Top Ten Self-Published Books 2013

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We've the utmost admiration for indie authors who go it alone in what's a very tough market and each year we pick the ten books which stood out for us. These are the ones we loved in 2013, in alphabetical order:


Review of

I Am A Giant (Tiny the Giant) by Dom Conlon and Nicola Anderson

4.5star.jpg For Sharing

Tiny knew that he was a giant. In fact you couldn't help thinking that he was a little bit cross about the fact that he had to keep telling people. He'd shake his fists and roar I AM A GIANT. Proof was important, of course and the first step was to measure his shadow, which he did when the sun was low - but it wasn't just one step. It was many and his shadow still ran on ahead of him. Off he went to tell the world, but the mountains were, well, dismissive and the tall trees whispered about it amongst themselves before they rejected what he had to say. The wind didn't agree either - and went on and on about it until Tiny ran away to the sea. Full Review


Review of

The Room Beyond by Stephanie Elmas

4.5star.jpg Historical Fiction

In modern-day London Serena is the new nanny to the Hartreve family at 36 Marguerite Avenue. She's aware that there's something unsettling about the house and the family who live there, but Serena was escaping the ghosts of her traumatic childhood when she took the job and it was easy to fall into the relaxed way of life and the pleasure of her room at the top of the house with a view over the rooftops. Her charge - four-year-old Beth - is a real treasure. But Serena's inquisitive and can't help wondering about the subtle air of menace in the street. Some of the relationships between the members of the household are puzzling and it soon becomes obvious that the family is trying to hide something from her. And where is number 34 Marguerite Avenue? Full Review


Review of

Burden of the Desert by Justin Huggler

5star.jpg Thrillers

Journalist Zoe Temple can't believe her luck when she's sent to Iraq to cover the birth of an emerging nation, not thinking that such luck can sometimes run out. Mahmoud earns his money driving journalists from story to story, sometimes only just escaping intact. However, the most dangerous thing he will ever do is fall in love. Rick Benes is one of the American soldiers on the news, his only ambition being to get his platoon home safely as Iraq's birth pangs are violent and unrelenting. And then there's Adel, a young Iraqi lad who never dreamt of violence; not until the day that Benes killed his family. Full Review


Review of

Brahma Dreaming: Legends from Hindu Mythology by John Jackson and Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini

5star.jpg For Sharing

Have you heard of the Trimurti? This is the Hindu trinity in which three gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva - represent the universal forces of creation, maintenance and destruction. The Trimurti is often depicted as three heads on one neck, each head looking in a different direction. The Hindu tradition has a rich, deep vein of stories about the Trimurti and Brahma Dreaming is John Jackson's re-imagining of these all-encompassing, interdependent tales. Full Review


Review of

The Lion of Sole Bay by Julia Jones

4.5star.jpg Confident Readers

Luke wasn't going away with his mother and brother at half-term. He was planning on spending it with his father restoring an old fishing boat on Fynn Creek. His mother dropped him off on her way to the airport and he sped away to the boat to wait for his father. Angel needed excitement and that was how she ended up in the locked boatyard with some lads and it was their larking around which knocked the prop from under a boat which then toppled and trapped a workman. The lads dashed away with Angel's screams to ring for an ambulance ringing in their ears. Angel stayed with the man until she heard the sirens. The man was Luke's father. Full Review


Review of

Flowers From Fukushima by Clive Lawton

4.5star.jpg General Fiction

In 2011, Japan was hit by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. That and the subsequent tsunami caused level 7 meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Flowers from Fukushima riffs on this in a post-apocalyptic story of a Japan devastated by even more and even bigger natural disasters. It follows two main characters as they pick their way through the devastation, each trying to make sense of this new and very different world. Ryo is an eight-year-old boy whose grandmother and guardian died after the earthquake. Ryo is determined to deliver the last order processed by his grandmother at her flower shop. Full Review


Review of

Round the Bend: From Luton to Peru to Ningaloo, a Search for Life After Redundancy by Alistair McGuinness

4star.jpg Travel

Alistair McGuinness (Ali to his friends) worked at Vauxhall in Luton and heard that the factory was closing at work - from someone who rang to tell him that they'd heard it on the news. Some of the workers were upset, some were angry but Alistair rang his wife and told Fran that this was their opportunity to travel and see something of the world. There was a history of travel in his family - as well as a tradition of storytelling - and we're going to benefit from both of those. Full Review


Review of

The Woodpecker Menace by Ted Olinger

4star.jpg Short Stories

The Key Peninsula is a small spur of land on the Puget Sound in Washington state, shaped - you guessed it - like a key. Its resident are disparate and include both incomers and those who'd see themselves as pioneer settlers. But they're joined in a communal sense of island living. It's on a much smaller scale, but I think most British people can feel affinity with identifying as an islander. It flavours our relationship with continental Europe in so many ways. Full Review


Review of

Woman on Top by Deborah Schwartz

4star.jpg General Fiction

Kate and Jake had one of those brilliant marriages that looks set to last forever along with two wonderful children. But Fate is always hiding around the corner with its foot stuck out, waiting to trip you up and Jake was diagnosed with cancer. They both fought to do everything that they could to find a cure but within two years Kate was a widow. For nearly a decade she dedicated herself to the children and to making a career as a healthcare lawyer so that she could support the family. When she was ready to look for another relationship she met Len. It wasn't his looks that attracted her or his stature (she'd hastily searched out her flat shoes), but he did seem to have something about him. Full Review


Review of

Speaking of Love by Angela Young

4.5star.jpg Literary Fiction

For some people it's impossible to tell another person that they love them and both are damaged. Iris could not tell her daughter, Vivie, that she loved her and Matthew, Vivie's childhood friend, neighbour and would-be lover could not tell her how he felt. For all three the result was years of separation with Vivie feeling that she was fundamentally unloveable and the whole situation was further complicated by Iris's mental disintegration and her treatment removing most of her memories of Vivie's childhood. If that sounds depressing and soul-destroying then I am doing Speaking of Love an injustice because it's also a story of trust, reconciliation and learning to speak about your feelings. Full Review


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Ryan Gearing said:

I think you are missing an excellent narrative from the First World War - The Devil's Carnival by John Mason Sneddon self published through Reveille Press.

Sue said:

That was published in 2012, Ryan!