Top Ten Self-Published Books 2017

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Choosing the top ten self-published books we read in 2017 was one of the toughest jobes we did all year and involved a great deal of discussion. Here's our final top ten in alphabetical order by author:

Sorting the Priorities: Ambassadress and Beagle Survive Diplomacy by Sandra Aragona

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Sarah is married to Giorgio and when we first meet them he's Something Very Senior in the foreign ministry in Rome, much to the disappointment of his mother who thought that he'd be there for her (in Sicily), but not only does he go and marry a foreigner, he has a job which will take him all over the world. Such is the life of the diplomat. Their two daughters have to lead a pretty peripatetic life too, but when the family comes into our lives they're all in Rome - for the time being - and just back from Nigeria. To add to the confusion there's Beagle, just about as undiplomatic a dog as you'll encounter. Full review...

The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land by Isabella Davidson

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To say that Sophie Bennett didn't want to move to London is something of an understatement. She's a shy person who doesn't make friends easily and the thought of losing all her support systems and having to start again fills her with dread. But, husband Michael has been offered a big job on London's RailLink project and it's not a chance he can turn down - even if he wanted to, and he doesn't. So before long their three-year old daughter, Kaya, has been left with Sophie's parents and Michael and Sophie have found a flat in west London and they've even, against all the odds, managed to secure a place for Kaya at London's most exclusive nursery school. Well, when I say that they managed to secure the place, I actually mean that they required the services of a nursery consultant, who has a double-barrelled name and a friendship with the headmistress. Full review...

The Grumpface by B C R Fegan and Daniela Frongia

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Long ago, in the Forest of Ho, a wizard cursed a miserable old man to become the Grumpface because he would never smile. The Grumpface spends his cursed days capturing hapless travellers and refusing to free them unless they can successfully accomplish one of three tasks he sets them. The tasks are pretty impossible so few captives are ever freed. In the nearby Village of Hay lives Dan. Dan is an inventor with varying degrees of success and he is in love with Bella, a flower seller. Bella sells every kind of flower except for roses as there none to be found. And so, our hero Dan resolves to go into the Forest of Ho and find roses for Bella - then she will love him for sure. Of course, the hapless Dan is captured by Grumpface. The story follows Dan as he unsuccessfully attempts to complete his three tasks, using his inventions as aids. A bird swallows his special lamp, his special light wand works fine but Dan drops his prize. Full review...

The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership by Elizabeth Fox and Martin le Comte

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Would you like to know how to lead? I don't mean 'manage' with all its implications of 'managing a situation', but to be the person who is out there, in front, inspiring, developing and motivating those who follow you? Does it sound complicated and rather daunting? Do you wonder if you're really up to the job and whether or not you can cope? Are you perhaps worried about what you've taken on? You need some simple rules which will form the framework of your leadership and which will serve you well no matter what and who you are leading. Full review...

The Prancing Jacana by Steven Jon Halasz

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Mabel Pembrose's latest novel The Prancing Jacana has been on the New York Times bestseller list for a couple of weeks: her husband, Robert Bersley, isn't doing anything like as well. He writes children's books and his editor is adamant that as he's writing about Snake and Mouse, then Mouse has to be eaten by Snake, because that's how it works. Mabel's not completely free from problems though: her novel, set in Senegal, features Police Detective Salif Bampoky and he's gay in a country where same-sex sexual acts are outlawed and in consequence her book has been banned in the country. The fact that it's banned isn't harming her sales in the US at all, but Mabel - or rather Caroline Parker, as Mabel Pembrose is her pen name - isn't content with this. She's been to Senegal, loves the country and she'd like the book to be a bestseller there too. Full review...

The Cossack by K J Lawrence

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Daniel Brooking is not what you'd think of as hero material: he's a photographer of some merit and in his fifties he has a settled life. It was the disappearance of his assistant, Ivan Shevchenko, which disrupted everything. It wasn't unknown for him to disappear occasionally, but missing an exhibition was a first for him. He'd been distracted for a few days - and then there were the strange papers which arrived, to be kept safe. The authorities, in the form of a shadowy senior member of the security services, confirmed the view that Ivan was probably dead, because of some supposed connections with organised crime and drug dealing. Full review...

Fall Out by Lizzy Mumfrey

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Charlton's the sort of village where people aspire to live, despite its apparent ordinariness. There's the usual mix of commuters (it's not too far from London) and those who make their lives in the village. Richard Hughes is a commuter, but his wife Jessica works at the local academy, where both their children - Alfie and Hannah - are pupils. Pete Cole is a newly-promoted police superintendent and clearly still fond of his voluptuous wife, Susie. Actually, some of that voluptuousness might be better described as fat - Pete suspects that he might need longer arms to hug her before long. Less popular is Gary Webber. He's the sort of man who causes people to heave a sigh of relief when he joins someone else for a drink at the golf club. Full review...

The Last Train (Detective Hiroshi) by Michael Pronko

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Detective Hiroshi Shimizu usually investigates white collar crime in Tokyo. It suits him: he gets to have his own office, which is rare. He's got space at home too: his girlfriend has not only left him, but she's moved back to the States as well. He's yet to ship all her boxes out of his apartment but when he's done that he'll be able to sleep in the bed again. White collar crime's usually non-violent, but Hiroshi speaks English (many years spent in Boston when he was studying) and when an American businessman ends up dead under the last train, he's called in to help. He could have done without having to see the body - or the people removing it from the tracks with chopsticks - but detective Takamatsu insisted. Full review...

Hurricane Justice by Patricia Watkins

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Finn Westlake was first amused and then horrified when he saw the attractive young woman jumping up and down in the road as his jeep turned the corner: the amusement came from the fact that she was wearing just soaking-wet bra and panties. It was when he saw the tears streaming down her face that he realised that there was a serious problem. Diana McGuire's father's plane had crashed into the river and she had tried and failed to get him out. Sending her to get more help Finn dived into the river and managed to extract Chester McGuire and his business associate, Sandy Moseley, but whilst checking that there was no one else in the plane he was seriously injured. Full review...

Confessions of Modern Women by Spadge Whittaker

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She's back! Huzzah! Do you remember when Spadge Whittaker faced her (and our) deepest fears? We loved the way she did that. EXCEPT FOR THE SPIDERS.

This time, Spadge has turned her attention to what it means to be a modern woman in twenty-first century, digital Britain. Sure, we're not kept in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant like many of our female forebears. Sure, technology has made many traditional tasks a lot less hard work. But are our lives actually any easier? Are we really under less pressure to conform? To be perfect? Spadge isn't sure about that and she's probably right. And she wonders if, behind all the social media profiles extolling everyone else's perfect life, all the other British women are as stressed out and are making as many hapless cock-ups as Spadge herself is. Full review...

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