Here it is as promised – my indie/small-press summer holiday recommended reads list.
I’ve picked three of my favourite authors who are either with independent or small publishing houses, or are self-publishing. I’d like to introduce you to their books, all of which I’ve personally very much enjoyed. Then, to add an extra dimension to the list, I asked each author to recommend an indie novel they’ve enjoyed reading, creating a little ‘pay it forward’ momentum (and giving me a few more holiday reads for this summer).
Here we go.
Second Chance, by Dylan Hearn
One crime, four people and a secret that could shake the world to its foundations.
Four lives become linked by a student’s disappearance: a politician looking to put integrity back into politics, an investigator hoping to atone for past mistakes, a data cleanser searching for a better life while haunted by his past and a re-life technician creating new lives for old souls.
But it soon becomes clear this is no ordinary case, and in the pursuit of the truth, long-held secrets risk being revealed.
Set in the near future where everybody is connected and death isn’t final, this is the story of how far those in power will go to retain control, and the true price to pay for a Second Chance.
Julie says: I haven’t read dystopian novels for years. Brave New World and 1984 (courtesy of school reading lists) had made their mark on my adolescent years under the shadow of the cold war atomic threat, and I’d never gone back. Having connected with Dylan Hearn through the blogosphere, I awaited Second Chance, the first book in The Transcendence Trilogy with curiosity.
Second Chance didn’t disappoint. It’s a real page-turner and it kept me engaged right to the end and then surprised me in a way I hadn’t seen coming, not even a little bit. The near-future setting is well imagined, effortlessly blending recognisable components with new technologies and scenarios which have a logical foundation in the modern day. The individual character narratives are set out in scenes which weave together confidently, steadily mapping out the landscape and subtly revealing motivations and ambitions, before pulling together in a taut and visceral climax.
My biggest criticism of some suspense/thrillers is that they draw you in, only to let you down at the last minute with a flabby ending – not so here. Second Chance satisfies, right to the last page.
Second Chance is available on Amazon:
Dylan Hearn is online and blogging at Suffolk Scribblings: https://authordylanhearn.wordpress.com/
Did I say trilogy? If you enjoy Second Chance, you’ll be pleased to know that Absent Souls is also out and – let me assure you – is every bit as pacy and compelling as Second Chance. Familiar characters acquire greater depth as their narratives develop within a theme of trust and betrayal in a tale rich with political and moral corruption.
Second Chance and its sequel, Absent Souls are tightly-woven sci-fi/dystopian tales layered with intelligent political, social and moral reflection. I can’t wait for Book 3!
Dylan Hearn recommends:
Green Zulu Five One by Scott Whitmore
Green Zulu 51 (and other stories from the Vyptellian War) is a set of short stories set in a future world where one of old Earth’s colonies finds itself embroiled in a war with a relentless alien aggressor. Each story takes on an aspect of the war from a particular character’s perspective (a pilot, a soldier, a diplomat) but the further you read the more you realise that these aren’t just perfectly formed short-stories but form part of a larger narrative whole. The influence of today’s conflicts on this book are clear, with once clear reasons for war becoming ever more vague as the years roll on.
The Paradise Trees by Linda Huber
He had found exactly the right spot in the woods. A little clearing, green and dim, encircled by tall trees. A magical, mystery place. He would bring his lovely Helen here… This time, it was going to be perfect.
When Alicia Bryson returns to her estranged father’s home in a tiny Yorkshire village, she feels burdened by his illness. Her hometown brings back memories of a miserable and violent childhood, and Alicia worries that her young daughter Jenny’s summer will be filled with a similar sense of unhappiness.
The town is exactly as she remembered it, the people, the buildings, even the woods. But Alicia’s arrival has not gone unnoticed.
There is someone watching her every move. Someone who has a plan of his own. Someone who will not stop until the people he loves most can rest together, in Paradise.
Julie says: Alicia’s homecoming fills her with discomfort, as dark childhood memories begin to surface. All the while a person identified only as ‘The Stranger’ lurks somewhere within her circle of new acquaintances, sights firmly set on both mother and daughter – and not in a good way.
The Paradise Trees is a well-crafted and creepy thriller which ratchets up the tension and keeps the reader guessing right up to the last few pages with a coterie of ‘likely suspects’. The writing is fluid and the characters well-drawn. I particularly liked the way Linda Huber handles the discomfort – and even disgust – that Alicia feels, having to care for the father she despises. There are some exquisite touches in these scenes. Later in the book (no spoilers!) the author expertly builds a growing sense of panic and peril into the scenes which move towards the climax.
The Paradise Trees is Linda Huber’s second novel. I haven’t yet read her first, The Cold Cold Sea, a story of every parent’s nightmare, the disappearance of a child. Another twisty, psychological story, it looks equally as compelling as The Paradise Trees and is high up my reading list. Linda Huber is also about to publish her third novel – The Attic Room.
The Paradise Trees is available on Amazon:
Linda Huber is online and blogging at http://lindahuber.net/
Linda Huber recommends:
Out of the Tower by Alison Grey
Described by the author as ‘a detective story of the emotions’. Jemima Forbes is seven when a mysterious event occurs and her father and uncle disappear from her life. She felt neglected by her mother and ignored by her father but she was close to her uncle. She spends her growing years obsessing about the disappearance of her uncle and when she is old enough, leaves home to try and find out what happened.
The Seneca Scourge by Carrie Rubin
Dr. Sydney McKnight, a young physician caught up in a deadly influenza pandemic, joins forces with a mysterious new research virologist whose arrival coincides with the virus’s advent and whose presence raises more questions than answers.
As Sydney’s distrust of the man grows, she’s determined to learn the truth. But what she finds will plunge her into danger and change her life forever.
Julie says: The Seneca Scourge is a fast-paced medical thriller with a knockout ‘gasp’ moment that I for one, didn’t see coming, despite the clever scattering of clues within the narrative.
Carrie Rubin has set her almost shockingly prescient story in an environment she knows well, the world of medicine and hospitals. This credibility adds a very persuasive dimension, not just in terms of medical terminology, but in the creation of a believable setting and – in the shadow of the recent Ebola epidemic – a fascinating atmosphere of pandemic threat.
I enjoyed Sydney’s growing sense of unease about her new colleague’s behaviour. Carrie Rubin lets the reader see just enough to make us wonder about the man; it’s finely judged. But all is not as it seems and further revelations take the story in an unexpected and bold direction.
The Seneca Scourge is well plotted and the characters well-drawn. The pace builds and builds and doesn’t let up. It’s a very satisfying read.
The Seneca Scourge is available on Amazon:
Carrie Rubin is online and blogging at The Write Transition: http://carrierubin.com/
Carrie Rubin is about to publish her second novel, which I’ve earmarked as a definite for my reading list, as soon as it’s available. Called Eating Bull, it’s a thriller about a lonely and obese teenager, who shoots into the limelight when a headstrong public health nurse persuades him to sue the food industry. It has a terrific cover design, which you can check out on Carrie Rubin’s website – but that’s all I know for now!
Carrie Rubin recommends:
Murder Under Construction by Maddie Cochere
Described under the moniker ‘cozy mystery’, this is from the Two Sisters and a Journalist series of light and breezy reads. Jo Ravens is thirty-two, divorced, and stuck in a rut. She wants two things in life – a new career as a private investigator and to lose the sixty pounds she packed on after her divorce.
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Sometimes it’s hard to find your way around the indie/self-publishing space. There are so many books and you don’t have the benefit of Richard & Judy, the Costa Book Awards or The Times Bestseller List, to help you choose. I just hope this little list has spotlighted one or two books that take your fancy and might become a Holiday Read for summer 2015.
Ahem. There’s always Singled Out too of course… 😉