Favorite Plotting Books

I know, I already listed my favorite writing books. But I recently went through and sorted my craft books for my own purposes, so I thought maybe it was time to update my list. So here are my favorite writing books that are about (or partly about) plotting and outlining.

First, my absolute favorites.

The Last Fifty Pages: The Art and Craft of Unforgettable Endings, by James Scott Bell. Okay, so it only talks about plotting the END of the book, but it’s a great book for that. I mean, great!

The Heroine’s Journey, by Gail Carriger. I used to really struggle to fit my stories into the Hero’s Journey plot points, and I thought maybe I was just too stupid to figure out. Then I read this book and discovered that I was using the wrong plot structure. I write heroine’s journeys (which can be used for male or female characters). Ta da! Problem solved! If you only write Hero’s Journey stories, don’t worry about this one (though it’s fascinating).

Next, we have a bunch of actual plotting methods.

Building Better Plots, by Robert Kernen

The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life, by Noah Lukeman

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success, by K.M. Weiland.

Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction, by Larry Brooks

Story Pitch: The How To Guide For Using A Pitch To Create Your Story, by Scott King. Create a plot from a 30-second summary.

Plotting Your Novel, by Janice Hardy.

Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between, by James Scott Bell. If you don’t feel like a plotter but think outlining would improve your story or writing speed, try this one. It starts with just three plot points–beginning, middle, and end–and tells you how to write from there.

And then some ways to improve your plotting method, or other “side” information that isn’t necessarily strict structure.

Behind the Book: Making The Death of Dulgath, by Michael J. Sullivan. A glimpse into the mind of a writer as he plots and writes an actual book. (If you haven’t read the book, I suggest doing that first, since this has major spoilers.) I discovered that my plotting PROCESS is pretty similar to Sullivan’s, so this book was a comforting revelation to me.

Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology, by Brandon Sanderson et al. Like Dulgath, this is a glimpse into the process of writing & revision.

The Fantasy Fiction Formula, by Deborah Chester. So many tips on how to make your plot have the effect on readers that you want it to.

GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction, by Debra Dixon. It really helps set up the conflict that will run your plot.

Understanding Conflict and What it Really Means, by Janice Hardy. Like GMC, it helps you make your plot beats more effective, but it works with any plot structure.

The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emotional Power, Develop Achingly Real Characters, Move Your Readers, and Create Riveting Moral Stakes, by Donald Maass. Like Fantasy Fiction Formula and GMC, this can improve the effect of your plot on your readers.

Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew, by Ursula K. LeGuin. How to get structure to work for you.

Pulp Speed for Professional Writers: Business for Breakfast, Volume 9, by Blaze Ward. How to use plotting to increase your writing speed.

The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers, by Matt Bird. General story tips to improve your favorite plotting method.

How to Write Killer Fiction, by Carolyn Wheat

Writing Fiction for Dummies, by Randy Ingermanson

What’s your favorite plotting book or method?

Happy writing,
Marty C. Lee

© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Favorite Contemporary (and Recent History) YA & MG Books

I didn’t really sort these, except that the early-mid 1900’s are near the top and the truly contemporary are near the bottom. 🙂

The Blossom Culp series, by Richard Peck. I think I’ve mentioned this one before, but it also belongs under the historical category, so here’s another shout-out.

The Death-Struck Year, by Makiia Lucier. Although depressingly set in during the Spanish Flu, this is an uplifting story and a fine example of a real YA romance (e.g. no insta-love).

The Silent Bells, by William MacKellar, is a short children’s book about mysteriously silent bells and the Christmas gifts that the town hopes will bring them back to life.

I am David, by Anne Holm. A touching story about a boy who escapes a concentration camp only to discover that not everything on the outside is as nice or easy as he expected.

The War That Saved My Life (series). Despised by her mother for her club foot, the girl makes her escape with her brother and finds a better life in the country.

The House of Sixty Fathers, by Meindert DeJong. Caught in the middle of a war and separated from his family, a young boy finds solace among the enemy.

A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. You might have seen one of the many movie versions, but I’ve never seen one that quite managed to capture the charm of this book.

The Great Brain series. A very smart (and not-very-ethical) boy tricks all his friends, to his younger brother’s dismay. Set in the early 1900’s and based on true stories of the author’s brother.

The Gawgon and the Boy, by Lloyd Alexander. Though his Aunt Annie is terrifying, David learns to love her and the adventures she shares with him.

White Fang, by Jack Landon. A boy and his dog–er, wolf. The story actually follows the canine through his many adventures.

Her Own Song, by Ellen Howard. A touching story of adoption and prejudice and the many people who love one small girl.

Lost Off the Grand Banks, by Arthur Catherall. I don’t know if you can get your hands on this one, but it’s an exciting sea adventure. A temporary cook on a fishing boat ends up helping to save the men of a sunken submarine. It haunted my memory enough that decades later, I found it worth an interlibrary loan.

Where the Red Fern Grows. Another boy-and-his-dogs story. Be prepared to cry. When I was a kid, three of us couldn’t get through a certain chapter because we were all sobbing too hard.

Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. Cheaper by the Dozen series. A funny family drama. The old movie is okay (though the book is better), but the new movie is a total disappointment. Read the books instead!

One Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith (like NIMH, I like the cartoon, but the book is so much better). Someone tried to argue with me that I liked this book because of the old-fashioned language, but they lost. I like the sweet characters and the happy ending.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and I’m-not-crying touching, this is the story of the horrible siblings who terrorized the school and took over the town’s Christmas pageant.

Caroline B. Cooney, Jennifer L. Holm, and Andrew Clements have written lots of great contemporary stories. Seriously, they can keep you busy for weeks (or at least days, if you read like me). No, I’m not going to list them all; that’s what the internet and your librarian are for. I’m just here to tell you they’re all great.

North of Beautiful, by Justina Chen. A girl with a birthmark has to learn what real beauty is.

Sex Education, by Jenny Davis (not what you’re thinking…) When their teacher gives them a service assignment for class, their lives are changed forever. (Seriously, no sex in it at all.)

The Only Alien on the Planet, by Kristen D. Randle. The mystery behind a silent teenager is heartbreaking.

Halfway to the Sky, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Appalachian Trail). When her brother dies, a girl takes to the Trail to deal with her sorrow, only to learn that life is more complicated than she realized.

As always, feel free to leave me suggestions in the comments.

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Favorite Books Read in 2021

In random order, folks, as I always do them.

Science Fiction:

Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir. I do like a nice First Encounter story. 🙂 I’ll admit I skipped some of the science pages, but eh, that’s okay.

Some of the Vorkosigan saga, Lois McMaster Bujold, but some of them crossed lines for me. Consider this a content warning.

Dragonback series, Timothy Zahn. A reread, but I liked it just as much this time around. What if dragons were really aliens that needed humans to keep them alive in a symbiotic relationship?

Fantasy:

Farilane, Michael J. Sullivan. Ignore the publication date; I got it early. 🙂 The MC is smart and funny and kind of crazy… Think: Sherlock Holmes with a smart mouth and a sense of adventure.

Nolyn, Michael J. Sullivan. I really liked the team dynamics.

The Dragon With the Unbearable Family, Stephanie Burgis. Funny and touching.

The Prydain Chronicles. A frequent reread because I love them so much.

Sadly, this wasn’t a great year for fantasy. I gave a lot of 3 stars (which is still good in my system), but the only other ones that got higher from me were my own, and I think that’s rather biased. *cough*

Fantasy Romance:

A Drop of Magic, Liz McCraine. I’d forgotten how much I love Liz’s characters until I picked up this book. Real people with real problems, dumped in a situation they have to deal with, like it or not. And though there’s a drop of magic in this book (tee hee), most of the solution comes from plain old human ingenuity and stubbornness. Actually, the same could be said of the problems, too… Though the book is easy to read because it’s so well-written, it’s not simplistic. Liz is a master.

Scales & Sensibility, Stephanie Burgis. Regency-with-magic-and-dragons and a heroine who finally learns to stand up for herself.

The Dragon’s Revenge, Bethany Wiggins. Okay, I saw the plot twist a long way back, but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the story. 🙂 Gotta love a determined heroine and a kind hero who love each other for more than their pretty faces.

Romance:

Charming Artemis, Sarah M. Eden. The latest (last?) in the Jonquil family saga. Sadder than usual, for a variety of reasons including a forced marriage, but it came out okay in the end.

Forget Me Not, Sarah M. Eden. Arranged marriage, friends to lovers. All about the characters.

The Best-Laid Plans, Sarah M. Eden. *cough* Yes, you sense a theme. What can I say? Sarah is good.

The Hairdresser & the Hero, Jessica Marie Holt. I picked up this ARC because it sounded cute. And it is. But it’s also well-written, with realistic, funny characters and a believable story. Even the secondary characters feel real (and funny). The dialogue is real, motivations are believable (even for the semi-villainous beautician, poor lady), and the romance grows from positive interactions and a dash of attraction. 

An Uncommon Early, Sian Ann Bessey. Not much to the plot, but well-written and touching with nice characters.

To Con a Gentleman, Sarah Adams. When a con goes wrong, two hearts are at risk.

The Duke Meets His Match, Karen Tuft. Enemies to lovers, in a gentler, more social battle.

Otherwise Engaged, Joanna Barker. I thought it had a big plot hole, but the characters were engaging enough to overcome that.

Non-fiction:

Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry. This is the book I wanted the original EI book to be. Instead of just talking about how important EI is, it actually gives ideas for improving your EI skills. Okay, MY skills…

The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, Judith Orloff. I read several “sensitive” books, and this was the only one that actually felt like it had usable strategies.

Dear Ally, How Do You Write a Book? Ally Carter. A lovely writing book for young adults, but the advice in it is solid even for adults.

The Last Fifty Pages, James Scott Bell. I’m adding it to my list of great writing books.

In the Hands of the Lord: The Life of Dallin H. Oaks, by Richard E. Turley Jr. A nice biography.

The Second Coming of the Lord, Gerald N Lund. If the subject is of interest to you, this is a great book.

Other Juvenile:

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, Leslie Connor. A nice about-families book. Though he was raised in a prison with his mother, Perry has solid optimism.

Jungle Night, Sandra Boynton. Okay, so it’s a little kids board book. Cute pics, though, and did you listen to the music?

I read 211 books in 2021, according to Goodreads, so the problem is not that I wasn’t trying. I gave out a LOT of 3-star ratings. Three stars is still very solid, no regrets about reading. But I never buy anything for keepsies unless it hits at least 4 stars, because I have to want to reread it several times. Actually, my book budget is pretty small, so 4 stars is no guarantee, either, just a minimum threshold. 😉

What were your favorite books last year?

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

© 2022 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Favorite YA & MG Historical Books

I’m sure you know by now that I’ve been expanding old posts. So here you go for historical books (without magic or fantasy). I stopped around the end of the 1800’s. Anything later will go in my “Contemporary” recommendations, coming up soon.

In roughly chronological order:

A Single Shard, by Linda Sue Park. Set in ancient Korea, a young boy is apprenticed to a potter, but an important errand to court goes very wrong.

Mara, Daughter of the NIle. Mystery and intrigue swirl in teh court of Egypt, and Mara must choose where she stands.

The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Another Egyptian mystery.

Behold Your Queen, by Gladys Malvern. My favorite version of the Queen Esther story.

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons, by Barbara Cohen. Two brothers each have seven children, but one has all daughters while the other has all sons. When trouble strikes, one of the daughters dresses as a man and travels to another land to seek her family’s fortune. I like the heroine who is strong without being a warrior.

The Bronze Bow, by Elizabeth George Speare. A Roman-Christian era story of revenge and forgiveness.

Alphabet of Dreams, by Susan Fletcher. I read this for the Beehive Awards, and it was one of my very favorites for the year. Set at the time of Christ’s birth, it tells the story of a young girl and her little brother who discover that even as a baby, Jesus could heal their wounds.

Rhiannon, by Vicki Grove. A young girl must help a mysterious shipwrecked stranger regain his lost memories and solve a local murder.

Ann Turnbull writes Quaker stories from the 1600s, where the main characters find love despite religious persecution and cultural expectations.

The Raging Quiet, by Sherryl Jordan, is about a deaf man and the troubled woman who figures out how to communicate with him.

King of the Wind. A small, mute Arab boy is sent with an Arabian horse who becomes the main stud for the American Arabian breed.

Little House on the Prairie series. I realize they aren’t perfect, but I still find them amusing and charming.

Boston Jane, by Jennifer L. Holm. A pioneer girl must choose between her old identity as a society girl or her new persona of a spunky frontier woman.

Charlotte’s Rose, by Ann Edwards Cannon. When the mother dies and the father is grief-stricken, a pioneer girl adopts the infant girl and struggles to keep her alive.

Stealing Freedom, by Elisa Carbone. A young girl seeks freedom through the Underground Railroad.

Under a Painted Sky, by Stacey Lee. Two girls disguise themselves as boys and set off on the cowboy trail, but their troubles merely follow them.

The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge. Thanks to my local librarian to identifying this from my childhood. A young girl moves in with distant relatives and discovers an enchanting house and mysterious horse.

The Anne of Green Gables series, of course. It’s a classic for a reason. Gotta love the spunk in that girl!

Okay, that’s the end of the list. Feel free to leave more recommendations in the comments. 🙂

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

© 2021 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

“Contemporary” Science Fiction

(not all set in current day, but less intense science)

Here are juvenile and young adult “contemporary” sci fi books that I really like.

The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex (SO much better than the movie!). Aliens invade Earth—very badly. Laugh-out-loud funny, but still touching.

The Girl with the Silver Eyes, by Willo Davis Roberts. A girl with a telepathic “birth defect” goes looking for others like her. I like that she still has real-life problems with her babysitter and next-door neighbor.

Pamela F. Service. Yep, just pick up any of them. Some lean toward fantasy (Winter of Magic’s Return) but are still sci-fi-ish. Some are straight sci-fi, like Stinker From Space.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry (but unfortunately not the sequels). Don’t watch the movie… The book is a great illustration of “equal doesn’t mean same,” in a (dys)utopian world.

Alexander Key. My favorites are The Forgotten Door and the Witch Mountain duology. He’s fond of having “fantasy” talents like telepathy come from a sci-fi source.

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory series, by Roald Dahl. Hilarious and fun. Don’t watch ANY of the movies unless you want to hear the songs.

Diane Duane (also in adult Sci Fi). The Young Wizards series are her YA books. Can you learn wizardry from a book? Maybe… Why isn’t this in my fantasy list? Because it feels like sci-fi, especially once they start bouncing around the galaxy.

David Weber’s Tree Cat Wars series. He’s famous for his adult sci-fi, but I like the Stephanie Harrington books. A young colonist discovers her new planet is already occupied by an intelligent species… They just look different. But can she convince the rest of the colony?

This list is a little shorter, so if you have good ideas for me, leave a comment. 🙂

Happy reading,
Marty C Lee

© 2021 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

“Contemporary” Fantasy

Here are juvenile and young adult “contemporary” fantasy books that I really like. Some of them are better classified as beast-tales, but I’ll leave them here, anyway.

Brandon Sanderson (also found in adult fantasy and YA sci fi). Sanderson excels in world-building, magic systems, and good characters. His contemporary YA fantasy is the Alcatraz series. I love how the “bad” talents are actually good ones. The humor is nice, too.

Rick Riordan writes “what if Greek/Roman/Norse/Egyptian mythology was real” books. I’m sure you’ve heard of Percy Jackson, but he goes so much farther than that. As is nearly always the case, the books are better than the movies.

Sarah Rees Brennan’s Demon Lexicon series is a masterpiece of 20/20 hindsight. She leaves all the clues in plain sight, so well camouflaged in the story that you don’t even see them until later. The Lynburn Legacy is also very good. (Content warning for younger readers for both series.)

George Selden. You might have heard of The Cricket in Times Square, but there’s actually a whole series of very cute beast-tales from Selden, starring a cricket, a mouse, and a cat who become friends.

Susan Cooper. The Dark is Rising series is about the last of the Old Ones and the battle against the Dark. It has a movie to go with it (in which they skipped to book two *confused face*), but I’d skip the movie and read the much better books instead.

Gregor series, by Suzanne Collins. I know, she’s much more famous for Hunger Games (which I don’t like), but I prefer Gregor the Overlander. In fact, except for the lame ending, I love the series. Giant bugs and rodents living underground, questionable prophecies, a two-year-old sidekick, and unwilling allies. Great stuff.

Diana Wynne Jones has a ton of really good books. You can pick up any of them for a good read, but my favorite is Dogsbody. A star is betrayed and sent to Earth as a dog for punishment of a crime he didn’t commit. Making friends with a girl is only the start of his journey. (I wish this book had a sequel, but it doesn’t and never will. Sigh.)

Bethany Wiggins’ Shifting is a modern-day shapeshifter book where enemies can be hard to identify and the full moon is only the start of the MC’s trouble.

Shannon Messenger is still working on her massive Keeper of the Lost Cities series. There’s a hidden world on Earth, where elves, ogres, and other races live away from humans. But a genetically-engineered elf, hidden among the humans until recently, is about to turn both worlds on their heads.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Another sweet beast-tale. There’s a series, but the first one is best. I like the movie, but the book is much better. The book doesn’t have the magic that’s in the movie, but the rats are better and the characterization is better. Be prepared, though, because the book is also sadder.

I hope something sounded interesting to you. 🙂

Happy reading,
Marty C Lee

© 2021 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

“Historical” Fantasy Favorites

Here are juvenile and young adult fantasy books that I really like in “historical” fantasy subgenre. Some have a trace of magic. You can read the original post with more recommendations and links here.

Some books cross categories:

Hilari Bell has written several series and a bunch of standalones, and so far, I’ve liked everything. She’s good, I tell you.

Shannon Hale has also written a lot. Some of hers are rewritten fairy tales and some are unique. She can be a little trickier, but give her a shot.

My favorite of Jennifer A. Nielsen’s is the False Prince series. Even though I guessed the twist very, very early, it was still written very well. Basically, the royal family is all killed except for the exiled prince, and now villains want to put a pretender on the throne. The story follows a young man considered to be the best option for their fraud.

I have a complaint about V. Briceland. I don’t think the series is ended, and I want the next one! Preferably soon! Argh. Actually, one of my children called me a while back, asking me to identify a forgotten book for them, and Briceland was the answer. The series has good plots, great characters, and immersive writing. Though the series is connected, the stories are moderately stand-alone and move on to different characters. Setting is similar to a magical medieval Europe.

Mary Hoffman wrote a lovely portal fantasy series. Modern Earth teens get transferred to historical/magical Italy (please don’t yell at me if I forgot a setting).

Megan Whalen Turner’s Thief series is very good if you like slow, complex books with hidden turns, and very frustrating if you don’t. 😉 They’re actually more fun to read the second time, because then you know where the jokes are.

Emily Rodda writes middle grade rather than young adult, but I still like them. Her heroes are rarely the brave and bold kind, but they find their courage to do what is right. The Deltora series also includes puzzles the readers can try to solve themselves.

Elizabeth Winthrop wrote a charming middle grade series about a magical castle in the attic, so I’d call it portal fantasy.

Holly Bennett writes about elves as well as humans, but not in a Tolkien way. She combines romance and adventure and families.

Gerald Morris is always my recommendation for King Arthur stories that are funny and heart-warming and not so much about King Arthur. And up until the last book, they managed to have happy endings, too.

Lloyd Alexander wrote tons of books, and they’re all good. Some are contemporary-ish, and some are portal-ish, but the Prydain Chronicles are firmly in the “historical” camp. I grew up on the series, and I’m still in love with the characters so much. When a reader told me my books “felt” like Alexander, I nearly cried.

The Great and Terrible Quest, by Margaret Lovett (one of my “ought to be a movie” books). Since the main character is only a boy, not even a teen, I suppose it could be considered middle grade, but somehow, it doesn’t seem that way. I read this book out loud to my family, and they all enjoyed it.

John Flanagan has several series set in the Ranger’s Apprentice world, which is clearly based on Earth even though he cleverly disguises the names. His characters are great, and though he could use a few more girls, the girls he does include are strong heroines without being cliches.

The Minnipin series, by Carol Kendall, is charming and funny. The heroes (male and female) save the day because they must, not because they are strong warriors or trained scholars or anything like that. In fact, the first heroes are the outcasts from the village. I love how Carol uses their real strengths to win the day, rather than forcing them into a trope.

The Princess and the Goblin (and Curdie sequel), by George MacDonald. I will admit, the old-fashioned language can be a bit of a barrier, but I love Curdie and Irene.

Silver Woven in My Hair, by Shirley Rousseau Murphy, is a Cinderella retelling with a realistic romance. So there.

The Ordinary Princess, by M.M. Kaye. Simple but sweet, and my favorite romance, even though it’s a children’s book. If you like friends-to-lovers, this is for you.

Crown Duel & Court Duel, and the Wren series, by Sherwood Smith. Crown/Court Duel is enemies-to-lovers, though the romance waits for the second book. Mel is a heroine who doesn’t fight well, doesn’t make the right choices, doesn’t know what she’s doing, but she just won’t give up. Wren is middle grade with another heroine who muddles through everything.

Cameron Dokey writes lovely fairy tale retellings with romance and magic.

Most of Robin McKinley. Some are fairy tales, some are original. She specializes in strong heroines, some who wear armor and swing weapons, and some who don’t.

Gail Carson Levine is funny and magical and romantic and you should definitely read the books instead of watching a certain movie…

Shattered Stone, by Robert Newman. I went to a lot of trouble to buy this book because my library didn’t have it and I wanted it in my house forever. I could spoil the romance for you, but I won’t. This is one of my feel-good favorites.

Bethany Wiggins’ Transference series is a cool take on dragons and an even cooler take on romance. As in, realistic instead of instalove or lameness. She also has very realistic family relationships.

I hope something sounds like fun (or all of them!) and that you get to settle down with a nice book.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

© 2021 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Favorite YA Sci-Fi

I used to have this listed with YA fantasy, but for my new “expanded” lists, I decided to break them out.

“Contemporary” Science Fiction (not all set in current day, but less intense science)

The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex (SO much better than the movie!). Alien invasion meets humor and cross-country road trip to save Mom.

The Girl with the Silver Eyes, by Willo Davis Roberts. Four kids with psychic powers from a prenatal drug find out about each other and conspire to get together.

Pamela F. Service. She also writes very good fantasy, but The Reluctant God is time travel, and Stinker from Space and Weirdos Unite are aliens-come-to-Earth.

The Giver, by Lois Lowry (but unfortunately not the sequels). It’s ever so much better than the movie, too, which changed a few vital elements in not-very-smart ways.

Alexander Key. The Forgotten Door, Witch Mountain (movies are okay, honestly), and more. I bought Forgotten Door when I moved somewhere that had a library that didn’t stock it.

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory series, by Roald Dahl. Not too much science in book 1, but book 2 shoots into space. And yes, the crazy poems are in the book, not just the movie.

“Heavier” Science Fiction

Have Space Suit–Will Travel, by Robert Heinlein (no, I don’t like all his stuff). A teenage boy and a young girl are kidnapped and marooned in space. If they can’t find friends among aliens, they’ll never get home again.

Stephanie Harrington series, by David Weber. No, I haven’t gotten into his other stuff, even the rest of the Harringtons, but I do like the Treecat Wars. I think I’m more of a “friendly alien” type reader than a “space opera” reader.

Devil on My Back series, by Monica Hughes. Post-apocalptic “utopian” (really dystopian, of course), where the hero doesn’t WANT to upend his society but finds out truths he eventually can’t ignore.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. RPG-lit. Here is also where I admit that although I liked the first one a lot, I really, really didn’t like the sequel.

Alan Gratz. Alternate history steampunk where seven unlikely heroes band together to save the day against hideous giants. Probably more middle grade than young adult, but I’ll leave it here, anyway.

Douglas Arthur Hill. Some of his fit better under fantasy, but the ColSec series is sci fi, as are a lot of others. ColSec is humans-crashland-on-alien-world, and the aliens are NOT friendly.

Janet Edwards. I admit, I haven’t read all her stuff yet, because my library won’t stock it, but I really like her Earth Girl series. Post-apocalyptic, where the slow decline of Earth was solved when most humans migrated to other planets. The few that stayed behind because they were allergic to other worlds are considered sub-human, and one of them decides to prank an entire archaeology class. It all goes wrong, of course.

Adrian McKinty’s Lighthouse trilogy is another aliens & humans story, with a disabled main character. (He thinks disabled, but he does more with one arm than most people do with two.)

Sylvia Engdahl (sci fi with a fantasy feel). Enchantress from the Stars has dual POV, one sci fi and one fantasy, and the contrast is super cool. The Far Side of Evil is more sci fi. I like Enchantress better, but Far Side is still good.

A Wrinkle in Time series, by Madeline L’Engle. Classics for a reason. Each book is different (space, time, size, aliens, angels…), but they all talk about the difference one person can make to the world/universe.

Timothy Zahn’s Dragon series. Also sci-fi with the feel of fantasy, and another friendly-aliens story. Okay, it’s a some-friendly some-enemy aliens story… With a touch of mystery and a really cool twist on dragons.

Let me know if you read any of these, and what you thought.

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

© 2021 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

YA Fantasy with Princesses, Dragons, or Magic

Some of my favorite YA fantasies with princesses, dragons, and/or magic, in random order:

Patricia C. Wrede: Lyra Chronicles are unrelated stories set in the same world. My favorite is The Raven Ring, but they’re all good. Frontier Magic is kind of an urban fantasy series, except “urban” is wilderness. Anyway, it’s about twins, the seventh son of a seventh son and his sister, the thirteenth child. Cecilia and Kate is historical fantasy with magic, and so is Mairelon. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles tell of a princess who seeks out a dragon to avoid an unwanted marriage. One of the short stories that goes with the series is called The Frying Pan of Doom, and it’s a hoot. Wrede also has good standalones.

Clare B. Dunkle: The Hollow Sky (sci fi) is good, but The Hollow Kingdom is better. Goblins and elves in new ways, with strong heroines who aren’t necessarily good fighters. To quote the king’s advisor (more or less), “One of your parents saved the kingdom, and sometimes I forget which.”

Michelle Knudsen: Trelian series. What are you supposed to do when you find a dragon egg in the forest? Keep it, of course. But how do you tell your parents?

Jonathan Stroud: Bartimaeus series, about an apprentice who steals a magic amulet, calls a demon, but things don’t go exactly as he planned. If you like the footnotes, check out Terry Pratchett.

Laurence Yep: any of his fantasies are good, but I’m particularly fond of his Dragon Steel series. If you’ve been looking for a good Asian fantasy, start with this classic.

Garth Nix: Abhorsen series. On one side of The Wall is the normal world, with no magic except when there’s a strong breeze from the other side.

Brandon Mull: Fablehaven. Magical creatures in a secret reserve. All is well, until everything goes wrong and the children have to save the day.

Elizabeth Haydon: The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme. Ven is a shipbuilder’s son, and on his first “check out the ship” voyage, he’s kidnapped and lost. He’s a very kind hero.

Jane Yolen (also found in adult fantasy): She has a LOT of books, but I’ll mention The Seelie Wars, in which a hostage faerie prince and a common human reluctantly team up against both sides of the faeries. The Pit Dragon series is kind of a sci-fi/fantasy blend where dragons are perfectly natural creatures who are mostly raised in breeding barns and used in wagered fights like cocks or bears.

Dawn Cook: Truth series. A girl searches for her missing father and discovers she has magic. With a boy from the plains, she must fight an evil sorcerer to win back her father’s magic book. And there are dragons, but they aren’t what you think…

Julie Kagawa: Fey series. A teenage girl discovers her father was really a faerie king, and she has the power to save—or destroy—the fae.

Sheila A. Nielson: Forbidden Sea series. Mermaids! Can a girl save her younger sister from a vengeful mermaid? (First book is trad-published, second is indie.)

Lou Anders: Thrones and Bones series. Elves, giants, and trolls in a setting reminiscent of old Norse.

James M. Ward: Halcyon Blythe. Steampunk with dragons. Halcyon is a sailor on a dragon-frigate. No, the ship doesn’t hunt dragons; the ship IS a dragon.

Elizabeth Kerner: The Tale of Lanen Kaeler. Lanen has dreamed of meeting dragons all her life, so when she gets the chance to go to their island, nothing will stop her.

Andre Norton: Halfblood Chronicles series. Elves rule all the known lands, keeping humans as slaves. But there is a prophecy of a halfblood who can destroy their reign…

Tui T. Sutherland: Wings of Fire. All dragons, all the time. Different races of dragons in different lands, always fighting until five unlikely dragonets become friends.

Jessica Day George: also LOTS of books. Dragon Slippers, in which a girl in need of a job accidentally gains the one thing that allows her to control dragons. The Rose Legacy, where horses are forbidden and so is magic, but both are returning. Castle Glower, where the royal castle rearranges its rooms on a regular basis and one young princess holds the key to defeating the enemy. The Princesses of Westfalin, where each new book is a different retold fairytale about another sister in the royal family.

C.S. Lewis: Narnia, which is accessed through a few magical gates that throw unsuspecting Earthlings into a land with talking animals and satyrs and magic.

Pamela F. Service: Winter of Magic’s Return duology. Many years in the future, after an apocalypse, Merlin returns, but can he find his magic in the new world?

Tamora Pierce: Tortall series (plural). Strong heroines and honorable heroes, warriors and gods, magic and monsters. For a cleaner standard, skip the first series, which has a “relationship” (undescribed) and some accidental nudity.

Knee-Deep in Thunder, by Sheila Moon: a boy finds himself in a world where insects are his size and monsters roam free. In order to get home again, he must help the animals defeat the monsters.

Liz McCraine (indie): her Kingdom of Aggadorn series has magic, the occasional princess, and unicorns. The series is lightly connected, but you can start anywhere. I love her characters, her realistic (and clean) romances, and that there is always a main plot besides the romance.

Laura M. Drake (indie): Unexpected Magic. If you like Harry Potter and The Last Airbender, then you might like this elemental-magic academy series.

Lloyd Alexander: Chronicles of Prydain. A pig-keeper’s apprentice gets tangled in dangerous matters when he accidentally rescues a prince from a dark lord. With an odd assortment of companions, including a princess, a dwarf, a bard, and a whatever-he-is, his quest to find himself will change the kingdom. I thought it was a great compliment when people told me my books “felt” like Prydain, because I love the series.

M.L. Farb (indie): King series. When a silent revolutionary and a spoiled princeling meet, the kingdom will change forever. I’m not really happy with the romance of book 2, but the characters and the writing are as good as book 1.

Robin McKinley: The Hero and the Crown. Aerin is the daughter of the king and a witch. Now dragons are stalking the land, and she is the only one who can fight them. While I would classify Aerin as a strong heroine, it’s her honesty, her determination, and her desire to protect her land that make her the hero.

And if you’ll forgive the self-promo, I’ll mention my own series, Unexpected Heroes. The first book is Wind of Choice: When their world is threatened by feuding gods, four strangers bury their differences and forge an alliance. Only the combined talents of a winged young man, a gilled islander, a shapeshifter, and a fire mage can prevent utter destruction. Each book switches to a new main character and adds a different secondary genre (mystery in book 2, romance in 3, spies & conspiracies in 4). If you want to visit the world first, Unexpected Tales is a free collection of short stories.

Enjoy, and feel free to comment if you found something you liked.

Marty C. Lee

© 2021 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

If you missed any of the blog posts in this tour, you can catch up here:

March 1, 8, 14, 21, 28 Storyquest Academy
March 2nd Ellie Naomi
March 3, 17 Julie Gilbert
March 4th Jasmine Natasha
March 5th Liz Delton
March 6, 11, 26 Mark Hansen
March 7th Ian Vroon
March 9, 19, 30 Nicholas Kotar
March 10th J.M. Hackman
March 12, 20 Courtney Kasper
March 13, 29 Debbie Schreffler
March 15th Steven Guglich
March 16th Laurie Lucking
March 18th Meg Dendler
March 22, 25, 31 Molly Casperson
March 23rd D.J. Edwardson
March 24th Marty C Lee (here!)
March 27th Allison Tebo

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. 😉

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

© 2021 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.