Necessary Whimsy: Fun, Funny Books Featuring Feisty Ladies

I know what you’re thinking—Necessary Whimsy! It’s been awhile! We thought your absence meant that tides had changed and everything is better now!

Oh, my adorable book nerd friends. What I love about you is your optimism. April has brought many a spring shower, and the muck just keeps getting deeper…but you know what helps with that? Books. And you know what helps even more with that? Books full of sassy-mouthed ladies.

If you look back on my childhood report cards (and why would you, weirdo? You’re not my mom… unless you are my mom. In which case, hello! Please burn my old report cards), you will notice a trend. That trend can be paraphrased as, “Lish is a good student, we just wish she would stop talking quite so much.” My brothers had similar comments on theirs, and my mom once had her mouth duct taped shut by her teacher. So I come by my chatterbox ways honestly. Which means that I have an affinity for characters with the same issue. If they are also prone to sass, all the better, because as you might have guessed, I also heard the phrase “you need to watch your smart mouth” on a pretty much constant loop.

So it is with great joy that I bring you Necessary Whimsy: Feisty Lady edition!

I actually hadn’t planned on doing a theme, but as I started listing books this time around, one was clearly emerging, so I decided to go with it:


The Ozark Trilogy by Suzette Haden Elgin

Somehow Elgin has managed to slip by me all of these years, and I am quickly making up for lost time. When I was information gathering for this series of posts, my friend Sarah, who is a local bookseller, recommended this series to me. She said, “So there are these flying mules…” and pretty much everything after that became white noise as my brain went into some sort of delight frenzy. Sarah lent me her copy and now she’s going to have to fight me to get it back.

The Ozark Trilogy is comprised of Twelve Fair Kingdoms, The Grand Jubilee, and And Then There’ll be Fireworks. I haven’t finished the series yet, but book one has made me a fan. If you liked Terry Pratchett’s witch characters, I think you’ll like this series. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if Tiffany Aching wasn’t an homage to Elgin’s Responsible of Brightwater. In Twelve Fair Kingdoms, someone is causing a small magical ruckus—the milk has soured, the flying donkeys are experiencing turbulence, and a baby gets stuck in a tree. (The baby is fine.) Someone is trying to keep the twelve families from forming a more central government, and Responsible decides to go on a symbolic quest to get to the bottom of things. The book is smart, which is not too much of a surprise since Elgin had a PhD in linguistics. This book is also, sadly, out of print. However, you can find many a used copy online, so I included it. I found copies for pretty cheap on and It’s worth the extra step to track it down.


Jackaby by William Ritter

Jackaby has been described as Sherlock Holmes meets Doctor Who, and I think that’s fairly apt. The Watson character is one Abigail Rook, newly arrived in New Fiddleham, and looking for a job—any job. She convinces R.F. Jackaby, paranormal investigator, to take her on as an assistant, even though Jackaby is rather vague about what happened to his last assistant. Ghosts, strange creatures, ugly hats, and a thrilling serial killer case make for an excellent start to the series. Prepare yourself for maximum whimsy. (And whatever you do, DON’T STARE AT THE FROG.)


The Last Adventures of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez

The Last Adventure of Constance Verity A. Lee Martinez sweepstakesThis book had me at the beginning where we see poor, exhausted—and ridiculously extraordinary—Constance Verity trying to get a normal job. That’s all she wants—a boring nine-to-five workday and to date a nice, normal guy. No saving the world from giant tentacle beasts. No one trying to kill her or those she loves. The problem is, due to a “gift” from a fairy godmother, saving the world is kind of Constance’s thing. So if she wants a normal life, the answer is simple—the fairy godmother must go. I’ve always enjoyed Martinez’s wit, but the opening killed me and I was reading lines out loud to anyone close enough to hear, which is something that really annoys most people. If you’re new to Martinez and like this book, he has many more funny titles to offer you.


Giant Days by John Allison (writer), Whitney Cogar (writer), Lissa Treiman (illustrator), Max Sarin (illustrator), Liz Fleming (illustrator).

In the comments from the last post, someone did mention this one, which thrilled me because I LOVE THIS COMIC AS MUCH AS I LOVE KITTENS. And man, I love me some kittens. I had actually waffled on including it, because it’s not really SFF at all. However, it is a comic and this is my post, which means I get to do what I want. So here it is. My last birthday was spent with a stack of these comics and I regret nothing. Giant Days follows three very different women as they navigate their first year of college. They are funny, witty, heartfelt (but not in a vomit inducing sort of way), and slightly weird. The colors are bright, the art endearing, and basically it’s like someone engineered a comic just for me. I was taking pictures of panels with my phone and sending it to people. For those of you that don’t know, John Allison was one of the pioneers in the web comic game—he’s known for Scary Go Round, Bad Machinery, and Bobbins, just to name a few.


The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

This book is for younger readers, but I’m putting it up because (A) books are for everyone, (B) it’s ridiculously funny, and (C) I do what I want. This whole series has made me laugh so hard I cried actual tears, like I wasn’t an emotional robot AT ALL. (It confused everyone.) The series follows one Penelope Lumley, a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, as she journeys to a remote estate to become the governess for three children that were literally raised by wolves. Penelope is thrust into a situation full of mystery–where did the children come from? Why does the master of the house disappear every full moon? How will she get the children to stop chasing squirrels? Full of humor and literary references, I recommend this book to readers who love Gail Carriger.


Of course Tiffany Aching and all of the witches from Pratchett make this list, but I am saving Pratchett for another post. You’ll just have to be patient. As usual, list your favorite whimsical and funny SFF in the comments! We could all use new authors to devour. (Not literally. Please don’t bite authors. We’re skittish enough creatures as is.)

Pyromantic Lish McBrideLish McBride currently resides in Seattle, spending most of her time at her day job at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. The rest of her time is divided between writing, reading, and Twitter, where she either discusses her desire for a nap or her love for kittens. (Occasionally ponies.) Her debut novel, Hold Me Closer, Necromancer was named an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults and was a finalist for the YALSA William C. Morris Award. Her other works include Necromancing the Stone, Firebug, and Pyromantic.


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