It’s already been a month and I’ve reviewed a lot of different books. Below are just a few of the novels and short stories I’ve looked at. Most of them have been of such an excellent quality , and filled with so many great characters, that choosing my favorites was difficult. However, there were some stories that absolutely blazed while the others merely glittered, so without further ado, here’s my pick for the best stories of the month.
Book of the Month: Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters (Heroines in Folktales Around The World)– by Kathleen Ragan
This is a book I used as part of my research for Badass Princess of the Week series (soon to be fortnight), and it is an amazing collection of Folklore. Anyone who studies folklore in depth knows that the popular image of the early Disney Princess damsel in distress is not a fair representation of heroines in Folklore. However, I did not know how much they were misrepresented until I read this book. This book has collections of folklore from all over the world and the tales are incredible; it has a tale of a blind humpback girl who rises to become chief of an African village; a girl who dresses as a man, beat her cousin in a contest of salesmanship and saves her father; we also learn that the original ‘Little Redcap’ was neither a victim nor a damsel in distress, but a young woman who learns a lesson about personal safety and becomes competent at looking after herself. This collection has dozens of fascinating stories about women from all over the world who are strong, interesting and agents of their own stories. The best part? Because of how stringent Ragan’s criteria is,you know there are tonnes of other stories out there with other amazing heroines who didn’t quite make it (even the heroine of Anderson’s The Snow Queen and Gawain and Ragnall don’t cut the muster.)
I’d recommend this to anyone who’s interested in Folklore, wants some good stories to tell their daughters or those who want to read about interesting females and see for themselves how these lot put even the modern Disney princesses like Tiana and Rapunzel to shame.
Short Story of The Month: The Experience Machine– Jason Werbeloff
The Experience Machine is a dark science fiction story with a perfect ending. This story follows Manifred as he gains access to a machine that can make you live your greatest desire. As the real world grows crueller and crueller to Manifred, his dependence on the machine deepens and his grasp of reality weakens, leading a gory, sick but delightful downward spiral into madness.
Best Male Character of the Month: Zeus- Aphrodite: Goddess of Love
In spite of being a graphic novel aimed at children, George O’Connor’s Olympians series has one of the most engaging, complex and accurate portrayal of the Greek Gods I’ve ever seen. His crowning glory, however, is Zeus. Far from being the old guy with a beard, this Zeus is handsome with a stature worthy of a Greek God and he has a great vitality and energy. He is not only very, very powerful, but also a brilliant politician and tactician who’s always one step ahead (except to when it comes to his wife, Hera), showing us why he truly is the King of the Gods. My review of Hera and Aphrodite can be found here.
Best Female Character of the Month: Queenie- The Scent of Sunlight
I was torn between choosing whether to make The Scent Of Sunlight or The Experience Machine my short story of the month, but as Queenie was the reason that The Scent Of Sunlight was such as excellent story, I decided to put her as best female character. A young black woman and single mother who struggles to live above the poverty line, Queenie is one of the most unique and human heroines I’ve come across. Her struggles and difficulties she faces being both black and a woman are brilliantly portrayed, and most of all, through all of this adversity her strength and determination really shines through.
Women like Queenie are often ignored and dismissed by society, so seeing a poor black woman take center stage was refreshing and important.
Best POC Character of the Month: Balsa– Moribito: Guardian Of The Spirit
If it was any other month Balsa would have been my number one heroine, as she’s a strong, powerful fighter and the female protagonist I always wanted to read about as a kid. A 30 year old woman who’s not a great beauty, she’s a brilliant and disciplined protagonist who takes the center of her own story (which is not a romance, horray!) She has an unbreakable spirit and is extremely disciplined and has excellent survival skills, which are brilliantly portrayed in Guardian of the Spirit and Guardian of Darkness. More of my thoughts on Balsa and the first book in the series can be found here.
Best LGBT Character of the Month: Batwoman
Batwoman is an amazing character and is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best things to come out of the New 52. A proud lesbian, she was kicked out of the army as a result of DADT and refusing to hide who she was. After going through an emotional breakdown, she decides to protect her country the only way she knows how: by taking up the cape and becoming Batwoman.
I personally found the stories to grow more and more incoherent (and the mythology more confusing) with each growing issue after Greg Rucka released the reigns, but regardless Batwoman remains an excellent character. Even if you’re not a fan of comics and graphic novels, I’d recommend giving this a read because Batwoman is one of the strongest lesbian characters out there.
What’s the best book you’ve read this month? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below?