“Let your boys test their wings. They may not be eagles, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t soar free.”
–Byways Book 1: On Your Marks by C. J. Milbrandt
Some of my favorite fantasy reads. A lot of these writers have heavily influenced my ideas of what a good book should be. Imaginative folklore and compelling villains. Worlds that unfold as beautifully as if they’re characters instead of places. Heroes and heroines who believe in themselves and put their talents to good use. Friendships that melt your heart, and humor that keeps you coming back when you need a good laugh.
Question of the Day: What are your favorite fantasy books to recommend to friends?
Valentines Day is all about the love, so in celebration I am sharing a list of stuff I L-O-V-E. Because it’s impossible for me to just pick favorites without narrowing down the criteria, there are some qualifying categories.
I’ll Always L-O-V-E You
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
In the Land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.
I have read this beat-up old paperback of Howl’s Moving Castle dozens upon dozens of times. The magic still captivates me. The characters make me laugh. I fall in love with selfish, heartless Howl, root for headstrong Sophie to discover where she belongs in the world while making and cleaning up messes, and search for the clues and hints that lead up to my favorite discoveries nearer The End. For me, Diana Wynne Jones’s storytelling became an example of what a real story should be like. Vivid, wild (to the point of almost seeming out-of-control), dry but humorous, and intelligent to the last line. Yes, there is a movie. A very beautiful movie. I love the movie. But I love the book even better.
I L-O-V-E to Laugh
Kung Fu Panda from Dreamworks
Legend tells of a legendary warrior whose kung fu skills were the stuff of legend.
As many times as I have read Howl’s Moving Castle, I have watched Kung Fu Panda. Sit me down in front of the screen and I can probably quote my way through the entire thing. The writing is smart, the jokes are hilarious, Po is the most relatable, lovable, adorable character in the universe. The positive messages don’t overpower the storytelling, but leave you with some very empowering nuggets of truth, like, 1. don’t quit on yourself, 2. there are no accidents, and 3. we do not wash our pits in the Pool of Sacred Tears.
I can very often tell how much a person loves another person by the way they say their name. I think that’s one of the best feelings in the world, when you know your name is safe in another person’s mouth. When you know they’ll never shout it out like a cuss word, but say it or whisper it like a once-upon-a-time.
Natalie Lloyd has quickly climbed to Favorite Author status for me since two summers ago, when I picked up a copy of A Snicker of Magic. The following books have only reinforced how much I love the detailed, awe-struck writing style of this lovely lady. If you’re looking for storytelling that has heart and humor, delicious treats, Tennessee mountain charm, strong and loving characters, music and dancing, and maybe a little magic, I’d highly recommend any of her books in a heartbeat.
L-O-V-E to Luv
Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir from Zagtoon & Method Animation
Sometimes, your heart tells you one thing, but a great superhero always listens to her head.
Miraculous Ladybug reminds me of everything I loved about watching TV as a kid, except better. With a diverse and lovable cast, dynamic action scenes, inventive villains who wear the most amazing costumes I’ve ever seen, and a climbing sense of mystery, I’m completely hooked on this show. Plus, I am shipping Marionette and Adrian SO hard. Where is Season 2, Netflix?
L-O-V-E to Hate
Star Vs. The Forces of Evil from Disney XD
Do you think I’m like Ludo? I don’t want your wand. I want to destroy it.
Star Vs. drives me a little crazy sometimes… but when it comes to the Forces of Evil part of the show, I’m completely sold. It’s been a long time since I was truly afraid of a baddie, but Toffee legitimately scares me. Yep, behind that dapper and polished exterior there is a calculating, coldblooded creature. Who would have guessed? Now, if we could just find out what the guy’s after…
*I’m speeding to catch up to the most recent episodes, so no spoilers please!
L-O-V-E That Guy
Galleries of Stone Trilogy by C. J. Milbrandt
This person was the embodiment of all the stories he’d ever heard about this race of foreign conquerors—skin like bronze, draped in jewels, and armed to the teeth.
I have a fondness for the side characters and supporting cast members of many stories, but Aurelius Harrow truly does steal the show right from his first entrance. On the outside, he seems snobbish and elitist, but don’t let looks fool you. The Pred are known for being violent and vicious for a reason, and Aurelius is no exception. This tantalizing blend of beauty, sass, and danger earned him a special place in my heart and is very possibly the biggest reason I keep coming back to re-read the series.
I L-O-V-E to Collect
Sarah’s Scribbles by Sarah Andersen
Sarah Andersen shines lighthearted humor on everyday experiences, creating a comic that seems to celebrate all the little things that can make us happy, or drive us crazy. It encourages me so much to see her succeed by being honest and original. I’m an avid follower of her work and the proud owner of two books plus a shiny new 2018 wall calendar.
orphans, runaways, detectives, conspiracies, dark magic
Victorian and/or Steampunk, Mystery, Treasure Hunt
The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann, Professor Layton and the Curious Village from Nintendo, Stardust from Paramount Pictures, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (television series from Netflix), The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box from Entertainment Motion Pictures.
Can you feel the L-O-V-E? Are any of my favorites yours, too? Got any recommendations based on my list? Let me know!
It’s not a good story until you’ve introduced the dragon. Or dragons. Here are a few recently devoured books that have a dragon on the cover. Recognize any of them?
Question of the Day: What dragon-centric stories would you recommend?
I may not have completed my Goodreads goal of 50 titles this year, but I did a decent job with just under 35 books, mostly from the Middle Grade shelf. I won’t bore you with copy/pasted summaries of every book I read (you can hit up my Reading Challenge page for that if you like, though) but I will share some of my highlights.
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
“For a Hero cannot triumph all the time. Sometimes he will be defeated, and how he faces that defeat is a test of his character.”
I finally completed the How to Train Your Dragon series this year. What starts out as a short and silly lower Middle Grade series quickly becomes a fast-paced adventure with a hero who can’t seem to do anything right, a naughty little dragon, and a tribe of Hooligans that will keep even the most reluctant reader turning pages eagerly. My favorite detail is the abundance of illustrations that decorate nearly every page. They’re informal, sketchy, and perfect for setting off a child’s imagination. Just be prepared for a little dragon dung humor in the first couple of books.
“They say that to live in the Wilds, you have to be half-wild yourself. Or at least very brave. And Zane is both.”
—Byways Book 6: Into the Hills by C. J. Milbrandt
I have a weakness for books with pretty covers. And books with pretty illustrations. The Byways Books have really cool illustrations of some of the details from the story scattered inside. My favorites are ones with magical creatures or cute animals inside. That’s probably why Book 6 is my favorite (so far)!
What book is currently your favorite for the illustrations alone?
Of all the Meadowsweet siblings, Tupper was the hardest to describe. He fit in well enough with his looks, for he bore a strong resemblance to their father; however, his personality had always been rather vague. Although no one would have gone so far as to call him weak, Tupper didn’t seem to have any strengths.
—Harrow by C. J. Milbrandt
Cooling weather always has me reaching for old favorites. Favorite pair of slipper socks. Favorite blends of tea. Favorite blankets. And best of all, favorite books! C. J. Milbrandt’s Galleries of Stone trilogy is a cozy combination of fantasy and slice of life that I find perfectly suited for an autumnal afternoon.
What’s your favorite autumn re-read?