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 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.

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. 🙂

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

© 2020 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

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. 😉 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 Epidemic—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

© 2020 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

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. 😉 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. 😉 Did I miss something that should be on the list?

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

© 2020 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

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. 😉 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? 😀

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

© 2020 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Mystery Books

I like mysteries, though I prefer the kind without gore. In fact, my second book is a fantasy/mystery mash-up (but we aren’t talking about that today). Here are some of my favorite mysteries. I’ve sorted them by approximate age group, but otherwise they are in random order.

Juvenile (there’s cross over between here and YA)

Robert Newman’s Case of… series, which has loose ties to Sherlock Holmes (but is better) (I had to buy these second-hand because I was borrowing them too often)

The Case of the Marble Monster, by I.G. Edmonds

Sammy Keyes series, by Wendelin Van Draanen (until the last one)

Brixton Brothers series, by Max Barnett

The Puzzle Book & Mathemagic, Childcraft

The Mysterious Benedict Society series, by Trenton Lee Stewart

Echo Falls series, by Peter Abrahams

The early Box Car Children books, by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Cat Royal series, by Julia Golding

The Happy Hollisters series, by Jerry West

Encyclopedia Brown series, by Donald J. Sobol

A Murder for Her Majesty, by Beth Hilgartner

Young Adult

The Agency series, by Y.S. Lee

Enola Holmes series, by Nancy Springer

The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner

Knight & Rogue series, by Hilari Bell

Montmorency series, by Eleanor Updale

Rhiannon, by Vicki Grove

Too Much Information, by Dale Britton

Blossom Culp series, by Richard Peck

The Golden Goblet, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Trixie Belden series, by Julie Campbell  & Kathryn Kenny (it’s hard to get your hands on the later ones)

Stranje House series, by Kathleen Baldwin

Samurai Detective series, by Dorothy Hoobler

The Star of Kazan, by Eva Ibbotson

Adult

The early Aunt Dimity books, by Nancy Atherton (the late ones aren’t BAD, just a little duller)

Meg Langslow series & Turing Hopper series, by Donna Andrews (who really should finish the Turing series! *hint hint*)

Sherlock Holmes series, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Frank Shaw series, by John D. Brown (I’m afraid I could never finish his fantasies)

The Falconer’s Knot, by Mary Hoffman

Mrs. Pollifax series, by Dorothy Gilman

Sacred Ground, by Mercedes Lackey

The Lady & the Highwayman, by Sarah M. Eden

The Cuckoo’s Egg, by Clifford Stoll (true story)

Mary Russell series, by Laurie King (IMO, the best new Sherlock Holmes series for adults)

This Just In, by Kerry Blair

Brother Cadfael series, by Ellis Peters (also a TV series which isn’t bad)

 

So, did anything look interesting to you? What is your favorite mystery?

Happy sleuthing,
Marty C. Lee

© 2020 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Funny Books

Just for the fun of it, I’m declaring March to be Comedy Month. Well, right here on my website, anyway. So here’s a list of books I found to be amusing. (Some of them have made it on other lists.)

Children’s Comedy

The Skippy-Jon Jones series, by Judy Schachner

Pigeon series, by Mo Willems

Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp Monster, by Mercer Mayer (if you can read it with an accent, it’s a great touch)

Juvenile Comedy

The Great Brain series, by John D. Fitzgerald (based on true stories, no less…)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson

Pippi Longstocking series, by Astrid Lindgren

Ramona series & Henry Huggins series, by Beverly Cleary

The Case of the Mistaken Identity, by Mac Barnett

The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex (so, so much better than the movie)

Teen Comedy (the line between Juvenile & Teen can be iffy, so feel free to pull from both categories)

Goldfish, by Nat Luursema

Chickens in the Headlights, by Matthew Buckley (also based on true stories)

Homer Price series, by Robert McCloskey

Howl’s Moving Castle series, by Diana Wynn Jones

The Girl Who Invented Romance, and Hit the Road, by Caroline B. Cooney

Romeo and Juliet–Together (and Alive!) at Last, by Avi

Janette Rallison

Enthusiasm, by Polly Shulman

Adult Comedy

The List, by Melanie Jacobson

Phule’s Company series, by Robert Asprin (content warning: adult content)

A Night of Blacker Darkness, by Dan Wells

The Donkey’s Gift, by Thomas M. Coffey

And Then You’re Dead: What Really Happens If You Get Swallowed by a Whale, Are Shot from a Cannon, or Go Barreling Over Niagara, by Cody Cassidy

Enchanted, Inc series, by Shanna Swendson

 

What books have made you laugh hard enough to cry?
Marty C. Lee

© 2020 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Other Favorite YA Books

For genres other than fantasy, here are some of my favorite juvenile and young adult books, in random order:

Mysteries or Spies now has its own link here.

Historical now has its own link here.

Contemporary (and recent history) now has its own link here.

I hope you find something to enjoy. Let me know what you liked, and if you have a suggestion for me, tell me in a comment!

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

© 2018 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.

Favorite YA Fantasy Books

Here are juvenile and young adult fantasy books that I really like. Some of them are better classified as beast-tales or science fiction, but I’ll leave them here, anyway, since fantasy is also classified as “speculative fiction.”

Some books cross categories.

Fantasy with Princesses, Dragons, or Magic is now moved to its own post

“Historical” Fantasy is now moved to its own post (some have a trace of magic)

“Contemporary” Fantasy is now moved to its own post

“Contemporary” Science Fiction (not all set in current day, but less intense science) and “Heavier” Science Fiction now have their own post

Now that I’ve updated everything, this post is just for redirection. Go ahead and check out the detailed lists, though. 🙂 Enjoy, and feel free to comment if you found something you liked or if you think I’ve misclassified something. 🙂

Happy reading,
M. C. Lee

© 2018 M. C. Lee LLC. All rights reserved.