For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday
June 5: Books I Decided to DNF (did not finish) too Quickly (are you questioning your DNF choices on any books? If you have a policy to not DNF, put a spin on the topic to make it fit you.)
This week’s topic didn’t really speak to me. It’s rare that I don’t finish a book.
But I decided to use the opportunity to look at some great indie reads this week. Ebooks have really helped to allow indie authors to connect with readers in a way they never have before. But there are a lot of misperceptions about independent publishing and authors. A lot of people seem to think that only the reason an author would publish a book him/herself is that s/he isn’t good enough to land a traditional publishing deal. While this may be true in some cases, it’s not the most common reason. A lot of writers don’t want to deal with the long process of querying agents and submitting manuscripts for possibly years. Others want creative control of both the process and the product. Still, others have difficulty finding a traditional publishing deal, not because of the quality of their work but simply because they’re writing about a subject or in a way that the market doesn’t have a lot of interest in at the moment. But whatever the reason a lot of writers are going indie and there are some really good indie books out there. Not all the books on this list are great literature, but they’re fun reads and highlighting them can help get them some well-deserved attention.
1. The Pirate Captain by Kerry Lynne- Catherine MacKenzie escapes Britain after several desperate years of living hand to mouth under the radar. Her husband was a Jacobite leader and following the defeat at Culloden, she’s a wanted woman. She stows away on a ship bound for the West Indies, but when a kidnapping goes wrong, Cate finds herself on board the Ciara Morganse, under the protection (as it were) of Captain Nathaniel Blackthorne, a pirate with a mysterious past and a vengeful mission. Sparks fly between Cate and Nathaniel but their respective pasts might keep them from having a future. Yes, it often reads a bit like Pirates of the Carribean meets Outlander. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a lot of fun. It’s the first of three (so far) books. I haven’t read the others yet but they’re on my TBR. Also part of the series: Nor Gold (book 2) and Treasured Treasures (book 3)
2. Exit Unicorns by Cindy Brandner– In 1968 Belfast, Jamie Kirkpatrick is a wealthy industrialist with a tragic past. He’s just lost his father. Meanwhile, Casey O’Riordan is somehow involved with the IRA and has just been released from prison after five years. Pamela O’Flaherty is an American who has traveled to Ireland to find the man that she fell in love with as a child. The lives and fates of these characters intersect as Ireland teeters on the brink of revolution. I didn’t know much about the situation there before I read the book and let me just say that it’s complicated. I appreciated that in spite of the sometimes gritty realism, the characters were still tied into the magic and myth of Ireland’s past. Also part of the series: Mermaid In A Bowl of Tears (book 2), Flights of Angels (book 3), In the Country of Shadows (book 4), Spindrift (short stories involving the characters; can be read as a standalone), Bare Knuckle (prequel novella)
3. Dark Desires by Eve Silver– Darcie is alone, homeless and hungry. Her desperate situation leads her to a position as a maid in Dr. Damien Cole’s household. But her artistic ability means that Dr. Cole uses her as an assistant who can help him record his work (this is before photography). She and Damien begin to develop feelings for one another. But someone is murdering prostitutes, and taking their body parts. Often Damien will ask Darcie to sketch those same body parts not long after a body is found… So is Damien the killer? I forgot what made me pick this up initially, but I kept reading it until it was done because I wanted to know more about the characters. The whodunnit aspect didn’t interest me as much as who didn’t do it. It’s very much a gothic romance that indulges in all the common tropes without apology. This is the first in a series, though each novel is more or less a stand-alone. They’re united thematically as gothic romances. Also in the series: His Dark Kiss, Dark Prince, His Wicked Sins, Seduced By A Stranger, and Dark Embrace.
4. The Wayfarer by Jennifer L Hayes– The first in a trilogy, this introduces us to Emma Clayton, whose life is pretty predictable, until an electrical storm sends her to Victorian England. Emma is pretty desperate to make it back home, but when she meets Lord Henry Drake she develops a fondness for the nobleman that eventually becomes love. The only problem is that Emma knows from historical records that Henry is going to die very soon unless she can somehow stop it. I love a good time travel romance, but indie publishing is full of bad time travel romances! Every once in a while a good one sneaks in though. If you’re looking for something on par with Outlander, look elsewhere. This is about 250 pages and doesn’t have the complex plot, historical detail, and large cast of characters. But it’s a diverting read. I enjoyed this one, even though it had some formulaic elements. Also in the series: The Wayfarer’s Daughter (book 2) and The Last Wayfarer (book 3)
5. The Fairytale Chicago of Francesca Finnegan by Steve Wiley– Richard Lyons is a businessman living a boring life that’s on the verge of falling apart. He’s completely forgotten the one, magical night, he spent as a twelve-year-old boy, traveling the Lavender Line of the L train through a secret section of the city alongside the mysterious Francesca Finnegan. It will take another trip on the Lavender Line to get Richard’s life back on track. This is sort of an urban fairy tale in which we learn alternative explanations for events in Chicago’s actual history. The author, Steve Wiley, is donating 50% of the profits from this book to Chicago’s Public Schools. You can learn more at the website, here: http://fairytalechicago.com/
6. Social Death by Tatiana Boncompagni– Clyde Shaw is a veteran news reporter. When she’s called to the scene of a murder on NYC’s Upper East Side, she expects another story. What she finds, is Olivia Kravis, the daughter of Clyde’s boss, and Clyde’s childhood best friend. Clyde takes on the case, desperate to solve her friend’s murder. But then another body is found. And then Clyde is poisoned… Solving this mystery might drag some demons from Clyde’s past back into her present, and put everything that she values at risk; including her job and her life. This book is called “A Clyde Shaw Mystery #1” but despite the fact that it was released in 2014, no other Clyde Shaw mysteries are listed on Amazon.
7. The Photo Traveller by Arthur Gonzalez– Gavin Hillstone was put into foster care when he was orphaned at the age of four. His only escape from his abusive foster family is photography. But when he learns that he’s not alone in the world, after all, he goes to Washington DC, to find his paternal grandparents. From them, he learns that he’s a Photo Traveller, someone who can travel through time and space via images. But someone wants something that Gavin has, and is willing to track him around the globe and through time to get it. Many, many years ago (like 5 years ago) I reviewed this book for Synchronized Chaos magazine and I also interviewed the author. At the time, he mentioned he was working on a sequel. That sequel, The Peace Hunter is now available.
8. The Mask of Duplicity by Julia Brannan– After their father dies, Beth’s half-brother, Richard arrives to claim his inheritance. However, the family estate doesn’t live up to Richard’s expectations. He wants to reconcile with his father’s extended family (who disowned him, when he married Beth’s mother) and he wants Beth to marry well. Beth finds herself lost in a social whirlwind of suitors after her substantial dowry, and confused by the effeminate Sir Anthony Peters, who has taken an interest in Beth but has secrets of his own. This is also the beginning of a series and is followed by The Mask Revealed (book 2), The Gathering Storm (book 3) The Storm Breaks (book 4), Pursuit of Princes (book 5) and Tides of Fortune (book 6). I’ve only read the first one so far, but I’m looking forward to the rest!
9. Tsura by Heather Anastasiu – Tsura is a Roma or gypsy, living in WWII Romania. A local family hides her away along with Andrei, a Jewish man, with whom Tsura falls in love. When one careless night out risks everything, Mihai, the grandson of the man hiding Tsura, covers for her by pretending that she’s his fiance. One thing leads to another, and Tsura ends up having to marry Mihai for real in order to protect Andrei and the others hiding in Mihai’s grandfather’s basement. It’s to be a marriage in name only, and when the war ends, he’ll divorce her, and she’ll marry Andrei. In the meantime, Tsura must pose as Mihai’s wife, even though she sees him as an apathetic Nazi collaborator. Of course, there’s more to Mihai and Andrei than meets the eye… The story is continued in the sequel House of Stone. Each book is about 300 pages so there’s really no reason why the story couldn’t have been told in one long book, other than that this way the author sells more.