I’m a difficult person to buy presents for. I tend to get given Amazon gift cards, and that’s great. I load up my Kindle with the self-published books of friends, acquaintances and random connections from Facebook, and settle down for a good read.
If I were spending my own money, I think I’d be rather conservative in my choices. I stick with what I know. I’d buy another Philippa Gregory or Elizabeth Moon. However, supporting indie authors has meant I’ve read a wide range of books outside my usual genres.
It also means I tend to impulse-buy without always reading the blurb properly. I was three chapters in to Jan Warburton’s A Face To Die For before I realised it wasn’t a murder mystery. You know when you take a swig of drink, expecting lemonade, but it’s water and because you’re primed for a particular sensation, it tastes all wrong? It’s the same when you read a book thinking it’s one thing… and it’s not. I’m glad to say that this book kept my interest enough to keep my reading on (even if I was thinking, “when is she going to die?”) It’s actually a sweet slice of sixties life, set in the fashion world at a very exciting time. The lives of the characters intertwine and develop. It was well-formatted and well-edited, which is highly important in any book. Self-publishers start at a disadvantage as they have to prove they are as well-produced as a traditional book, and I think they come under closer scrutiny for it. I’m glad to say that Jan Warburton’s book was of a high standard.
I am going to pick holes, because I want to give a fair assessment. At times, it felt too much like a memoir – there was a lot of tell, where whole years were briefly touched upon. I understand of course that there was a lot of information to get across, but sometimes it felt a little dry and unemotional. The solution? Perhaps it could have been longer, and given the characters a bit more room to breathe. That said, I enjoyed the writing style and the topic, and I would look for more from this author.
Dark Ghosts And Flamingos is a collection of short stories from C L Holland. These do exactly what short stories ought to do – plunge you abruptly into another world, and then drag you out again, gasping and wondering what the hell just happened. Some ended perhaps a little too sharply – and yet, I am being very picky, because the question-mark endings meant that the stories lingered in my mind. Strongly written, and haunting. If you like powerful and dark shorts, then this is highly recommended.
The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan is a big-name self-published book. Courtney Milan is one of the big league writers in historical romance, and this book is a freebie. The advice is always to make a very good book free if you want to attract sales to your others, and I totally enjoyed this one. It’s a novella, but it’s tightly crafted and sweet, with a very appealing hero. It did what it needed to – it made me a fan, and I will be buying more of her work. It’s also a very professional piece of work. I checked in the credits, and the author herself made the cover. People buy books from the cover, and my heart sinks when I see a self-published book with a dowdy or embarrassing image. This is one area where you ought to think about paying for help. In Courtney Milan’s case, her cover is excellent and fits the genre. She does credit editors and proof-readers, though, and this is a great example of outsourcing what you cannot do. It’s not enough to ask a mate to beta-read. A proper editing job really shows.
Paragon by Aubrey Watt is an unusual book which I wouldn’t have chosen if I hadn’t had my attention already drawn to it on a forum. It’s a science fiction romance. Again speaking of covers, Aubrey Watt is a cover designer for other writers, so if you’re flailing, do check her out. The book itself was great, and I am glad I read it. It’s a typical can-robots-love sort of premise, but the characters make it come alive. My only gripe (I must have one gripe!) is that it ended rather suddenly, just as the character’s love affair was taking off. I wanted to know what happened next…
I Married A Billionaire by Melanie Marchande is one of those romances that seem to be everywhere at the moment. It’s the age-old story of a woman being swept off her feet by a rich man. From fairy tale princes to modern billionaires nothing is new. This story was a quick and light read. It felt a little rushed, and could have developed the characters’ emotional landscape more fully – after all, that’s the reason people read a romance. For the emotional roller-coaster, not the plot.
Anyone For Murder? is a collection of crime-themed short stories by Maggie Cobbett. I liked these little gems. Unlike C L Holland’s dark, unsettling work, these were lighter and more in the “cosy crime” traditional. Think Midsomer Murders and that ilk. They’re the sort of stories that leave you with a smile on your face, each one a little nugget of fictional English life. I liked them for their simplicity, and I mean that as a compliment.
I still have two self-published books in progress on my Kindle: a historical novel called More Than Gold by Janis Pegrum Smith, and King’s Priory by David Hough, which is an emotional thriller straddling modern times and World War II. I’m about 20% of the way through both of them, and will report back as soon as I’ve finished them. They are two very different stories, both in tone and subject.
There are also heaps of self-published books that I simply never finished, usually because of poor editing or terrible plot. I’m not going to review them. Anything I’ve mentioned here, I am happy to recommend – if it’s awful, I simply won’t write about them. Life’s too short to waste on bad books!