In the past year, I’ve been making an effort to bulk up my library of self-published books. Despite the fact that ~700,000 indie books are published each year, they can be tricky to find, since they don’t get the same press as traditionally published books.

I thought I would share a few self-published books with you (as well as where I found them), so you can sample the indie world too.

1) The Afterlife of Alyx and Israel (Hanna Peach)

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Back cover:

Her only hope is a man she doesn’t remember…

In their new mortal lives, Alyx & Israel don’t remember anything about their supernatural past or each other.

When Alyx becomes trapped in a coma deep within a DreamScape maze city, the only one who can help her escape is Israel. They need to find a mysterious Mapmaker and solve his riddle. But is this Mapmaker hiding something?

Review:

The Afterlife is probably the best self-published book I’ve read this year. Professionalism oozes from its cover (with its mystical blues and glowing yellows), and the text does not disappoint. The writing is clean, with a few charming sentences sprinkled throughout. The characters are engaging. The world is imaginative. And the plot is suspenseful. While I can’t say that this book was particularly profound, it was a fun, smooth read!

How I found this book:

As a freelance writer, I am sometimes asked to provide paid Amazon reviews of books. This was one of those cases.

2) When We Go Missing (Kristen Twardowski)

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Back cover:

Once, Alex Gardinier was a successful physical therapist and a happy wife. Now she is trapped in a crumbling hospital room. Seven years ago Alex’s ex-husband, Nathan, was convicted of murdering five girls, and he has been rotting in prison ever since. Except the doctors say that Nathan isn’t in prison. In fact, they don’t believe that he is a criminal at all. According to them, Nathan is a devoted husband who visits her every week. But Alex can’t recall ever seeing him at the hospital, and the last time they met he was holding her hostage on a boat.

Maybe the doctors are right – maybe these memories of his crimes are her own personal delusions – but if they are wrong, then Nathan somehow escaped from prison. If they are wrong, he has trapped Alex in a psychiatric ward.

If they are wrong, he is hunting her sister.

Review:

I was impressed by the plot of When We Go Missing–couldn’t put the book down! Twardowski has created a web of interesting characters, many of them being women who rise from domestic roles to pull off heroic stunts. I was heartened by this version of the “strong woman” because, unlike the girl cops and sexy assassins that so often get labelled as “strong women,” Twardowski’s characters derive their strength from their feminine qualities (their compassion, maternal instincts, emotional intelligence)–not just from stepping into a typically male role.

How I found this book:

Kristen Twardowski maintains one of the most informative writing blogs I know of, so naturally, I was pumped to read her book!

3) Rooted (Deena Byrne)

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Back cover:

Leah Fox is distraught. She had to leave Bosch due to a family emergency, and her timing couldn’t have been worse. The events at the BAC ceremony left a lot of unanswered questions hanging in the air – is Adaeze really that evil? Is Leah really the ‘key portie?’ If so, then why did King Aves and Idalyka save her life? Meanwhile, the lenosphere is thinning by the day and creatures are growing desperate. Abyss use has skyrocketed, since everyone is desperate for an escape from the tension. The witch wants to send Leah back to Bosch to fulfil her spell, but what if that very return leads to Leah’s death?

Review:

Rooted is the third book in a series stuffed with subplots, so it’s not one you can jump into without having read its predecessors (Raindropt and Riffed). Although the writing style leaves a bit wanting, the wacky characters and fast-paced plot will take your imagination on a roller coaster ride. Rooted can also be seen as a relevant allegory for our time, addressing issues like immigration, racial intolerance, and drug addiction. Byrne’s stories always stay with me for a day or two after I finish reading (probably because she’s the queen of cliffhangers!)

How I found this book:

Deena hired me as a freelance editor for her series.

4) Mushroom in the Sand (Farsheed Ferdowsi)

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Back cover:

An Iranian-born physicist living the American dream, Dr. Ross Shaheen is at the top of his game. Between his internationally-recognized nuclear weapons research career at the prestigious Berkeley Lab and his picture-perfect family in the San Francisco suburbs, it’s a good life that can only get better – until he is lured into lecturing before an elite group of scientists in his home country.

Review:

Mushroom in the Sand reads like a traditionally published book. It’s clean, well-paced, and has just the right amount of subplots. It’s also interesting from a cultural perspective. Not only are the events in the book well researched, the fictional elements draw heavily from the author’s personal experience as an Iranian immigrant. There is a certain depth to the protagonist’s emotions about his homeland that stays with you after you close the book.

How I found this book:

Farsheed is a friend of mine, one of the smartest people I know.

5) Jalan Jalan (Mike Stoner)

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Back of the book:

“What sort of idiot takes a job after a five minute phone interview, in a country he knows nothing much about and on the other side of the world, in a school he’s never heard of?”

Newbie is on the run. From England. From the past. From memories of his dead girlfriend, Laura. Indonesia is as good a place as any to reinvent himself—cheap beer, exotic landscapes, a beautiful Indonesian girlfriend, and a bunch of misfit mates all masquerading as English teachers.

Jalan Jalan. “Just walking. Out for a stroll.” It’s a local phrase that sums up Newbie’s quest for emotional detachment, to block out the pain of the past. But Laura won’t leave him alone—her ghost haunts him, her voice fills his head, her gaze follows him everywhere. It will take a breakdown and an exorcism at the hands of an Indonesian shaman to make Newbie realize that the events of the past might not always be what they seem…

Review:

Jalan Jalan is full of beautiful, exotic imagery, and the characterization is spot on. However, for me, the story was a bit hard to follow. Most of the action takes place in the narrator’s stream of consciousness, which can be disorienting as a reader. Then again, perhaps disorientation is exactly what Stone was going for.

How I found this book:

The Guardian runs a monthly competition for self-published books. Jalan Jalan won first place in December 2014.


Have you read any good self-published books lately? Feel free to share!

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2 thoughts on “5 Self-published Books I’ve Read This Year

  1. I am co-authoring a Children’s book with a friend of mine. It is being self published, we are very excited about it!
    I wrote a blog post this week giving a little peek at the characters. The post is called “Sweet Dreams”.
    Thank you for the reviews of these 5 books, always looking for more books to read!

    Liked by 1 person

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