Top Ten Self-Published Books 2023

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We've seen some really good self-published books this year: they're up there with the best of traditional publishing. Here's our top ten, in alphabetical order, by author.


Review of

Children of the Sun by Harry Allen

5star.jpg Teens

Ra Eun Seo lives in a North Korean town and she is a talented singer. Life is hard and food is difficult to come by, so Seo and her friends Nari and Min go foraging every evening, looking for tree bark and edible grasses to supplement the meagre rations of rice and kimchi at home. Full Review


Review of

Good Girls Die by Ayura Ayira

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

This story is not for everyone.

Lavender Daniels was three weeks short of her fifteenth birthday when The Incident happened. She was a very bright student, a bit too nerdy if truth be told, and suffered from vitiligo - people were afraid to hug her in case it's contagious. It's not easy being a black girl whose skin is 84% white. She had a crush on seventeen-year-old Reggie Anderson but never thought he would notice her. Then he did: Lavender was very good at math and Reggie asked if she would tutor him. She readily agreed: tutoring was something she gladly did at church: this was just an extension. She went to his house and he raped her. In shock, she even allowed him to give her a lift home. Full Review


Review of

Tin Soldiers by David Chadwick

4.5star.jpg Thrillers

Wat Tyler has returned from fighting in Vietnam under something of a cloud. What actually happened out there is gossiped about and nobody is sure exactly what took place, but an act of heroism leading to a rare battlefield commission followed by rank cowardice and disgrace seems to be the consensus. Wat himself is keeping his cards close to his chest, as he always does. Full Review


Review of

On the Beach: The Winter Visitor by Chris Green and Jenny Fionda

5star.jpg For Sharing

Kit and Teal were just beginning to wonder whether it was better to be at home, bored but warm, or frozen cold and building sand sculptures on a snowy beach when a large slab of silvery ice drifted onto the shoreline. On top of the ice was a polar bear. As the ice bumped onto the sand, the bear woke and with wobbly legs moved from the ice. Kit was all for making a run for it, but Teal knew that the bear was hungry and gave him one apple and then another. He obviously needed to be taken home on the bus and given a good meal and somewhere to sleep. What else would you do? Full Review


Review of

In the Shadows of Castles by G K Holloway

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

We begin after the momentous battle in 1066 and on the day of William of Normandy's coronation as King of England. William's position is not secure and the new king has many challenges. Imposing authority through a coronation is important. And William is right to worry. While the previous king, Harold, is dead and the likelihood of more pitched battles is over, the rebels are stirring and much of the country does not wish to recognise a new overlord. Full Review


Review of

A Captive in Algiers (Muhammed Amalfi Mysteries) by A J Lewis

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

When we first meet our hero, his name is Ettore and he lives at The House of Beautiful Swallows. Idyllic as this might sound, it's a bordello and Ettore's mother died when he was born. He's not been short of mothers, though - but for someone of his background in late-eighteenth-century Amalfi, it's difficult to obtain decent employment. The stint working with the preparation of anchovies didn't work out and bastards are considered bad luck on fishing boats. Ettore was nothing if not resourceful - and determined - and it was not long before he had a successful business as a guide for visitors. He was even saving some money. Full Review


Review of

Of Ghosts & Broken Promises by Mark Lingane

4.5star.jpg Science Fiction

Ronan's not entirely sure why he decides to go to the party but his interest is piqued by the way it arrived. And it seems like a good opportunity to get out of his room and away from the online activities he makes a living at. So he makes his way there, dodging the buses that make up most of the traffic and watching the local energy storage indicator lights. Should be enough power. Hopefully. Full Review


Review of

Neville Chamberlain's War: How Great Britain Opposed Hitler, 1939-1940 by Frederic Seager

4.5star.jpg History

Received wisdom and simplified narrative often lead to misconceptions about history. One such is the scrubbing from the popular imagination of the early days of World War II from 1939-40, known as the Phoney War. We remember Neville Chamberlain appeasing Hitler, war breaking out, and Churchill coming in to save the day. Very little time is spent on this period in cultural reflections and yet, as Frederic Seager argues in this book, it was of vital significance in how the war played out. Full Review


Review of

Just Looking by Matthew Tree

4.5star.jpg Dystopian Fiction

It was the summer of 2035 and on a cruise ship in Marseilles, Jim was celebrating his new-found wealth and the end of his marriage - not two celebrations generally found in the same sentence by a man! He's watching the tornado - they're more common in Europe these days - that's keeping the cruise ship in port and falls into conversation with Jean-Pierre, a French journalist in his thirties. He writes for a relatively new paper, the right-wing La Tribune Gauloise and he's interesting if a little wordy on subjects such as the difference between 'France' and 'the French'. His partner, Helen, who's English and Jewish, keeps him in check to some extent. Full Review


Review of

Super Short Stories: Flash Fiction by Mark C Wallfisch

4.5star.jpg Short Stories

Got a minute to be amused, entertained, or challenged? These 100 stories are super short. None is more than 300 words. You can read one in a flash. Some are funny. Some are poignant. All are short.

Question: how do you review flash fiction? How do you give a flavour of a fully rounded little story if that story is told in fewer than three hundred words? Or do you try to draw out themes from all the flash fictions in a book of them? I don't know! Perhaps we could start by explaining that there really isn't a fixed definition of flash fiction but that for this collection, author Mark C Wallfisch has gone for a three hundred word limit. That's about a single page in your average paperback. Full Review


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