One of the things I look for in a book is interesting, independent female protagonists who really know how to throw down the gauntlet (in their own various unique ways). There's a flurry of great books featuring strong-hearted girls (and women, ‘cause women are girls, too) who are intelligent, beautiful (in all the ways that you can be beautiful excluding superficialities like straight teeth, nice hair, tame eyebrows, orange tans… can’t talk), and tough enough to kick some major you-know-what. Here are a few you might enjoy.
Bitterblue, by New York Times best-selling author Kristin Cashore, continues the story which began with Cashore’s first novel, Graceling, and was set up in part by a prequel, Fire. Bitterblue, introduced as a child in Graceling, is now a young woman who must deal with ruling a kingdom that still hasn’t healed from the deep, psychological scars left by a sadistic father who was a hidden graceling (someone “graced” with supernatural abilities) with the power to make people believe anything he told them. Bitterblue is much more complex than its predecessors, definitely darker, but just as intriguing. Available now (but don't forget to catch up with the first two installments).
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by Hugo Award-nominee N.K. Jemisin, is a fantastic, original fantasy set in a city called Sky where gods have been enslaved by mortals to be used as servants, playthings, and instruments of pain and destruction. Yeine, a girl from a far-off barbarian kingdom, is summoned to Sky to face a heritage she never expected to claim, and to meet gods who seem to know more about Yeine than she does herself. The Broken Kingdoms and The Kingdom of Gods are related novels set in the same world, but not direct sequels (but still great reads with strong, unique female characters).
Cast in Shadow, by Michelle Sagara, is the first book in an exciting, fast-paced fantasy series that follows the exploits of Kaylin, a member of the law-enforcing Hawks in the city of Elantra. Kaylin investigates a series of child-murders echoing events from her own rough past as a street orphan, events that might bear some connection to the mysterious tattoos inscribed on Kaylin’s skin that grant her abilities no human should have. Don't let the cover scare you off, the book is definitely not an urban-fantasy-romance run amok; sometimes I don't know what publishers are thinking, who doesn't judge a book by its cover? There are currently seven books in the series that progressively just get better and better!
Except the Queen, by Jane Yolen, is a fairytale-esque story that follows two fey sisters, Serena and Meteora, who are banished from the definitely-not-human world of Faerie for witnessing something they believe might destroy the tenuous balance between their Queen and her fierce courts. Or so they think. Lyrical, surprising, and thoughtful, at first glance the novel may appear to be just another teen kissy-face romance (again with the misleading book cover) but keep reading and you’ll be surprised (enjoyably so) by how unlike a teen kissy-face romance this is. Nothing teen about it!
The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennet, author of the fabulous The History Boys, is absolutely British, absolutely hilarious, and absolutely delightful. It’s more of a novella (at around a hundred and twenty pages, give or take), but it more than makes up for its brevity with emotional and cerebral stimulation. The novel follows the Queen (of England) as she discovers a love for reading that many around her begin to consider, as it expands her view of the world and herself, to be decidedly not queen-like. Funny, heart-warming, and affirming for the rest of us bibliophiles, it's a must-read! Please do.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley, is the introductory entry to the wickedly clever Flavia de Luce series. A throwback to some of our favorite mystery and crime novels, Bradley's writing brings back memories of classics by Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and maybe, just a little bit, of Edgar Allen Poe. Eleven-year-old Flavia, youngest daughter of an increasingly impoverished English family of fairly good descent, is a brilliant self-taught chemist and expert poisoner. Fearless, observant, and unrelentingly precocious, Flavia's crime-solving tendencies will keep you bound with suspense, humor, and skillful manipulation. Bradley has written several more excellent novels starring his recalcitrant heroine, all recommended additions to required-reading lists.
Click on any of the titles or book covers to visit the OC Public Libraries website to reserve a copy today.