Can you read this title?

Amazon’s “June First Reads” just arrived in my inbox. These are books that are being offered for free to Prime members, often just as they’re released. I’m seldom that interested, but I usually look them over.

This time, this cover caught my eye:

Can you read that word after “of the”? Is it “Flores?” It seems to be “Flores.” The meaninglessness of this word makes me doubtful. It looks like it might be Spanish for “Flower.” Let me check. Okay, it’s Spanish for “flowers,” plural. Since “curse” and “women” are in English, why is “flowers” in Spanish? How is it helpful to make sure the title is difficult to read unless you’re bilingual? And why is “flowers” plural? “The Curse of the Flowers Women” does not sound good in English. It sounds like it should be “The Curse of the Flower Women.”

Maybe “Flores” is a place name in the book. But if so, how is the prospective reader supposed to know that?

I just think this is a terrible title. I do like the cover itself, more or less. Here’s the description:

Eighteen-year-old Alice Ribeiro is constantly fighting—against the status quo, female oppression in Brazil, and even her own mother. But when a family veil is passed down to her, Alice is compelled to fight for the rights of all womankind while also uncovering the hidden history of the women in her family. Seven generations ago, the small town of Bom Retiro shunned the Flores women because of a “curse” that rendered them unlucky in love. With no men on the horizon to take care of them, the women learned the art of lacemaking to build lives of their own. But their peace was soon threatened by forces beyond any woman’s control. As Alice begins piecing together the tapestry that is her history, she discovers revelations about the past, connections to the present, and a resilience in her blood that will carry her toward the future her ancestors strove for.

Brazil? Does “flores” mean “flowers in Portuguese? Yes, google tells me it does. I don’t think much of this description, for several reasons. She’s fighting “even” against her own mother? How is that “even?” Practically all young women experience that. There’s a veil? A family veil? Is that like a family wedding dress? Are we supposed to know that? The Flores women? The protagonist’s name is Ribeiro, so “Flores” isn’t her family name. The town is called Bom Retiro, not Flores, so where does “Flores” come from? I just don’t think anything is clear from this description. Here’s the link if you want to click through and look at it yourself.

There’s one fantasy novel in this email. I think it’s presentation is a lot better. Here’s the cover:

The title is readable, and Still the Sun is evocative, and I like the cover. I don’t usually like stylized covers, but I do like this one. I’ve never heard of this author. Here’s the description:

Pell is an engineer and digger by trade—unearthing and repairing the fascinating artifacts left behind by the mysterious Ancients who once inhabited the sunbaked planet of Tampere. She’ll do anything to help the people of her village survive and to better understand the secrets of what came before. Heartwood and Moseus are keepers of a forbidding tower near the village of Emgarden. Inside are the remnants of complex machines the likes of which Pell has never seen. Considering her affinity for Ancient tech, the keepers know Pell is their only hope of putting the pieces of these metal puzzles together and getting them running. The tower’s other riddle is Heartwood himself. He is an enigma, distant yet protective, to whom Pell is inexplicably drawn. Pell’s restoration of this broken behemoth soon brings disturbing visions—and the discovery that her relationship to it could finally reveal the origins of the tower’s strange keepers and the unfathomable reason the truth has been hidden from her.

I think this description is better too, though I may be biased because I think the title and cover are better. It sounds more SF than fantasy to me. It’s probably in the intersection between the two. It sounds a bit like Elder Race by Tchaikovsky, a story I liked a lot. Reviews are mixed, but interesting. Since it’s free for Prime members, sure, why not. Picking it up now. If any of you have read something by Holmberg, what did you think?

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15 thoughts on “Can you read this title?”

  1. Flores is not that hard to read, though the busy background makes it harder to read the title in a small thumbnail. I think you were put on the wrong foot by expecting an English word there instead of a name.

    Maybe because I recognised Flores as the name of an Indonesian island (I think? that’s the geographical association I have with it, a tropical island as well as a sea-strait) – my first impression was that it’d be about women from that island.
    Or because we encounter names in different languages more often, and Spanish and Portuguese are similar and familiar enough to encounter in that context that it just signals a warm (semi)tropical setting to me. They both named enough things around the world in their exploration and conquest stage.

  2. I’m reading this on my phone and as a small thumbnail, I think the first cover isn’t hard to read. I’ve noticed before that covers with text over a busy background are easy to read when they’re a small thumbnail… perhaps more easily than when they’re a bigger image?

    I wonder if this is so, and how much covers are now designed with thumbnail size in mind.

    A decade ago, I most often first saw a book in person at a library or bookshop. These days, I’m more likely to see it first as a tiny thumbnail on the kindle app on my phone.

  3. I don’t find “Flores” difficult to read, but I’m also pretty familiar with it as a surname. Based on the description, I’m guessing it’s the protagonist’s mother’s or grandmother’s maiden name.

  4. I’m with Kate. I think Flores is the matrilineal name, but that should be clear in the description, which it’s not.

    I’ve read several of Holmberg’s, including: The Paper Magician (trilogy + a sequel standalone); Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet; The Fifth Doll; and Followed by Frost. I liked them all. I did bounce off Smoke & Summons, but it may have been the timing. The Fifth Doll was darker than anything else, but not as dark, at least for me, as the Year of the Reaper. Followed by Frost has a protagonist who is unlikable to anyone with sense at the beginning, but she gets better almost as soon as the story gets started. Actually, I think you may have read or tried a sample of that one?

    I see I have some catching up to do with her books!

  5. I started but didn’t finish The Paper Magician. I didn’t bounce off it that I recall. I think it was due back at the library before I finished it. Now I want to go back to it. The new one looks interesting also.

    I had a little trouble reading Flores – was trying to make it Forest. But after that I assumed a family name of some kind. But the description seemed a little disjointed and didn’t pull me in.

  6. I agree that the design makes it hard to read (and it would be a really easy fix: just make the text the top layer, with the lace layer under rather than over it!). But to me, Flores parses immediately as a surname, although I agree that it’s confusing that the summary doesn’t make it explicit where that name fits in relative to the protagonist. It shouldn’t have been too hard to fit it in, either! Just say, “…and her mother, [mother’s name that includes Flores]” in the first sentence!

  7. Of course, after I wrote my comment, I noticed that the novel is translated from Portuguese, so I looked up the original edition:

    The title is a pun in Portuguese: “The Curse of the Flowers” / “The Curse of the Women (of the) Flores (family)”

    However, the original summary contains this line that makes it crystal clear: Tudo começa na casa das Flores, ancestrais de Alice, (“Everything began in the Flores household, among Alice’s female ancestors”). That would be a nice line to have in the English summary!

    I also note that the Italian translation has the title “ La maledizione della famiglia Flores” (The curse of the Flores family”) and the Polish translation has the title “ Koronczarki. Klątwa rodziny Flores” which apparently translates as “Lacemakers. The curse of the Flores family”. So those publishers thought that their readers would need it made explicit that “Flores” is a family name (or/and they thought that their readers would be more likely to pick up a book that sounded like a family saga)

    I do think that, given that the Portuguese usage is identical to Spanish here, and that Spanish names and some usage conventions are very very common in the US, the English title is reasonable—but that the family is named Flores should definitely be in the summary!

  8. Thank you, Lydia — I personally do think it would have been easy and useful to add “Flores family” to the early part of the description.

  9. I very much liked Charlie Holmberg’s Paper Magician series! It was whimsical and had an interesting world. I felt she could have done more with it, actually. But she tends to write short things and move on. She does a lot of standalones.

    The only other work by her I read is the Hanging City, which a sweet standalone about a human woman taking refuge in an underground city.

  10. I actually just read Paper Magician and am in the process of reading Keeper of Enchanted Rooms by Holmberg. My impression of Paper Magician is that it was definitely a first novel, but I enjoyed it and the premise was interesting and well-executed. I would probably read more of her books eventually, not as something I’d reread multiple times, but as something light I can pick up when I just want a fun story. She’s a good author.

  11. Thanks for all your comments about Holmberg! I think I’ll add Hanging City or something to my immense read-someday pile. “Sweet” and “whimsical” are often just what I’m looking for.

  12. Kim Aippersbach

    Holmberg’s novels are on KU: guess I’ll keep paying for it for another month!

    I’m much less interested in generations of women cursed to be unlucky in love, no matter what their family name.

  13. I’ve realized that my specific problem with reading the title is that my eye wants to see “Forest.” Then there’s no “t,” and I back up and read the word properly. But that visual stutter is the problem.

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