The Friday Face-Off: A Little Soil to Make it Grow

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme here at Books by Proxy. Join me every Friday as I pit cover against cover, and publisher against publisher, to find the best artwork in our literary universe

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Welcome to the Friday Face-Off where this week we’re comparing covers that feature seeds or spores.

The first book which sprang to mind as a near perfect example of this week’s theme was Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, and luckily it has the artwork to back it up! The two covers selected for this comparison are the Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition with artwork by Eric Nyquist, and the Destino edition with artwork by Pablo Delcán. Take a look and see which one is your favourite!

Farrar, Straus and Giroux | Cover #1

Cover Art by Eric Nyquist

Destino | Cover #2

Cover Art by Pablo Delcán

| The Friday Face-Off: Winner |

I absolutely love the Eric Nyquist covers for The Southern Reach Trilogy, they’re eye-catching and blend simplistic, bold type with detailed and fluid forms. I love the refined use of colour, the twist of the plant as it spears its way through the title, and the split text to form a central block which immediately draws the eye. This cover is the most successful in overall composition, with type and artistic detail working together to create an outstanding cover. And it almost won. Almost.

The Pablo Delcán cover is strange and abstract, using naturalist illustrations to create beautiful and alien plant-life which seemingly spreads and grows across the page. The coloured illustration is made bold by the stark black backdrop, making it reminiscent of an old oil painting, and it’s easy to become lost in the detail which flows out from the centre of the image. The typography is a little bland and uninteresting, especially when compared to the Nyquist cover, but I love Delcán’s artwork so much that this week’s winner is Cover #2.

Which cover wins your vote this week? Have a cover of your own? – Post the link below!

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads

Next week’s theme is:

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations

A cover featuring a family

Remember to check The Friday Face-Off Feature Page for upcoming themes

| Links |

Lynn @ Books and Travelling with Lynn

S. J. Higbee @ Brainfluff

Steve Smith @ Books and Beyond Reviews

Mogsy @ The Bibliosanctum

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The Monthly Round-Up: February 2016

Welcome to The Monthly Round-Up. Join me as I look back on the past month to see which books I’ve read, the reviews I’ve posted, the goals I’ve completed and my all important Book of the Month!

| Books Read |

February 8

February has flown by in a torrent of amazingly bloody, beautiful and brilliant books. I only managed a respectable eight but every single one of them was fantastic – I expect that there won’t be less than a four star review amongst them! I may have completely ignored my goals of the month but never mind! February was a blast. It also featured a book so good it required its own rating!

Here’s the run down of the books I devoured last month:

| 1. |

The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky

| 2. |

The Palace Job by Patrick Weekes

| 3. |

Broken Banners by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

| 4. |

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

| 5. |

The Grim Company by Luke Scull

| 6. |

Legend by David Gemmell

| 7. |

The Copper Promise by Jen Williams

| 8. |

Dragon Hunters by Marc Turner

Book of the Month

Promise of Blood

by Brian McClellan

| February Goals |

To finish NOS4R2 and Emma before the month is out!

Status: Incomplete (I haven’t even picked one of them up!)


And to really challenge myself to be organised…

To post every day in February

Status: Incomplete (22 of 29 days Complete)

| Goals for 2016 |

Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge: 18/100 Books Read (18%)

Status: +8% in February

| Reviews Posted |



Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

5 Stars

The Thief by Claire North

Faith and Moonlight by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

three point five

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Rising Tide by Rajan Khanna

| Other Posts From February |

The Monthly Round-Up: January 2016

The Month Ahead: February 2016

Cover Reveal: Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Cover Reveal: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho – Paperback Edition

Cover Reveal: The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan

Bookish Beats: Bonobo – Black Sands

Bookish Beats: Massive Attack – Mezzanine

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Historical Settings

Teaser Tuesdays: February 02 – The Copper Promise by Jen Williams

Teaser Tuesdays: February 09 – Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

Teaser Tuesdays: February 16 – The Grim Company by Luke Scull

Teaser Tuesdays: February 23 – A Fever of the Blood by Oscar de Muriel

The Friday Face-Off: February 05 – The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

The Friday Face-Off: February 12 – The Thousand Names by Django Wexler

The Friday Face-Off: February 19 – Vicious by V.E. Schwab

The Friday Face-Off: February 26 – The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Book Haul: February 06 – The Frey and McGray Series by Oscar de Muriel

Book Haul: February 08 – Drake, Servant of the Underworld and The Crimson Ribbon

Book Haul: February 10 – Low Town Series and City of Bohane

Book Haul: February 13 – The Rats, The Folding Knife and The Electric Church

Book Haul: February 23 – The Raven’s Head, And Then There Were None and Ink and Bone

Book Haul: February 24 – Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Bookish Beats: Bonobo – Black Sands

Bookish BeatsMusic, much like literature, has the power to drive your imagination; it can lift the soul and create real emotion.This is Bookish Beats, a feature which will showcase some of the soundtracks which have enriched the worlds I’ve found between the pages. 

Black Sands


Listen to with:

An atmospheric science fantasy

Such as:

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Black Sands is the fourth studio album from Bonobo, the stage name for musician and DJ Simon Green. Following on from the success of his previous three albums, Black Sands, with its combination of electronic beats, world music – in particular its eastern and afrobeat inspired tracks – and jazz, is a beautifully composed chillout album which succeeds in transporting you to another place.

Black Sands opens with Prelude, a beautiful and soaring track whose violin melody exhibits the eastern influence which is drawn throughout the rest of the album. This atmospheric melody is similarly picked up by other tracks and remains one of my favourite Bonobo tracks to date. Kiara samples Prelude to maximum effect, using electronic beats and distorted vocals to create an addictive track which retains the beauty and atmosphere of the original whilst adding dynamism and pace to an otherwise perfect melody. Similarly, Kong uses a repetitive melody which continues to build on the atmosphere in a supremely chilled out track which resonates with positive beats.

Eyesdown introduces some vocals into the mix with the soulful sounds of Andreya Triana, whose vocals are featured in a number of tracks throughout the album. With its repetitive and paced beat and electronic underscore, Eyesdown is another track which instantly takes you out of this world. Triana’s vocals return in The Keeper, a track which succeeds in slowing the pace of the album right down; and again in Stay the Same, which showcases the beautiful tone of Triana’s voice in this jazz and soul inspired track.

Black Sands builds on the success of these tracks with a number of instrumentals which set the tone and pace of the album, introducing new themes and diverting it where necessary. El ToroWe Could Forever and Animals are upbeat, jazz influenced tracks which revel in their own beat. 1009 uses traditional electronic beats to create a dance inspired track which remains tied to the rest of the album through the use of a steady electronic violin overtone.

All in Forms is another favourite from this album; an upbeat track which retains a haunting quality through sampled vocals which create an eerie and distorted atmosphere, both complementing and setting themselves apart from the rest of the track. This atmosphere is picked up again in Black Sands, the titular and closing track of the album; a beautiful, slow and haunting track which has an old world quality to it, playing off a sad melody against a positive beat.

This is a beautiful chillout album which provides a wonderful backdrop to reading. I wouldn’t normally have paired an album with such a positive overtone with a heady and atmospheric book such as Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, but its success in transporting you to another world only emphasised the strange of this novel. They say opposites attract, I guess they’re right.

Favourite track

01 – Prelude

Top track for action

02 – Kiara

Top track for tension

08 – All in Forms

Top track for emotion

12 – Black Sands



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Review: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer


Book One of The Southern Reach Trilogy

by Jeff VanderMeer

Science Fiction| Fantasy | 195 Pages | Published by Fourth Estate in 2014

| Rating |

Imagine, if you will, that you are lost within an alien landscape. You do not know whether you have left this earth or crossed through an alternative dimension, or whether you yet remain in a strange forgotten corner of the world. The only thing which connects you to the rest of humanity is a journal. A journal of a woman whose name you do not know, whose life is slowly unfolding as you turn the cracked and brittle pages, and whose fate will yet remain a mystery at its close.

Annihilation is a strange, disquieting and eerily beautiful novel which takes the reader on an expedition into Area X; where those who enter leave changed, if they leave at all. This is a tale of discovery and quiet observation, a preternatural mystery which should be slowly savoured until you are nothing but lost in the wilds of VanderMeer’s imagination.

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

Annihilation follows the expedition of an unnamed protagonist, the biologist, as she journeys into Area X, a mysterious and extensive partition of land under an apparent imposed quarantine. Previous expeditions have entered but all have returned altered, if they returned at all.

Together with a psychologist, an anthropologist and a surveyor, the twelfth expedition makes its way into this strange and mystifying land only to find that danger is as likely to come from within as without; no one remains the same in Area X. With towers that spiral into the earth, strange cries in the night and creatures straight out of a fever dream, finding a way home might be the least of their problems.

Annihilation is a quiet flight of (science) fantasy across uncharted territory; a novel which slowly draws you into a world of sinister discovery.  Area X is a vast and mysterious zone which takes on an almost alien appearance; its utter unfamiliarity creating a heady and foreboding atmosphere which weighs heavily throughout. VanderMeer’s writing is effortlessly engaging, leading the reader one step at a time into this strange, hypnotic and almost hallucinogenic world which, whilst not overtly involved, rides a line of tension from beginning to end.

Throughout the novel Area X appears overwhelmingly large, but despite this impression the narrative remains confined to a comparatively small zone which the expedition is reticent to leave. Whilst the necessity for staging the narrative in this relatively small area is somewhat apparent, my own imagination was straining at these invisible borders, desperate to discover more of the land and its utterly strange inhabitants. But if it was a ploy to make me want to read book two, it worked! VanderMeer has set me on a voyage of discovery which I am determined to see through.

Our unnamed protagonist is a thoughtful, analytical woman whose perspective of quiet observation and discovery make her an engaging character. Whilst this works in the favour of the biologist, we gain little perspective on the supplementary characters beyond her observations. Her tendency to watch rather than communicate means we never establish any meaningful connection to the other members of the expedition and care little for them when events conspire against them. This does, however, add to the air of mystery and tension; anyone is capable of anything, everyone is disposable and no one is safe.

VanderMeer’s first foray into Area X is a beautiful, subtle and incredibly atmospheric read which resonates with a sense of the unknown and the unknowable. His lyrical writing is saturated with the strange, forming a sinister and other-worldly tale which becomes increasingly difficult to put down. Whilst I would have preferred a little more action throughout the narrative and a more climactic, defined conclusion, the story remained absorbing throughout and the beauty of VanderMeer’s writing more  than made up for it. This is a tale of quiet enjoyment. Of the strange. Of dreams and of nightmares.If you like your science fantasy subtle and eerie, and wish to venture into the unknown, then Annihilation might just be the book for you. This is a novel which diverted all of my expectations and still managed to impress. Jeff VandeerMeer may be a new addition to my bookshelves but I imagine he’ll be there to stay.

Bookish Beats Suggestion
Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads

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The Monthly Round-Up: December 2015

The Monthly Round-Up - DecWelcome to The Monthly Round-Up. Join me as I look back on the past month to see which books I’ve read, the reviews I’ve posted, the goals I’ve completed and my all important Book of the Month!

| Books Read |

December has come to an end and we’ve crossed the threshold into 2016 – and what a year it has been! I’m currently compiling my year in review but December alone was a great month of phenomenal fiction. With a hefty pile of novellas bulking up the number, I’ve discovered some fantastic authors, read some thrilling tales and been taken to some truly amazing worlds.

And in the process of devouring – my Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge was well and truly surpassed, I fell just short of the mark on my Dragons and Jetpacks 2015 Reading Challenge and I well and truly flopped on my personal goals for December… But nevermind! This has been a fantastic month and here are the books to prove it:

| 1. |

Rising Tide by Rajan Khanna

| 2. |

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

| 3. |

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

| 4. |

A Reaper of Stone by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

| 5. |

Rend the Dark by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

| 6. |

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

| 7. |

The Serpent by Claire North

| 8. |

Foundation by Isaac Asimov

| 9. |

Best Left in the Shadows by Mark Gelineau and Joe King

| 10. |

The Builders by Daniel Polansky

| 11. |

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

| 12. |

Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship by Aliette de Bodard

| 13. |

The Thief by Claire North

Book of the Month

The Serpent

by Claire North

| December Goals |

To finish at least one of the poor neglected novels which I am currently reading

(The Daylight War, NOS4R2 or Emma)

Status: 0 of 1 Complete

Status: Incomplete


To read at least one Christmas themed novel

Status: 0 of 1 Complete

Status: Incomplete (though started!)


| Goals for 2015 |

Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge: 115/100 Books Read (115%)

Status: Completed

Dragons and Jetpacks 2015 Reading Challenge: 41/50 Books Read (82%)

Status: Incomplete

| Reviews Posted |

5 Stars

The Serpent by Claire North

Superposition by David Walton

A Reaper of Stone by Mark Gelineau and Joe King


13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds

Falling Sky by Rajan Khanna

| Other Posts From December |

December brings with it a new feature – The Friday Face-Off – where I pit cover against cover to discover the best cover art from across both sides of the pond.

The Monthly Round-Up: November 2015

The Month Ahead: December 2015

Cover Reveal: Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie – UK Edition

Cover Reveal: Shadows of the Apt by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Cover Reveal: Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie – US Edition

Bookish ‘Sci-Fi’ Beats: Oblivion OST

Bookish ‘Sci-Fi’ Beats: Ex Machina OST

Bookish Beats: Massive Attack – Heligoland

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Debuts from the Gollancz Festival 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Newly Read Authors 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Classics of 2015

Top Ten ‘X-Mas’ Tuesday: Top Ten… Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten… Most Anticipated Releases of 2016

‘Sci-Fi’ Teaser Tuesdays: December 01 – Rising Tide by Rajan Khanna

‘Sci-Fi’ Teaser Tuesdays: December 08 – Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut

Teaser Tuesdays: December 15 – The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

An X-Mas Teaser Tuesday: December 22 – The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie

‘Sci-Fi’ Teaser Tuesdays: December 29 – Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

The Friday Face-Off: December 18 – The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

The Friday Face-Off: December 25 – The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

‘Sci-Fi’ Teaser Tuesdays: December 29

Sci Fi Teaser TuesdaysWelcome to Teaser Tuesdays – a weekly feature hosted by A Daily Rhythm. From the beginning of December to the end of January, Books by Proxy will be taking part in The 2016 Sci-Fi Experience, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Expect a new teaser every week!

| Teaser Tuesdays: December 29 |


Book One of The Southern Reach Trilogy

by Jeff VanderMeer

Science Fiction | 209 Pages | Published by Fourth Estate in 2014

“As we ascended toward the light, I tried to distract myself. I kept reviewing my training over and over again, searching for a clue, for any scrap of information that might lead to some revelation about our discoveries.”

~ p. 65, Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

| Synopsis |

Welcome to Area X. An Edenic wilderness, an environmental disaster zone, a mystery for thirty years.

For thirty years, Area X, monitored by the secret agency known as the Southern Reach, has remained mysterious and remote behind its intangible border– an environmental disaster zone, though to all appearances an abundant wilderness. Eleven expeditions have been sent in to investigate; even for those that have made it out alive, there have been terrible consequences.

‘Annihilation’ is the story of the twelfth expedition and is told by its nameless biologist. Introverted but highly intelligent, the biologist brings her own secrets with her. She is accompanied by a psychologist, an anthropologist and a surveyor, their stated mission: to chart the land, take samples and expand the Southern Reach’s understanding of Area X.

But they soon find out that they are being manipulated by forces both strange and all too familiar. An unmapped tunnel is not as it first appears. An inexplicable moaning calls in the distance at dusk. And while each member of the expedition has surrendered to the authority of the Southern Reach, the power of Area X is far more difficult to resist.

Amazon | The Book Depository | Goodreads

| Join In |

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Please leave a comment with either the link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your ‘teasers’ in a comment here!

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