My Summer Holiday Recommended Reads

Here it is as promised – my indie/small-press summer holiday recommended reads list.

bag-801703_1280I’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.

Julie recommends:

Second Chance, by Dylan Hearn

One crime, four people and a secret that could shake the world to its foundations.

Second Chance cover - front onlyFour 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:

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Second-Chance-Transcendence-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00I0945TA/

US: http://www.amazon.com/Second-Chance-Transcendence-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B00I0945TA/

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.

Julie recommends:

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.

The Paradise Trees coverWhen 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:

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Paradise-Trees-Linda-Huber-ebook/dp/B00BU2NGQM/

US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BU2NGQM/

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.

Julie recommends:

The Seneca Scourge by Carrie Rubin

CR The Seneca Scourge 1 (2) Resize 4Dr. 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:

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Seneca-Scourge-Carrie-Rubin-ebook/dp/B009BJ3BZ2/

US: http://www.amazon.com/The-Seneca-Scourge-Carrie-Rubin-ebook/dp/B009BJ3BZ2/

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.

* * *

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… 😉

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You said it! A first-quarter review of reviews

singledout_kindle_656x1000pxReviews are the life-blood of any novel. Readers… don’t ever underestimate the power you have at your fingertips, when you write a review.

15 weeks… 15 reviews… 76 stars

From the moment I clicked publish and saw my novel appear on Amazon on a real page, just like real books, where real people could click and really, actually buy it, I’ve been holding my breath. That’s what writers do, you see, as they wait to see what people make of their… baby.

But (so far…) whilst it’s been emotional, it’s been alright too.  In fact, it’s been pretty amazing.

It’s 15 weeks since Singled Out was published on Amazon (Kindle and paperback) and my first novel/baby has been fortunate in garnering a total of 15 reviews (so far…). That’s 11 reviews on Amazon.co.uk (four 4-star and seven 5-star) and five 5-star reviews on Amazon.com. Yes, that makes 16 in total, but I can’t double-count the review my big-hearted blogging buddy Dylan Hearn was kind enough to upload to both Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Whilst sales of any self-published debut novel are inevitably modest – and Singled Out has, ah me, been no exception (so far…) – the kind words in those reviews have been exciting, heartening, and above all, humbling.

Presentation1So this 15/15 moment seems a good point to stop and thank everyone who has taken the time and trouble to read Singled Out – I hope you have all enjoyed it, and felt it rewarded you for those few hours of your time. And I want especially to thank those of you who then went on and uploaded your reviews to Amazon – and Goodreads.

Will you permit me to share some of the reviewers’ observations with you?

I know it feels suspiciously like self-promotion and, oh, it is. But no self-published author can survive without a little of this every now and again. So here, just in case you’re looking for your next read or something to take on your holidays, is a little reader feedback from those reviews on Amazon:

“From the first short chapter I was hooked! The story swings from gritty and tense to beautifully described locations that transported me right into the midst of a singles holiday…”

“With Brenda Bouverie the author has created a wonderful protagonist, very different from anybody I’ve read before. She’s a wonderful combination of the sensuous, with her love of food and drink; the steely, but with an underlying vulnerability that makes her a very special character indeed.”

“This is a scrumptious book for every sense! Mouth watering descriptions that evoke sights, smells and tastes so that you really feel you have been taken on holiday with everyone else to Turkey.”

“With well-drawn characters and a complex protagonist, this was a really enjoyable read that kept me guessing and gave me something to think about.”

“The writing in this debut novel is impressive with descriptions so rich, you’ll feel like you’re touring, sunbathing, and feasting on delicious meals in Turkey yourself. Mystery cloaks every page…”

“An impressive debut novel for fans of psychological suspense.”

“Excellently creepy.”

“Highly recommended.”

“An excellent blend of literary fiction and psychological thriller.”

“A definite page turner, I completed it in a couple of days.”

“I couldn’t put it down!! Gritty and compelling reading.”

“An enjoyable page turner. It’s got character, location, sex, drugs — but above all the writing is captivating.”

“Wonderful story from this author. Well-crafted, believable characters, great plot line, and a description of Turkey that makes you want to take your next vacation there.”

“Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys their thrillers to be a little dark and edgy, but with some warmth thrown in. Oh, and foodies. This is a great book for food lovers.”

“I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery.”

“If you’re going on a beach holiday and you’re a lover of creepy, psychological thrillers, then this is the book for you.”

Are you still with me?

Okay, then it’s worth highlighting a few things people have said about the dark underbelly to this story, because it’s undeniably gritty, morally ambivalent and, for some, unsettling. In the interests of full disclosure:

“This is not, however, a book for the faint-hearted. The assault scenes in particular, while very well written, don’t pull any punches. But for me that’s as it should be. Horrible things should be portrayed as horrible. And it makes you all the more engaged in the search for who’s responsible.”

“But a caution to sensitive readers–the subject matter deals with sexual assault (that’s not a spoiler as the opening scene depicts this) and misogyny, sometimes in quite graphic detail. Normally I would shy away from material like that, but I felt comfortable in the author’s hands given the strong female lead who carries the novel, and the important message that’s unveiled.”

“Be warned ….there is a dark undertone to this story that can make one feel slightly uncomfortable (and it’s meant to), but the author deals with these scenes admirably, giving you enough to make you feel uneasy but not too much so that you want to stop reading – cleverly done.”

“I particularly enjoyed the ending – even when the ‘bad guy’ is discovered, there is still a dilemma to be faced. I’m not sure what I’d have done, put in Brenda’s place.”

“Pick it as a good read, but don’t be surprised if it also challenges and makes you think twice.”

There, now you’ve got the full picture.

In case it’s piqued your curiosity, you can find out more about Singled Out on this website here, and throughout my blog.  And of course, Singled Out is available to purchase on these and all other regional Amazon sites:

Blog posts coming soon(ish)…

  • Making a start on Novel Number Two – I need your help!
  • Marketing Muse: Promoting your book as holiday read.
  • Happy Endings: Should every story be tied up with a ribbon?