Sunday, 12 February 2012 00:00

Why I Love Kick-Ass Heroines

Written by

I love kick-ass heroines in books, the kind of women who are strong and independent and don’t take crap from anyone.  The kinds of characters who are just as well-developed as their male counterparts.  This is something I seek in fiction, and I’ll often put a book down if it doesn’t have it.

I have always sought books with characters I could identify with.  And as a female whose defining traits include “extreme stubbornness” and “tendency to inadvertently take over any situation I’m in,” the shy, retiring heroines just don’t work for me.

I first heard of Sandy Williams’ novel, The Shadow Reader, a few months back, when the Facebook powers-that-be suggested I “Like” her.  (Who decides such things?  Is there a consortium at Facebook that says “If user Beth Woodward likes X, then she will also likely like Y?”)  At any rate, it was a good suggestion, as this urban fantasy debut was right up my alley: a young woman who reads “shadows” for the Fae Court gets kidnapped by rebels and begins to see that things aren’t so black-and-white at all.  Intrigue, romance, and moral ambiguity…what’s not to like?

In March of last year, I read a book that captured my attention and my imagination.  Mind Games, by debut author Carolyn Crane, resonated for me.  Justine Jones was kind of an everygirl heroine: neurotic and messed up, but someone who ultimately overcomes her fears to do the right thing.  She was someone I could relate to, odd and quirky and endearing.  And then, that September, I read its sequel, Double Cross.  Without spoiling anything, the ending of that book was a doozy, a “Luke, I am your father”-esque cliffhanger/game changer. 

onesaltseaI have been so busy of late, traveling and whatnot, that my recent updates have been…sporadic, to say the least.  Bad Book Editor!  But now that I have a chance to sit down and write, I thought it would be a good opportunity to reaffirm what I’m about as a Book Editor, what my goals and motivations are.

In the wake of Amy Winehouse’s death, Stacey Jay—author of the urban fantasy novel Dead on the Delta—wrote a blog entry talking about how her protagonist, Annabelle Lee (who was an alcoholic), had been called a “train wreck” by some readers because of her addiction.  It was part of a larger train of thought, about how addictive behavior by females is viewed and treated differently than the same behavior by males.  But I think it’s part of a larger problem, in books and in society itself.

I read the first book in J.A. Saare’s Rhiannon’s Law series about a year or so ago.  I thought it was a good book.  It was a fun read, it moved quickly, and I liked the characters.  But the storyline didn’t stray too far from other books I’ve seen in the genre, until a last-minute plot twist that had the potential to change the entire world and story Saare had created.  It was a hell of an ending, and needless to say I’ve been waiting anxiously for The Renfield Syndrome for quite some time.

Luckily for me, The Renfield Syndrome does not disappoint.  In this installment, Saare has taken the series in a darker, bolder direction, and the result is a book that stands out among the other urban fantasies on the market.

I’m a big fan of the reunited lovers theme in romance.  I think it adds a stronger chemistry to the romance that isn’t present in romances where the hero and heroine have just met.  I am also a big fan of exploring the dark side, both in romantic fiction and otherwise.  Deadly Obsession by Katie Reus does both.  This is a romantic suspense that will keep you guessing until the end, though issues with believability prevented me from enjoying the story as much as I would have liked.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Borders’ closing and the ways I think the book industry is evolving.  I said that I didn’t think books were going anywhere, and I stand by that.  What I underestimated was how much of an emotional impact it would have on me.  A few days after that article was published, I went to the Borders across the street from my apartment.  It was one of the saddest things I had ever seen.  Empty shelves everywhere, the café tables already upturned (and for sale, if you’re interested in that kind of thing).  I felt like a vulture just being there.

So what did I do?  I bought books.  A lot of them.  Then I decided I was going to give them away.  Think of it as Borders’ final gift to you.

I’ve found that I don’t usually decide on a series after the first book.  I’m not sure why.  Maybe one book isn’t really enough time to get me invested in the characters.  Maybe I’m subconsciously worried about the “sophomore slump” some series seem to hit.  Regardless, I’m not usually sold on a series until after the second or third book.

Kalayna Price’s Alex Craft series is no exception.  I liked the first book, Grave Witch, but I was still unsure about whether I’d continue reading the series.  But when I picked up the second book, Grave Dance, I was happy to discover that this book is even better than the first, adding the series to my “must buy” list.

Last week, we learned that Borders bookstores would liquidate its assets and close all of its remaining 400 stores.  Cue the hand-wringing and proclamations of falling skies.  It means losing valuable shelf space for books.  It’s a signal of the troubles of the book industry.  It’s the end of the world as we know it.  Blah blah blah, etc.

I’ve said this before, and I’ve said this again: I don’t think books are going anywhere, and I don’t think that books are “in trouble” as many seem to imagine.  The book industry is changing—a fact that Borders failed to get behind.  In the long run, what may be bad for big box bookstores may be good for books.