Historical Mysteries Guest Post

I thought it would be fun to have some guest writers on my blog, so I asked a couple of other authors to write me some “favorite books” posts. I know I write fantasy, but I READ a lot of different things, and my first guest is a mystery writer.

Carol Malone writes historical mysteries, frequently with a sports tie-in and a romantic subplot. And here she is to tell us how she got started. πŸ™‚

***

Why I love historical mysteries.

By Carol Malone

I found a copy of Agatha Christie’s “Black Coffee,” written in 1929, at a used bookstore. I was a mystery fan and a wannabe mystery writer and wanted to study the way a master mystery writer tells a story. So, for a buck, I delved into the fascinating world of the little Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, the curious man with the egg-shaped head and the passion— no, more like obsession—with order. Can you say Obsessive Compulsive?

He liked to mention that he used his “little grey cells” to solve mysteries so complex the reader just scratches his/her head and stares wide-eyed as the intrepid little man solves the crime with aplomb.

The story of “Black Coffee,” is a tale about a scientist in the 30s England who has discovered the formula for a massive weapon to kill hundreds of thousands of people. He contacted Detective Poirot with the suspicion that someone in his family wanted to steal his formula. He needed Poirot to hand-carry it to the English version of the Defense Department. But before Poirot arrived with his trusty detecting sidekick, Hastings, the scientist was dispatched.

Little clues were dropped, and the reader is led to believe he/she knows “who-done-it” while being entertained along the way.

The reader follows the little detective with surprise and delight as he charges through his lines of questioning, and the positioning of the suspects, making the reader believe they have solved the crime before Poirot does.

I will not give away anymore of the plot or the list of suspects, but will say this is a short novel, easy to read and understand, but one that will keep the reader on his/her toes until the very end. There were so many false leads and red herrings to keep anyone entertained and fulling involved in the story. Agatha Christie can make anyone fall in love with the genre and cement the reading of mysteries a part of their browsing obsession.

Solving the crime and understanding the intricacies of the mystery is why I love this genre. Even in differing eras of time, Mrs. Christie offers the ability to the reader to act as a silent partner in the world of detecting. She puts you into the character of Poirot to feed some need in a reader’s life.

Our lives are a mystery to be discovered with systematic thoroughness as we live each day not knowing when the next β€œsurprise” will hit us, and we’ll be left figuring out the way to proceed. We all hope we’ll be the detective and not the murderer in our own little adaptation of “Black Coffee.”

Of course, there is the revelation of what makes some people resort to murder and the slap-in-the-face discovery of the sordidness of some human nature as the major stimulant. Christie offers the reader a puzzle of the mind and at the end, the reader can’t help but feel gratified when the plot twists engages and surprise us and eventually, the mystery of the puzzle is solved. I can’t help but feel like I’ve discovered something marvelous at the end of such a book, like I’ve solved a stimulating secret. It’s a heady experience.

All of these are the things that make up historical mysteries are why I adore them so much. I can only hope to do half as well with the mysteries that I produce. I do love me a good whodunit mystery.

***

And that, folks, is Carol Malone, lover of Agatha Christie and other good historical mysteries, and writer in the same genre. But Christie didn’t write much romance, sad to say, and Carol likes to include some in most of her books. Don’t worry—she won’t embarrass you. All her romance is safe-for-work.

If you want to read one of her historical stories, she has a free one available for joining her newsletter. No pressure, honestly.
https://mybookcave.com/direct/ae4a0751/
Or if you want one of her mysteries, they’re available where ebooks are sold.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

Why Should You Read My Book Lists?

I’ll be honest–I think I’ve gone through every category in my Goodreads and given you my favorites. I’ll still post a “favorite books this year” every year, but what else would like from my book review posts? Or should I stop doing them (except the yearly review) and just do writing posts?

While you’re thinking about that, here’s a summary of what sort of books I tend to read, and how I tend to rate books. You know, if you want to know if I like the same things you do. πŸ˜‰

As of the middle of July, 2022:

2.97 avg stars. Yes, I’m a harsh grader. I don’t actually have very many 1 stars, relatively speaking, but I do give a lot of 2 & 3 star ratings. On the other hand, I consider a 3-star book to be perfectly acceptable. I probably won’t reread it, but I don’t consider it a waste of my time. Two stars were a waste, and one stars get angry rants. Four stars means I really liked it and would reread happily, and five stars means I’m probably going to buy it.

Numbers are rounded. Some categories cross fiction/non-fic lines, but I’ve done my best to sort them by the most common occurrences.

Audience:
children β€Ž(500)
juv-ya β€Ž(4000)
adult β€Ž(4000)

Fiction Genres:
action-adventure β€Ž(400)
beast-tales β€Ž(400)
comedy β€Ž(200)
comics β€Ž(100)
family-child β€Ž(600)
fantasy β€Ž(3000)
fiction β€Ž(2000)
historical-1700s β€Ž(100)
historical-1800s β€Ž(500)
historical-1900s β€Ž(400)
historical-ancient β€Ž(100)
historical-medieval-renaissance β€Ž(300)
historical-pioneer-oldwest β€Ž(100)
historical-regency β€Ž(300)
historical-roman-circa β€Ž(100)
horror β€Ž(100)
mystery-puzzles β€Ž(800)
picture-bk β€Ž(300)
poetry-theatre β€Ž(50)
romance β€Ž(1000)
sci-fi β€Ž(1000)
short-stories β€Ž(500)
sports β€Ž(50)
steampunk-gaslamp-flintlock β€Ž(200)

Non-fiction Genres:
biography β€Ž(200)
business β€Ž(100)
camp-hike β€Ž(20)
cognition β€Ž(100)
comedy (200)
cooking β€Ž(50)
craft-sewing β€Ž(10)
education-homeschool β€Ž(50)
family-child β€Ž(600)
finance-economy β€Ž(50)
health β€Ž(100)
various historicals (see #s under fiction)
home-garden β€Ž(60)
literary-linguistic β€Ž(50)
parenting β€Ž(100)
personality-behavr β€Ž(200)
philosophy-psych β€Ž(100)
politics-law β€Ž(50)
preparedness β€Ž(20)
religious β€Ž(400)
science-math β€Ž(100)
social-relationship β€Ž(200)
travel β€Ž(20)
writing β€Ž(20)
writing-business β€Ž(100)
writing-character β€Ž(50)
writing-conflict β€Ž(10)
writing-description-prose β€Ž(20)
writing-dialogue β€Ž(10)
writing-editing β€Ž(10)
writing-emotion β€Ž(10)
writing-plot-structure β€Ž(50)
writing-productivity β€Ž(50)
writing-research β€Ž(10)
writing-worldbuilding β€Ž(10)

Yes, I read a lot of different things. Always have.

Happy reading,
Marty C. Lee

P.S. Remember to comment to say what you want from future posts!

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

Favorite Writing-Business & Productivity Books

In random order:

Successful Self-Publishing: How to self-publish and market your book in ebook and print, by Joanna Penn

Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should (Let’s Get Digital, #1), by David Gaughran

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. How to Publish a Book, by Guy Kawasaki

Become a Successful Indie Author: Work Toward Your Writing Dream, by Craig Martelle

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published, by Sheree Bykofsky

Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts, by Joanna Penn

Author 2.0 Blueprint, by Joanna Penn

Pulp Speed for Professional Writers: Business for Breakfast, Volume 9, by Blaze Ward

The Secrets of Success, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (it’s a single chapter/booklet, but a lot to ponder)

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, by Mark Coker

HOW I SOLD 80,000 BOOKS: Book Marketing for Authors, by Alinka Rutkowsky

Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook, by Helen Sedwick

You Must Write: Success Through Heinlein’s Rules, by Kevin McLaughlin. No, I don’t believe everything he says, but I did pick up some useful things.

Dear Writer, You Need to Quit, by Becca Syme. I’ve become a big fan of the Write Better-Faster community.

Happy writing,
Marty C. Lee

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

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

Β© 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. πŸ™‚

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

Β© 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ˜‰

What were your favorite books last year?

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

Β© 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. πŸ™‚

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

Β© 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. πŸ™‚

Happy reading,
Marty C Lee

Β© 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. πŸ™‚

Happy reading,
Marty C Lee

Β© 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. πŸ˜‰ 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

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