Category Archives: Book Reviews

Favorite Adult Fantasy Books

Since nobody voted for anything else, *ahem, I’m talking to you…* I decided to go back through my oldest posts and see what I can break out in more detail.

I read about 40% fantasy, according to Goodreads. It’s not a majority, but it is my largest category. I read more YA than adult, mostly for content reasons, but there are still adult books that cross my path. Here are some of my favorite adult fantasy books and authors. (And yes, I have enjoyed many, many more books that are listed here. These are my very favorites, for one reason or another.)

In random order:

David Eddings, particularly the Belgariad and Mallorean, which I’ve probably read at least a dozen times. When Guardians of the West first came out, I started reading it in the store while I waited for my parents. I hit a certain scene with a thunderstorm and laughed so hard that everyone stared at me. I also like the Elenium and Tamuli and the side stories of the Bel/Mall series. I’m not a fan of The Dreamers series.

J.R.R. Tolkien. Okay, I must admit I haven’t waded through all the backstories, especially those put out by Christopher. But the original four (Hobbit + LOTR) are deep favorites. I started reading them when I was eight years old (all four), and I used to read them every few months. When my sister dropped her book and lost her bookmark, she called me to find out where she was. LOL. My husband hates watching the movies with me because I complain when they ruin things. Despite spending so much time with them, I don’t write like JRR in either content or voice. Sorry?

Brandon Sanderson (also found in Sci Fi and YA fantasy, and excluding a few of his more violent books). Mistborn had a few scenes I had to skip, so I refused to read Way of Kings when it looked like more of the same. But I liked Elantris, Warbreaker, & Wax & Wayne. I think all of his YA books made the list, too.

Mercedes Lackey (not everything of hers, but a lot of it). I like most of the very extensive Valdemar series, though the short story collections aren’t as good. I like Bardic Voices, Fairy Tales, and the Hunter series. I liked the Elemental Masters for a long time, but the recent ones have not been my cup of cocoa. Obsidian Mountain/Enduring Flame and the 500 Kingdoms series I like with severe reservations for the adult content (violence and other). I’ve read several of her other series, but they don’t make my favorites list.

Sharon Shinn, including Castle Auburn, Twelve Houses (with reservations), and Gateway. My favorites, though are her YA series, Safe-Keepers.

Terry Pratchett. Not fond of his early one-chapter-per-book style, but his writing is great. I used to be fonder of the Wizard track, then the Witches, but the Watch grew on me until it became my favorite.

Shanna Swendson. The Enchanted, Inc and Fairy Tale series are urban fantasy. Rebel Mechanics is steampunk and YA. I’m eclectic enough to like all three. πŸ˜‰

Michael J. Sullivan. I only discovered him a few years ago, but I think I’ve read everything he’s written, including his “how I wrote it” stuff. A lot of the time, I find elf/dwarf stuff to be too derivative to enjoy, but Michael is just plain good. And sneaky, very sneaky. He’s very good at throwing in little clues that end up being very important in hindsight.

Patricia Briggs is best known for her Mercy Thompson series, I think, but I’ve actually been reading her for years before she started writing about werewolves. (And some of that series are great, but some are questionable for me.) My favorite is her Hurog series, but Raven and Sianim/Aralorn and Hob’s Bargain are all good.

Martha Wells. I like both the Murderbot series (sci fi) and Ile-Rien (fantasy), but my favorites are the Raksura (let’s call it alien fantasy, since the POV is very non-human).

Joanne Bertin’s Dragonlord series. Again, I have to add reservations. Why do so many adult fantasy series think it’s necessary to add certain elements? On the good side, it has a unique tack to the dragon genre.

Mel Odom managed to make me cry over unlikely characters and then turn around and laugh out loud. He’s a master of turning a trope on its head.

Magic Kingdom for Sale–Sold, by Terry Brooks (the rest of the series is readable, but not as good). A millionaire buys a “fantasy kingdom,” expending it to be a fraud—but it’s real. Now he has to figure out how to really be a king before an evil knight takes everything, along with his head.

Mary Robinette Kowal writes sci fi (Lady Astronaut et al: colonize Mars in the 50’s because of an apocalypse) and romantic fantasy (Glamourist Histories: Jane Austen with magic), and I like both. She made me cry, too, the stinker. (And if you’re a writer, you should definitely listen to Brandon Sanderson and Mary Robinette Kowal on Writing Excuses.)

Innkeeper/Sweep series, by Ilona Andrews. I tried her other stuff and didn’t care for it, but I do like the innkeepers. When I remember to check, I read them in serial on her website, but between books, I frequently forget and then have to catch up or ask the library to order the next book. *cough*

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

Favorite Education & Homeschool Books

I was homeschooled for a long time (and wish it had been longer). I homeschooled my children until they said they wanted to go to public school. So, with that experience behind me, here are my favorite education & homeschool books (that aren’t textbooks). It’s a short list, but that’s okay

ADHD: What Every Parent Needs to Know, by the American Academy of Pediatrics

Teenagers with ADD & ADHD, by Chris A. Zeigler Dendy

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, by Ruth Beechick

Cleaning House, by Kay Wills Wyma

Life Skills for Kids, by Christine M. Field

Homeschooling: The Middle Years, by Shari Henry

The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer

The New School, by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

Homeschooler’s College Admissions Handbook, by Cafi Cohen

Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (fiction)

Schooled, by Gordan Korman (fiction)

If anybody out there wants to write some good homeschooling fiction, there’s obviously a hole waiting to be filled. I’m tired of reading about the odd homeschooler down the block that doesn’t fit in until he goes to public school. Boo! Most homeschoolers are well-educated, well-adjusted, and well-socialized. And that’s generally BECAUSE of homeschool, not DESPITE it. And yes, homeschoolers go to college just fine. Even if they stay at home through high school.

Just as a thought, if you or someone you know is dealing with remote school because of… you know, Covid… wouldn’t it be easier to take charge of school yourself and do it your way instead of trying to meet public school expectations at home? It’s just a thought, so don’t throw tomatoes at me. πŸ™‚

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

 

Favorite Action-Adventure Books

Before I start, I’ll warn you that I have a wide variety of books listed as “action-adventure” on my list. I won’t bother you with the ones I didn’t really like, and I’ll sort the ones I did, but as you’re looking through and see the mishmash that made the cut, just remember that I warned you. πŸ˜‰

Adult

Bad Penny, by John D. Brown. Mystery.

This Just In, by Kelly Blair. Mystery

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes–and Why, by Amanda Ripley. Nonfiction.

Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, by Jennifer Armstrong. Biography.

I sense a theme in my adult adventure books… mystery or nonfiction…

Young Adult

Code Orange, by Caroline B. Cooney. Contemporary. Sort of a medical thriller, sort of a spy thriller. Mostly a boy trying to avoid the consequences of his bad ideas.

Pigboy, by Vicki Grant. Contemporary. School field trip gone very, very wrong.

Gallagher Girls series, by Ally Carter. Contemporary. Teen spy school.

Brotherband Chronicles series, by John Flanagan. Fantasy.

Reckoners series, by Brandon Sanderson. Science fiction. Superheroes gone bad.

Holes, by Louis Sachar. Contemporary. Juvenile detention gone bad.

Abhorsen series, by Garth Nix. Fantasy. Content warning for zombies (of a sort) and occasional grossness.

Black Stallion, by Walter Farley. Contemporary. The rest of the series isn’t bad, but the first one is best.

The Gideon trilogy, by Linda Buckley-Archer. Historical.

Percy Jackson series, by Rick Riordan. Contemporary fantasy.

Middle Grade

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl. Contemporary fantasy.

Brave Margaret, by Robert D. San Souci. Historical.

Ascendance series, by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Fantasy.

The Mysterious Benedict Society series, by Trenton Lee Stewart. Mystery.

Cat Royal series, by Julia Golding. Historical.

Adventurer’s Wanted series, by M.L. Forman. Portal fantasy.

Alcatraz series, by Brandon Sanderson. Portal fantasy.

Letters from Wolfie, by Patti Sherlock. Historical.

Larklight series, by Phillip Reeve. Fantasy.

Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull. Portal/contemporary fantasy. Yeah, it’s a bit tricky to classify exactly.

The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren. Oldie but goodie.

 

And that’s all, folks. Considering that a lot of these are series, they should keep you busy for at least a FEW days. πŸ™‚

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

Horror Recommendations

This list will be shorter than usual, because I read little horror and like even less of it. Nonetheless, for Halloween, here are my recommendations. I am not responsible for any nightmares!

Fairly Safe for Teens (mileage may vary)

Oddly Enough series, by Bruce Coville

Alfred Hitchcock

Ghosts, Gales and Gold, by Edgar Rowe Snow

Monsters, Ghoulies, and Creepy Creatures, by Lee Bennett Hopkins

50 Great Horror Stories, by John Canning

13 Goblins, & 13 Ghosts, by Dorothy Gladys Spicer

The Scariest Stories You’ve Ever Heard, by Katherine Burt

Companions of the Night, by Vivian Vande Velde

The Thing at the Foot of the Bed, by Maria Leach

More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, by Alvin Schwartz

Ghosts, Ghouls, & Other Horrors, by Berhardt J. Hurwood

Tales of Mystery and Terror, by Marjorie P. Katz

Serafina series, by Robert Beatty

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

Warning: Adult Content (of various types)

Diana Tregarde series, Obsidian Mountain series, by Mercedes Lackey

World of Prime series, by M. C. Planck

The Others series, by Anne Bishop

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

October Daye series, by Seanan McGuire

Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

 

Hmm, that was a longer list than I expected. Anyway, there you go!

Shuddering,
Marty C. Lee

Steampunk Recommendations

Here we go with another list of “books I like.” This one is Steampunk and Gaslamp (think: alternate history with magic or advanced tech). When I first decided to do a post in this category, I thought I wouldn’t have much to offer you that I liked. Then I finished classifying books as steampunk and discovered I have 144 rated! Here are my favorites.

As ever, my suggestions for age groups are loose. Within age groups, they are listed in random order.

Middle Grade

The League of Seven series, by Alan Gratz

Larklight, by Phillip Reeve

City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau (there’s a series, but the first one is by far the best and better than the movie)

Mysteries of Cove series, by J. Scott Savage

Young Adult

The Cecilia & Kate series, by Patricia C. Wrede

Frontier Magic series, by Patricia C. Wrede

The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series, by Theodora Goss

The Iron Fey series (plural), by Julie Kagawa

The Mortal Instruments series, by Cassandra Clare (Fair warning: I got tired of the world after the first series or two. Please don’t throw tomatoes.)

Incarceron series, by Catherine Fisher

Storm Thief, by Chris Wooding

Finishing School series, by Gail Carriger (warning: some of her other series are adult, and I do mean adult)

Monster Blood Tattoo series, by D.M. Cornish

Rebel Mechanics series, by Shanna Swendson

Leviathan series, by Scott Westerfield

Howl’s Moving Castle, by Dianna Wynne Jones

The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson (Hey, Brandon, where’s the next one??)

Stoker and Holmes series, by Colleen Gleason

The Elemental Trilogy, by Sherry Thomas

Adult

The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison (honestly, I didn’t think of this one as steampunk, but I guess it is). I recommend you flip to the back and find the explanation of names BEFORE you start the book.

Steampunk Proper Romance series, by Nancy Allen Campbell

The Silvered, by Tanya Huff

Raising Steam, by Terry Pratchett (the rest of his aren’t really steampunk, but they’re generally hilarious)

Mistborn series (plural, sort of), by Brandon Sanderson

The Fall of Ile-Rien series, by Martha Wells

Glamourist Histories series, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Regency romance with magic)

 

Since most of those are series, you should have enough to read for at least a few days. πŸ™‚

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

Favorite Historical Books, #3

I’ve been dividing my favorite history books into three sections for you: 1) ancient history, 2) medieval and renaissance history, and 3) 1700-and-later. More or less. πŸ˜‰ You know I’m not always very precise…

So here’s the 1700+ History Favorites randomly within each category:

Young Adult Mysteries

The Case of the Baskerville Irregulars series, by Robert Newman

Enola Holmes series, by Nancy Springer

The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series, by Theodora Goss

The Agency series, by Y.S. Lee

Cat Royal series, by Julia Golding

Young Adult Romance (more or less)

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

Anne of Green Gables series, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Quaker trilogy, by Ann Turnbull

Red Moon at Sharpsburg, by Rosemary Wells

The Bracelet series, by Jennie Hansen

Dark Mirror series, by M. J. Putney

The Raging Quiet, by Sherryl Jordan

Boston Jane series, by Jennifer L. Holm

Watch for a Tall White Sail, by Margaret E. Bell

A Death-Struck Year, by Makiia Lucier (also a fine example of what a YA romance ought to be)

Water Song, by Suzanne Weyn

Other Young Adult

Gideon the Cut-Purse trilogy, by Linda Buckley-Archer

A True and Faithful Narrative, by Katherine Sturtevant

The Secret Garden, and A Little Princess, by Frances Hodson Burnett

Peter Raven Under Fire, by Michael Molloy

Montmorency series, by Eleanor Updale

Blossom Culp series, by Richard Peck

Stealing Freedom, by Elisa Carbone (biography)

Treasures of the Snow, by Patricia St. John

Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan

Stranje House series, by Kathleen Baldwin

The Little House series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Under a Painted Sky, by Lee Stacey

Charlotte’s Rose, by Ann Edwards Cannon

The Great Brain series, by John D. Fitzgerald

I Am David, by Anne Holm

The Silent Bells, by William MacKellar

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck

The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge

The House of Sixty Fathers, by Meindert DeJong

King of the Wind, by Marguerite Henry

Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls (it took three of us to finish it, because we cried too hard to talk)

A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park (biography)

Mabel Riley, by Marthe Jocelyn

Her Own Song, by Ellen Howard

Charlie Bucket series, by Roald Dahl (yes, it’s a series!)

The Gawgon and the Boy, by Lloyd Alexander

Shanghai Shadows, by Lois Ruby

Adult (I’m skipping romances, since they have their own post)

Seven Miracles that Saved America, by Chris Stewart (non-fiction)

The 5000 Year Leap, by Cleon W. Skousen (non-fiction)

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Emmuska Orczy

Daughters in my Kingdom, by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (non-fiction)

The Work and the Glory series, by Gerald N. Lund

The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemicβ€”and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, by Steven Johnson

Throstleford, by Susan Evans McCloud

Mary Russell series, by Laurie R. King (Sherlock Holmes when older)

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

Sherlock Holmes series, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Night of Blacker Darkness, by Dan Wells

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why, by Amanda Ripley (non-fiction)

Lost Off the Grand-Banks, by Arthur Catherall

The Boys in the Boat, by Gregory Mone (biography)

Charlie’s Monument, by Blaine M. Yorgason

The Diddakoi, by Rumer Godden

Lady Astronaut series, by Mary Robinette Kowal

White Fang, by Jack London

 

Whew! And if that doesn’t keep you busy for a few days, you must read faster than I do!

What favorite of yours isn’t on this list?

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

Favorite Historical Books, #2

I’ve been dividing my favorite history books into three sections for you: 1) ancient history, 2) medieval and renaissance history, and 3) 1700-and-later. More or less. πŸ˜‰ You know I’m not always very precise…

So here’s the Medieval/Renaissance History Favorites randomly within each category:

Juvenile

Ming Lo Moves the Mountain, by Arnold Lobel (picture book)

Brave Margaret, by Robert D. San Souci

The Castle Behind Thorns, by Merrie Haskell

A Murder for Her Majesty, by Beth Hilgartner

Dragon Cauldron series, by Laurence Yep

Time Cat, by Lloyd Alexander

Dragon Keeper, by Carole Wilkinson

Young Adult (several of these are “fantasy in historical setting”)

The Case of the Marble Monster, by I.G. Edmonds (short Japanese mysteries)

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons, by Barbara Cohen

Waterfall series, by Lisa Tawn Bergren

The Outlaws of Sherwood, by Robin McKinley

The Squire’s Tale series, by Gerald Morris (starts off hilarious and ends up so sad, fair warning)

Outlaw Princess of Sherwood, by Nancy Springer

Stravaganza series, and The Falconer’s Knot, by Mary Hoffman

The Ranger’s Apprentice & Brotherband series (plural), by John Flanagan (fantasy in semi-historical setting)

Rhiannon, by Vicki Grove

The Queen’s Thief series, by Megan Whalen Turner

Toads and Diamonds, by Heather Tomlinson

The Cassaforte Chronicles series, by V. Briceland

Sisters of the Sword, by Maya Snow

The Wild Orchid, by Cameron Dokey

The Edge on the Sword, by Rebecca Tingle

Kingdom of Aggadorn series, by Liz McCraine (fantasy romance)

Samurai Detective series, by Dorothy Hoobler (based on the real Judge Ooka, who also appears in The Marble Monster, earlier on this list)

Adult

The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas (and here I’m going to let down you traditionalists by recommending you find an abridgment that cuts out all the political commentary of the day)

Seven Women: And the Secret of their Greatness, by Eric Metaxas (crosses time periods) (non-fiction)

Other Heroes in The Book of Mormon, by Jay Fullmer (non-fiction)

Simon the Coldheart, by Georgette Heyer (romance)

Firebird, by Mercedes Lackey

MacLeod and de Piaget series, by Lynn Kurland (romance)

Ladyhawke, by Joan D. Vinge

Chronicles of Brother Cadfael, by Ellis Peters

Eifelheim, by Michael Flynn

 

There you go! That should give you enough for a few days. πŸ˜‰ Did I miss something that should be on the list?

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

Favorite Historical Books, #1

I think I’m going to divide my favorite history books into three sections for you: 1) ancient history, 2) medieval and renaissance history, and 3) 1700-and-later. More or less. πŸ˜‰ You know I’m not always very precise…

So here’s the Ancient History Favorites randomly within each category:

Juvenile & Young Adult

Great Myths & Legends, by Childcraft

A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park

Mara, Daughter of the Nile, and The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin

Deborah, by H.B. Moore

Behold Your Queen, by Gladys Malvern

Hercules and Other Tales from Greek Myths, by Olivia E Coolidge

Mark of the Thief series, by Jennifer A Nielsen

Alphabet of Dreams, by Susan Fletcher

Nobody’s Princess series, by Esther M. Friesner

The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare

Adult

The Miracle of Freedom: Seven Tipping Points That Saved the World, by Christ Stewart (crosses time periods) (non-fiction)

Researching History for Fantasy Writers, by Dayle A. Dermatis (non-fiction)

The Whole Armor of God, by David C. Belt (non-fiction)

The Robe, by Douglas C. Lloyd

The Lance of Kanana, by Harry Willard French

The Donkey’s Gift, by Thomas M. Coffey

 

It seems I need some recommendations for good historical fiction in the pre-medieval time period! So, tell me, all you historical readers— what do you recommend? πŸ˜€

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

Sports Stories

Since May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, I thought I’d give you some sports stories I liked. As you can tell, this is not a big category for me…

Diary Queen series, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

The Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen

One-Handed Catch, by Mary Jane Auch

The Secret Journal of Brett Colton, by Kay Lynn Mangum

The Brooklyn Nine, by Alan Gratz

Fight Game, by Kate Wild

Ladies Night, by Jill Tunney

Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand

Shift, by Jennifer Bradbury

Playing With the Boys, by Liz Tigelaar

Keeping Score, by Linda Sue Park

Things Invisible to See, by Nancy Willard

The Infinite Arena, by Terry Carr

Chance for Home, by Tracy Hunter Abramson

Ranee S Clark

Payback Time, by Carl Deuker

That’s it, folks. Play ball!
Marty C. Lee

Favorite Beast-Tales

Let’s start with a definition of beast-tales. They are stories where a main character is an animal (or sometimes a monster). Most of them have the point-of-view of the animal, although occasionally I will cheat on that definition.

The Redwall series is an example of beast tales. Yes, I like Redwall. No, it doesn’t make my list of favorites, mostly because I struggle with the accents too much. The Velveteen Rabbit is a classic example of a beast tale. I like it, too, but not enough for this list. πŸ˜‰

So, in random order, here are some of my favorite beast tales.

Children’s Books

Skippy Jon Jones series, by Judy Schachner

Horton Hatches the Egg, by Dr. Seuss

The Serendipity series, by Stephen Cosgrove

The Saggy Baggy Elephant, and The Tawny Scrawny Lion, by Kathryn Jackson

The Pigeon series, by Mo Willems

Juvenile/Young Adult

One Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith (no, not the Disney version)

The Town Cats and Other Tales, by Lloyd Alexander

The Trumpet of the Swan, and Charlotte’s Web, and Stuart Little, by E.B. White

Man o’ War, by Walter Farley

The Sign of the Cat, by Lynne Jonell

The Underland Chronicles series, by Suzanne Collins (ever so much better than The Hunger Games, in my opinion)

The Unicorn Chronicles series, by Bruce Coville

Dragon of the Lost Sea series, by Laurence Yep

The Cricket in Times Square series, by George Selden

Dragon Keeper series, by Carole Wilkinson

Adult

The Donkey’s Gift, by Thomas M. Coffey

The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford

There you go! It doesn’t look like a long list, but several of them are series, so it should keep you busy for a few days. πŸ™‚ Curl up with your favorite furry friend and read a book about animals.

What’s your favorite beast tale?

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee