My Best Friends in Books (and a Request for Recommendations)

Brienne of Tarth, from Game of Thrones: tough, loyal, and completely un-girly. Jessica Jones, from Marvel comics: badass, superhuman strength, helps people while dealing with her own trauma. Hermione Granger: brilliant, intellectual, compassionate, and brave. Violet, Hannah, Dee, and Betty from Rat Queens: sex-positive, booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens for hire, and also a family. Jo…

Mini Reviews: Comics and Manga

Everything I’ve read so far in January and February 2017, because apparently I haven’t reviewed any of them yet! Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 1, by Fumi Yoshinaga. Four stars. What an absolutely fascinating combination of ideas at play in this book. A sort of dystopian premise with a historical setting, a matriarchal society that still…

Where Am I Now?, by Mara Wilson

Four stars, read in September 2016. I discovered the grown-up Mara Wilson on Twitter earlier this year, and I was excited to learn she had a book coming out. Like many women our age (including Mara Wilson, who is two years younger than me), I was strongly influenced by Matilda as a child. There were so few…

Lumberjanes, by Noelle Stevenson

Four stars, read in August 2015. This is a fabulous, diverse, female-led fantasy series about the girls at a summer camp “for hard-core lady-types.” The Millennial humor is a little much for me, but mostly it’s fun. I love all the exclamations referencing women from history—”what the Joan Jett,” “oh my Bessie Coleman,” “holy Mae Jemison!”—and…

Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson

Five stars, read in September 2015. I didn’t know anything about Noelle Stevenson before I picked up Nimona, but I was intrigued by the lovely cover. It was outstanding, getting much darker than I expected it to, and also way more awesome. The protagonists are supervillains, the antagonists are heroes, and at times you question whether either group…

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman, Vol. 1, by Gail Simone

Three stars, read in September 2015. I did not realize, and ended up loving, that this was an anthology, each comic produced by a different team. Only one was terrible: “No Chains Can Hold Her,” in which Supergirl and Mary Marvel feature, which is cool, but (1) I truly hate the Golden Age illustration style, (2)…

The Thickety: A Path Begins, by J.A. White

Four stars, read in April 2015. The Thickety is surprisingly dark for juvenile fiction: grisly murders, horrifying creatures, dark magic, the extreme torment of small children by an entire village of cruel religious cult members. I liked it a lot even while I was annoyed by some silly things (the twelve-year-old girl’s dead mother’s dress “fit…

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, by Christopher Healy

Four stars, read in June 2015. There’s a lot of silliness in this book, as demonstrated by the Table of Contents (which is what made me decide to bring it home after picking it up). Some of my favorite chapter titles: 2. Prince Charming Defends Some Vegetables 3. Prince Charming Claims He Is Not Afraid…

Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, by Marissa Meyer

Three stars, read in February 2014. This series isn’t the most elegantly written, to be honest; I actually speed-read large sections of Cinder and didn’t feel like I was missing anything. But I love the idea of a sci-fi fairy tale adaptation, as well as the fact that the series features so many girl action heroes. Each of…

Song of the Lioness, by Tamora Pierce

Four stars, read in May 2014. I knew this series was written in the 1980s, but somehow I could tell just by reading it, too; I think there was a certain style for young adult and middle grade fantasy back then, kind of condensed and sped up compared to YA written today. It’s a little…

Othello, by Satomi Ikezawa

Four stars for the whole series, read in January/February 2016. I decided to start trying manga, and after one disappointment and one with pretty good potential, I was surprised to fall instantly in love with this series. The cover of the first book was not at all promising for me, but luckily (for some reason),…

Time and the Tapestry, by John Plotz

Two stars, read in October 2014. I’m trying to decide whether this book was good-ish, but with major flaws, or crappy with some redeeming moments. Pro: I like the premise a lot—two kids go back in time by falling through a tapestry in the house that their grandmother is about to lose—which is of course…

Abhorsen, by Garth Nix

Four stars, read from November 2014 to January 2015. Before reading Sabriel I don’t think I’d have been able to imagine how a story could be both action-packed and incredibly slow at the same time, and I honestly don’t know if that’s the book itself or just me. I found it fascinating already from the prologue,…

Ms. Marvel, by G. Willow Wilson

Five stars, first book read in June 2015. Have you read the Ms. Marvel series yet?? Kamala Kahn has exciting action and excellent stories, but I love her most for who she is: a girl balancing all the complicated aspects of life and knowing that only she gets to decide who and what she’ll be….

Captain Marvel, by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Four stars, first book read in August 2015. It’s a tough contest, but Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez’s Captain Marvel might be the most badass woman I know in comics. Her closest competition is Brian Azzarello’s Wonder Woman, and I can’t quite decide between the two—my first thought when I finished Blood was how desperately I want…

Black Widow: Forever Red, by Margaret Stohl

Three stars, read in January 2016. I enjoyed the buildup of the first 150 or so pages unconflicted, but man I am just not equipped to tolerate YA romance anymore—especially in a book like this where the bar starts out so much higher than usual, with not just one but two kickass female protagonists. Natasha…

Fablehaven and the Invasion of the Sexist Cover Art

One night several years ago, I found Fablehaven at the grocery store for five dollars and decided to try it out. Within about a week I’d lent it to my husband and bought a second copy to give to our niece, and they both also loved it. We recommended it to my parents and my siblings…

The Wild Girls, by Pat Murphy

Four stars, read in March 2012. I liked this book so much. The wild girls, Newt and Fox (Joan and Sarah), are so lovable, and their story is lovely to read. It deals with serious issues but is neither too heavy nor too lighthearted in its treatment of them—just right, I think, for the age group….

Bandette, by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover

Five stars, read in February 2015. Bandette is fabulous, funny, and French. She’s a master thief who looks like Audrey Hepburn and behaves like a court jester. That pretty much sums up this book, and I don’t think you can do any better. She’s such an excellent character. I find Lieutenant Price and Monsieur’s client—based…

Starting with Alice, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Four stars, read in October 2012. I didn’t know this book was a prequel, but for my first time reading the series I suppose it works just as well as beginning with the original first book. After just one book I understand why this series is so popular, and I went and checked out the…

Now I’ll Tell You Everything, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Two stars, read in October 2013 (but four stars for the whole Alice series). I was really disappointed with this book, the last in the series. If you were an active fan all along—like, keeping up with the author’s website and writing in your suggestions for the series—you may have been less surprised than I was…

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, by Alan Bradley

Three stars, read in 2010. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a murder mystery starring a precocious eleven-year-old British girl and her eccentric family. To be honest, I’m not sure what the appeal of the book was to me; I did enjoy reading it, but when I think back on it, I can’t remember why….

The Egypt Game, by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Four stars, read July 2011. I think I’ve meant to read this book for pretty much my entire life, but I never got around to it until now. When I was younger I confused it with The Westing Game, which I also never read until a year or two ago; now that I’ve finally read…

Goddesses: A World of Myth and Magic, by Burleigh Muten

This book is essentially an encyclopedia of goddesses. Starting with A—Aataentsic (Iroquois); Aditi (Hindu); Ama-terasu (Japan); Aphrodite, Artemis, and Athena (Greece)—and going through the alphabet to Z—Zaramama (Peru), Zoe (Gnostic), the Zorya (Czechoslovakia)—there’s a short description of each goddess and her powers, along with a pronunciation guide to their names. I love the illustrations by Rebecca…

The Green Glass Sea, by Ellen Klages

Four stars, read May 2011. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about the Manhattan Project before, and the history involved was really fascinating; besides that, the characters are well-written and very likeable, and the story—not just the historical story, but the parts of the plot that are fiction—is easy to get engaged in. This…

Medieval Stories

All read in the spring of 2012. Catherine, Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman—four stars. Catherine is the daughter of a minor lord in medieval England—which, to her, is even worse than being just a villager, because at least the villagers can choose their own marriages. Birdy’s greedy father keeps trying to arrange marriages for her,…