Cover Crush: The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

I’d never actually even heard of The Dictionary of Lost Words until I saw it spotlighted over at Stephanie’s blog, but one look at the book made me want to do a Cover Crush. I was so attracted to the vines, softly spread across the cover as they perhaps danced lightly in a breeze. The contrast of golden against the black fits perfectly in color scheme as well as mood or even theme with the suitcase as it reminds me of travel—perhaps that undertaken by words as they make their way through time and across continents, influencing wars and ways, thoughts driving human behavior for better or worse.

Such contraries might be represented by the cup of tea and poppy, both resting gently on top of the suitcase’s contents, belonging perhaps to these traveling words who must do duty by gentility and barbarism alike. Dangerous men go home at night to tender children, pretty words styled by syllables that dance across tongues like leaves in the wind often masking the cruelty they so often designate.

What iniquities might these be? Perhaps they are hidden in that suitcase words carry through the ages until they reach us, and we are thus confronted with the legacy they leave wrapped in the cloaks that shroud both love and loss, and everything in between.

Book Information and Blurb:

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

Published: April 6, 2021 by Ballantine Books|ISBN 978-0593160190

Format: Hardcover | Pages: 400

 In this remarkable debut based on actual events, as a team of male scholars compiles the first Oxford English Dictionary, one of their daughters decides to collect the “objectionable” words they omit.

Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Young Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word bondmaid flutters beneath the table. She rescues the slip, and when she learns that the word means “slave girl,” she begins to collect other words that have been discarded or neglected by the dictionary men.

As she grows up, Esme realizes that words and meanings relating to women’s and common folks’ experiences often go unrecorded. And so, she begins in earnest to search out words for her own dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words. To do so she must leave the sheltered world of the university and venture out to meet the people whose words will fill those pages.

Set during the height of the women’s suffrage movement and with the Great War looming, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. Inspired by actual events, author Pip Williams has delved into the archives of the Oxford English Dictionary to tell this highly original story. The Dictionary of Lost Words is a delightful, lyrical, and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words and the power of language to shape the world.

Previous Cover Crush 

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Layered Pages also does Cover Crushes

Cover Crush: The Liminal Zone by Richard Abbott

Today’s entry really lights a spark in our somewhat dormant Cover Crush series – from the moment I saw it. I’m far too greedy and undisciplined to actually carry a package home and unwrap it like in the movies. So of course I tore it open in the car, at first expecting the black of the previous two covers in the series, instead gasping at the lovely coloring of this one.

Like the other Far from the Spaceports covers, this one is a dead giveaway to its sci-fi content, which I never was a fan of until I began this series. But it moves away from run-of-the-mill coverage with the lovely green, darker toward the top, transitioning to a lighter shade as the eye moves closer to the image of the person in a spacesuit. What lies to their right is included in the picture: a somewhat stark environment also reflected in the suit’s visor, bringing us to understand that this landscape stretches before and beyond the person, with a tension further conveyed as the image spills onto the back cover.

The contrasting sandy brown at bottom serves to divide the cover roughly in half, its distant horizon adding to the barren feel, and is replicated in the visor’s reflection. What is this world? it makes me wonder, an inquiry only to be answered by opening the book.

The Liminal Zone – A Far from the Spaceports novel

Author – Richard Abbott

Selkies in Space? Nina Buraca, investigator of possible signs of alien life, has heard tales of mysterious events on Pluto’s moon Charon, where a science outpost studies extrasolar planets. Facing opposition from her colleagues, she nevertheless travels from Earth to uncover the truth. Once there, she finds herself working with a team of people who have many secrets. To make progress, she has to take sides in an old dispute that she knows nothing about. Can she determine who – or what – is really behind the name “selkies” that the station’s staff have given to this uncanny phenomenon?

The Liminal Zone, a novel in the Far from the Spaceports series, takes you a further twenty years into the future – and out to the edge of our solar system – for an encounter with the unknown.

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Reading 2017: Importance of Book Covers (from the IndieBRAG Cover Contest Series)

A few months back I visited with Stephanie, who at that time helped organize indieBRAG‘s cover contest. It was another opportunity for me to chat about book covers and the role they play in my reading and blogging, and it was a lot of fun!


Book cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories, and often times readers first judge a book by its cover. This year indieBRAG has put together a cover contest of books chosen by the indieBRAG Team. These covers were chosen based on several factors including; 1) professionalism 2) visual appeal 3) creativity and 4) fit with the story/genre.

This week we have asked the ladies of the indieBRAG Interview Team to discuss with us the importance of book covers, what they like, want to see more of and so on. Today Lisl talks with us about this.

Lisl, on the scale one to five, how important are book covers to you?

I’d probably say in between four and five. Though I add the caveat that there have been books with solid color covers I’ve enjoyed. If a work’s premise appeals to me, I won’t not read it because of a dull jacket, but it is so that such a cover lessens the chances I’ll be drawn closer and discover the richness between the pages.

Why are they important to you?

A fantastic cover often draws me to a book, even from across a room (or stack). It will make a statement or offer some insight or perspective to the story, or even provide food for further thought that wasn’t necessarily addressed in the book, at least not directly. Sometimes it’s just beautiful or striking in a way that makes me want to experience the pleasure of simply taking it in.

What do you not like in book covers?

Despite my comment above about solid covers, I really don’t care for them. They’re bland and don’t provide any kind of visual peek into the world the story’s characters inhabit, which I really love. I can understand an author preferring not to have images of characters; some want to leave that visualization up to reader interpretation, and I respect that. However, not to have any image, pattern or design detracts from the experience of reading a book—reading the cover is an integral part of the event. The lacking even strikes me as a bit lazy.

What would you like to see more of in covers?

Hmmm … I wasn’t really sure how to answer this at first, so I did a quick examination of five covers I especially like. One, for 1066: What Fates Impose, by Glynn Holloway, is fairly straightforward, with minimal but forceful design that takes a stand, replicating the martial tone threaded throughout the novel. The image on Sarah Bruce Kelly’s Vivaldi’s Muse is the partial reproduction of a Lefebvre painting, which in particular sets a tone, with its creative beauty and expression, and absolutely spot-on colors, that exactly matches the personality of the historical character portrayed within—plus it’s a picture not often seen within the reproductive market (greeting cards, coasters, books, etc.) The other three show images with lots of detail and space for commentary on the themes: Anna Belfrage’s A Rip in the Veil’s girl walking away from the viewer is surrounded by a host of detail meaningful to the theme, as is the warrior on Paula Lofting’s Sons of the Wolf (first edition). And finally, Annie Whitehead designed a magnificent cover for Alvar the Kingmaker that reflects—literally even, what with items mirrored in a crown’s arch—contemplations of the past and present for the people involved, as well as their future and that of others: strands of life that touch multiple lives, including those yet to come, in this world and the next.

Despite the various styles these book covers all have, it’s easy to recognize that the statements made by or the reading of them provide strong and meaningful links to what happens within the narratives. The characters might even recognize themselves or something close to their identity within the images, and if that’s the case, then surely it is all the more striking for a reader. Moreover, the various styles of these covers indicate that there are many ways to achieve this intimacy and insight. 

So I suppose the short(er) answer would be that I’d really love to see covers with more connection to the people and places that populate the books. Their lives and events depicted meant enough to put them to paper, so why not go all the way?

How many books have you read this year thus far? 

Well, 34 to be precise, though I confess I haven’t even looked at one portion of my goal (sci-fi), which focuses more on genre this year than numbers.

Do you participate in cover contests by voting for your favorite? 

I would if I knew about them! I love examining and interpreting covers, though it is true I haven’t been online quite as much recently as in the past, so I’m sure I miss a lot. Which is why I was so excited to learn about indieBRAG’s contest—even as an observer.

When writing a book review do you consider the covers to be part of your rating the book?

Truth be told, I’m not in love with star ratings, and don’t use them (except within online social cataloging sites that make me, in order to post reviews). My reviews tend to be non-linear and contain a touch of the analytical; how much I enjoyed each work can be determined by my words. But as a more direct answer, I typically don’t talk about covers, at least not at great length. This is partly because my entries are a bit longer than many other reviews, and adding too much more might on occasion become a bit weighty for some readers. Also, for better or worse, not all books have covers that bear much discussion.

How much do you blog per week and how much do you talk about book covers?

Also for better or worse, my blogging has to be scheduled around my family and work, so I don’t have a set number of entries per week, though I try to do at least one. (That doesn’t always happen!) I have done a couple of cover crushes, after the practice initiated by a fellow blogger and indieBRAG reviewer, and would love to do more. Sometimes I make mention of covers in reviews, though for the reasons stated above I don’t always.

It’s been great chatting with you, Stephanie, about book covers—and as always, I thoroughly enjoyed the get-together!

A pleasure, Lisl! Thank you for visiting today.

Link to another interview with Lisl here.


Well, my book count has increased since this interview originally published, and you can see what I’ve read here (and what I’m still reading, here). I do confess, however, I remain behind in my sci-fi ….

Also, you won’t want to miss: Stephanie’s blog, Layered Pages, and her fun new endeavor, Novel Expressions, a Facebook page that in January shall be expanding into a blog well worth marking your calendar for. She’ll be partnering with Erin, whose own blog, Flashlight Commentary, is birthplace of the cover crush spoken of above. 

Previous entries in the Reading 2017 series:

Readers’ Chat with Stephanie Hopkins

Origins of the Challenge

Reading Challenge 2017

New Genre Library (True Crime): Murder in Greenwich

The Importance of Book Covers (Book Blogger Group Chat)

New Genre Library (Graphic Novel): The Metamorphosis

New Genre Library is a three-part spinoff series of Reading 2017


New Genre Library (Science fiction): Title TBA

And a fun entry to round out the year!



Cover Crush: A Rip in the Veil

Cover Crush: A Rip in the Veil by Anna Belfrage

“Cover Crush” is an idea conceived by Erin at Flashlight Commentary and made into a fun series at indieBRAG featuring B.R.A.G. Medallion-winning books and their fabulous cover images. Of course, some of my fellow interviewers and I wanted in on the action, so you’ll see the series appear here periodically as well as over at indieBRAG and interviewers’ blogs too, such as A Bookaholic SwedeLayered Pages and 2 Kids and Tired Books.

Now I’m no professional artist, but as Erin says of herself, I am a consumer and like many people (whether they admit it or not!), my initial attraction to a book often begins with the cover image. I know what I like and if I see something that somehow links to a personal interest—a jacket design with lotus or peonies, for example, triggering an idea that the volume might have a Persian theme—I’m more likely to further investigate. Naturally not everyone will reach for the same titles, nor will we all agree upon what the images convey. Sometimes we don’t even come to our choices in the same manner.

Even a recommended work or one whose blurb initially caught my attention doesn’t escape scrutiny of its cover, for I occasionally gaze at it, seeing in its features the story, feeling its mood or interpreting meaningful details within the scene or design. At the very least a successful jacket will trigger the notion that this book is a good match for the person studying it. But a really fantastic image will go one step further and unite reader and story by eliciting some sensation or possibly emotion. Of course what the author has in mind is not necessarily apparent to the potential audience, but something beckoning will initiate that unification on some level.

ripIn the case of Anna Belfrage’s A Rip in the Veil, the illustration and title font simply invite exploration. As the blurb reveals, Alexandra Lind, on a muggy night in 2002, encounters a freak thunderstorm resulting in a rip in the veil dividing time. Alex is catapulted into 1658, where she meets up with escaped convict Matthew Graham as he makes his way back to his Scottish estate. Apart from this brutal shift and the need to come to terms with her fate, eventually arises the question not only of how Alex might return to her native time. Will she want to?

An excellent blurb that tickles the curiosity beyond the draw of time travel, and one hinted at on the cover image. Alex is seen walking away from our perspective, her back to us. Clearly she is moving toward another world; her back indicates this. However, implicit in our questioning also remains the timing. Does this scene represent the moment she first finds herself in 17th century Scotland? The measured pace she seems to be taking—the space between her feet as she walks is quite small—indicates hesitation, but is it her new surroundings she hangs back from? Or is return to her own time what lay ahead and she only reluctantly moves toward it? Her stiff posture contributes to the understanding of her feelings, but for which era, for a new audience, is as yet unknown.

Even when later into the reading and questions begin to be answered, there still remain possibilities, perhaps of Alex, in her self awareness, recalling the moment. This is hinted at as well on the cover as a whole, serving a dual purpose—is this indeed Alex in her own memory, or are we watching her through the gauzy veil draped in front of the image? The dreamy, filmy picture reaching us gives readers a sense of the divide between time, even triggers the consideration of another age really being quite close to us, just on the other side of that thin veil, and yet so far away.

Other elements, too, usher in a sense of place and time, such as the map very lightly embedded at the top, fading into the sky above Alex. The earthy colors are soft and subtle, reminiscent of old-world clothing. The title font is old fashioned, conjuring memories of parchment documents; a deliberate, practiced hand; sensation of another epoch. Not quite as subtle or soft are the images of a dead tree and branches upended in the mud, akin to the aftermath of a tsunami, as if that behind is dead to Alex. There are no flowers as there are ahead of her, no trees stretched out awaiting a new bloom, the promise of new life.

So we see all this, this imagery that creates a sensation of longing, and it beckons to Alex. But what exactly is it or, more precisely, when is it? Having read the novel (several times) I can tell you that even if you knew the answer, the greater satisfaction comes from reading about Alex’s journey. Not unlike that beckoning Alex in her own choices, we too elect to enter her world, experience the unification and see where—and when—it may take us.


See my review for A Rip in the Veil here, and stay tuned for my review of that book re-visited!


Follow and learn more about Anna Belfrage and her work at her website, Twitter and Facebook.

Also stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Belfrage and more book reviews of her fantabulous stories, including in her newest series, The King’s Greatest Enemy.