A quick review of five great indie novels that caught our eye this September.
What Caught Rose’s Eye
The Law of Capture, by Joe Totten. Edward Valentine sets out to make his fortune in the Wild West, sometime in the 1800s. This book is gripping, well-researched, and written in a dry, almost deadpan style. The hero, Valentine, is more or less a ‘fixer’, someone employed by the rudimentary powers that be to go and settle the accounts of troublesome characters. He’s not a cruel or violent man, but the life he chooses to lead results in alienation from family and friends. In parallel, Totten writes from the perspective of other characters whose lives interact with Valentine: his wife, a prostitute, his victims and acquaintances. They include an indigenous man of the Osage, Stares at the Sky, who witnesses the subjugation of his people and of the West. So altogether, it’s not a light read. The novel is thoughtful without being preachy or playing overtly to modern sensibilities, and beautifully written. Check it out here.
This Day is Ours, by Gretchen Jeanette. Don’t judge this by the swooning couple on the cover (or do, if you like that kind of thing). It’s romance, but a cut above. Alexandra Pennington, a woman of mettle and intelligence, falls for the down-to-earth, borderline illiterate but witty Jack Flash. She’s a British loyalist, he’s an American rebel, and it’s the American War of Independence. As romances go, the writing and character development are excellent, and as historical fiction goes, it’s engaging, realistic and feels true to the time (not that I can judge, since I’ve read very little about this period). The description of the War of Independence from the perspective of those who fought on both sides of it, and from civilians who endured occupations, riots and privations, was captivating. Check it out here.
The Life of Death, by Lucy Booth. Now, technically, this book has a publisher, so it’s not indie. But I include it because the publisher is Unbound – the world’s first crowd-funded publisher (which I thought might interest any indies reading this – it does me). The novel’s about a girl who’s about to be burned as a witch in 16th century England, when Satan makes her a proposition. Lizzy can live forever, if she’ll agree to act as ‘death’, ushering people to the next world through the centuries, in the form of the woman most important in their lives. She accepts the proposal, and throws herself wholeheartedly into her work, until one day she falls in love, and wants to rescind the deal. Of course, deals with Satan are never that simple (apparently). It’s well written, reflective, philosophical, and kept me turning the pages to see if Lizzy (Little D) finally manages to live happily ever after. As for the publisher, Unbound works with some major authors but it’s also willing to entertain pitches from unknowns. If readers – and the publishers – like your idea, they’ll support you in publishing it. More about Unbound here, and about The Life of Death here.
What Caught Pete’s Eye
Tales from the Society for the Preservation of Preposterous Absurdity, by Shane Darke – whimsical tales of the efforts needed to keep the universe from turning inside out. Many of us are unaware that it was actually destroyed – oh well – but then restored just as it used to be, except for being one centimeter to the left. Which explains a lot. Check it out here.
Unreliable Histories: A Tale of Cartography, Magic and Other Perils, by Rob Gregson. Engagingly urbane in manner, neatly plotted, sympathetic characters. Reminiscent in some ways of Terry Pratchett, but certainly not a mere imitation. And who doesn’t like maps of places that don’t exist, and the fictional people who push out their edges? Check it out here.
And now for the honorable mentions: a quick review (by Rose) of some personal recommendations from friends and readers…
Blue Moon Investigations by Steve Higgs. It’s a series about a paranormal investigator who doesn’t believe in the paranormal (and who’s absolutely right not to). The characters are unusual (they include a cross-dressing guy with a split personality) and the situations intrinsically comic. Like the woman who turns up terrified she’s about to become a vampire, since she’s just been bitten by one. Turns out he’s just a fake at the local goth nightclub – much to her disappointment. For me, the novels were amusing, but could be improved by more use of suspense – you basically know the solution to the mystery very early on in the stories, and so the only thing that remains is to nab the perpetrator. Check it out here
The Hilcrest Witch mystery series, by Amorette Anderson. This series is ‘cozy’ – a term meaning basically ‘you won’t find any thrusting loins and blood-spattered corpses here’. The main character endearingly investigates crime (in her village) with the aid of a book of spells which her makeshift coven (more of a knitting group really) is painstakingly working through. It’s sweet, well put together and quite well written, but I cottoned on to the wrongdoer very early on, so the element of mystery was a bit weak, in my view. Check it out here.
If you’re an indie author in search of an editor, I’d like to recommend Jane Ballard of Editing Ink, She’s just building up her business and so (at present) sometimes takes on clients for free: in any case her fees are very reasonable. (And she’s not paying me to say that. Just so’s you know.) Check out her website here.
And if you’ve read any great novels by indie authors recently, tell me about it! (Even if it’ yours. But be aware – if I don’t enjoy it, for whatever reason, I won’t review it.)