I read two books that I want to tell y'all about.
The first is Graceling by Kristin Cashore. This is the best book I've read in a long time. Technically it's YA but only just barely. The story centers around Katsa, a warrior girl living in a world where some people have special aptitudes called "Graces." Katsa thinks her Grace is for killing but it turns out to be something very different.
She is smart and strong-willed and though she grows and changes and falls in love over the course of the book, the core of who she is remains the same. And I LOVE that. From Booklist: Katsa is a heroine who can physically overpower most men she meets, yet her strength is not achieved by becoming manlike. She may care little for fine clothes, but from her first kill to her first experience of lovemaking, Katsa’s womanhood is integral to her character.
Also, if you're interested in world building at all, you HAVE to check this book out. I almost wish I hadn't read it so I could discover it all over again for the first time. SO GOOD!
The second book is H.I.V.E. by Mark Walden. H.I.V.E. is a top secret school in which children learn the skills to become criminal masterminds. (H.I.V.E. = Higher Institute of Villainous Learning) The characters are both fun and nuanced and it's really interesting to see villains as the main characters. They have their own agendas, so it's amusing to see what they consider "right" and "wrong."
A review on the book calls it a cross between Harry Potter and James Bond, and I think that's a great analogy! It also has a bit of a video game-feel about it.
This is a whole series and I've gotten through the first two and they both were good. I think these books also would really catch the interest of reluctant readers who are boys. (Though clearly girls like it too -- I did!)
Lastly, I am terrified for SPN tonight.