangement of free lodging at a wealthy politician’s mansion in exchange for reading to the man’s ailing wife. He accepts both, abandoning Tokyo and his crumbling relationship there in order to better understand his sister’s life and what took place the night of her death.

As Ren comes to know the eccentric local figures, from the enigmatic politician who’s boarding him to his fellow teachers and a rebellious, captivating young female student, he delves into his shared childhood with Keiko and what followed. Haunted in his dreams by a young girl who is desperately trying to tell him something, Ren realizes that Keiko Ishida kept many secrets, even from him.




Now it’s YOUR turn! Which books are you most looking forward to this week? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!

New Kids On The Block 2018 with C.V. Wyk

New Kids On The Block is a year-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader meant to welcome and celebrate new voices and debut authors in the literary community.

Hi everyone! Pop! Goes The Reader’s debut author series, New Kids On The Block 2018, continues today with C.V. Wyk and Blood and Sand, Wyk’s Spartacus-inspired young adult historical fiction novel, which is now available in a bookstore and library near you! To celebrate her debut novel’s release today, C.V. Wyk has generously offered to share the official Blood and Sand playlist! A playlist can be such a wonderful tool to delve more deeply into a novel’s universe and beautifully compliment the text. It can offer a tantalizing glimpse into the atmosphere and mood of the world in which the book is set and fascinating clues as to a character’s mindset or feelings. I sincerely hope you’ll enjoy the songs below and take a little time to check out Blood and Sand, should it be a concept you’re interested in!

Are you a debut author whose book is being published in 2018? It’s not too late to sign-up! If you want to participate in New Kids On The Block this year, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! You can send a tweet or DM on Twitter to @Pop_Reader or email me at Jen@PopGoesTheReader.com. I would love to collaborate with you!


About C.V. Wyk

C. V. Wyk was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She has lived in five states in the continental US (and hopes to add a few international locales to that list). Prone to wanderlust and getting lost, Wyk likes to explore local hiking trails, mountain ranges, dark caves where nefarious mythical creatures undoubtedly reside, and libraries. She currently lives in Maryland with a precocious mini poodle and a demanding guinea pig. In her not-so-spare time, she enjoys playing MMORPGs, kayaking, coding, staring listlessly at blank walls, and nursing a totally healthy coffee addiction.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramTumblrFacebookGoodreads

Blood and Sand Official Playlist















Title Blood and Sand
Author C.V. Wyk
Pages 320 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Historical Fiction
To Be Published January 16th 2018 by Tor Teen
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

Forged in battle…
From the dust of the arena…
A legend will rise

The action-packed tale of a 17-year-old warrior princess and a handsome gladiator who dared take on the Roman Republic — and gave rise to the legend of Spartacus…

For teens who love strong female protagonists in their fantasy and historical fiction, Blood and Sand is a stirring, yet poignant tale of two slaves who dared take on an empire by talented debut author C. V. Wyk.

Roma Victrix. The Republic of Rome is on a relentless march to create an empire — an empire built on the backs of the conquered, brought back to Rome as slaves.

Attia was once destined to rule as the queen and swordmaiden of Thrace, the greatest warrior kingdom the world had seen since Sparta. Now she is a slave, given to Xanthus, the Champion of Rome, as a sign of his master’s favor. Enslaved as a child, Xanthus is the preeminent gladiator of his generation.

Against all odds, Attia and Xanthus form a tentative bond. A bond that will spark a rebellion. A rebellion that threatens to bring the Roman Republic to its end— and gives rise to the legend of Spartacus…

Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover Issue 84: Middle Grade (Part 22)

Do! Judge A Book By Its Cover is a regular feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which I pay tribute to some of the best and brightest the publishing world has to offer in the way of book cover design. This feature is inspired by Katie’s feature Cover Love on her blog One Page At A Time. The idea is being used with her gracious permission.

Some of my favourite covers this week include Clara Voyant by Rachelle Delaney, A Stitch In Time by Daphne Kalmar, Wild Rescuers: Guardians of the Taiga by Stacy Plays, Where The Woods End by Charlotte Salter, Just Under The Clouds by Melissa Sarno, The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio, Front Desk by Kelly Yang, A Possibility Of Whales by Karen Rivers and Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed.

Please Note: I’ve done my best to credit the designers and artists responsible for the beautiful covers below, but was unable to find this information for a number of those listed. If you know of an uncredited designer responsible for any of these book covers, please let me know and I would be happy to include proper attribution in this post. Their work is lovely and deserves to be credited.

01. Clara Voyant by Rachelle Delaney (Cover art by Christy Lundy)
02. A Stitch in Time by Daphne Kalmar (Cover art by Karl James Mountford)

03. Evangeline of the Bayou by Jan Eldredge (Cover art by Joseph Kuefler)
04. The Crooked Castle by Sarah Jean Horwitz

05. A Dog in King Arthur’s Court by Audrey Mackaman
06. Wild Rescuers: Guardians of the Taiga by Stacy Plays (Cover art by Vivienne To)

07. The Boy From Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis (Cover art by Agnieszka Grochalska)
08. Where The Woods End by Charlotte Salter (Cover art by Marie Muravski)

09. A Babysitter’s Guide To Monster Hunting: Beasts & Geeks by Joe Ballarini
10. The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine

11. Just Under The Clouds by Melissa Sarno
12. The Trouble With Twins by Kathryn Siebel (Cover art by Julia Sarda)

13. Why Can’t I Be You by Melissa Walker
14. The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio (Cover designed by Katrina Damkoehle, Art by Luisa Uribe)

15. Front Desk by Kelly Yang (Cover art by Maike Plenzke)
16. Royal Crown by Meg Cabot

17. A Possibility Of Whales by Karen Rivers
18. Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed (Cover designed by Shehzil Malik)

Now it’s your turn! What are some of your favourite Middle Grade covers? Did I list one of your favourites here or is there one I forgot that just has to be included? Let me know in the comments!