In our effort to help facilitate the discovery of new titles that might interest overseas publishers for rights deals, we are beginning to offer an occasional selection of “starred” reviews from IndieReader, a service which reviews self-published books.
These are a selection of the “top ten” books that have received five star reviews on IndieReader thus far.
1. Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells
Dr. Jane Holloway, an internationally respected linguist, has been asked to act as Earth’s ambassador on a journey to an apparently abandoned spaceship that’s on a collision path with an asteroid. The ship is far from abandoned, however, as Jane begins to communicate telepathically with a creature that insists that the fate of humanity is in her hands. But can she trust this creature that can only speak to her? And what will she do with a crew that’s becoming violent and mutinous?
When writing science fiction, it’s easy to get so caught up in a plot that everything else falls by the wayside. Aliens are great, but things like good dialog and character development are necessary for a novel to transcend its genre. Author Jennifer Foehner Wells focuses as much on these details as she does on the stranded Ei’Brai and the space slugs, making Fluency a novel as interested in the complicated history of its characters as it is in fighting bloodthirsty aliens. Full Review
2. Djoliba Crossing: Journeys Into West African Music And Culture by Dave Kobrenski
Author Dave Kobrenski is a musician who has been studying the drum and flute music of the Malinke people for years. To do so properly, of course, one must learn from the experts, and so he travels to Guinea regularly during the winter season to study from musicians like Famoudou Konate in rural villages and Lanciné Conde in the capital city, Conakry. Djoliba Crossing is the story of one such trip, giving the reader a first-person perspective on everything from religious ceremonies and social events in rural villages on the banks of the Djoliba River to political conflict and riots in the city.
Djoliba Crossing is a rich and poetic book, with hand-drawn, visually-engaging artwork throughout, mostly focused on the musicians and dancers themselves. The author’s love for his subject is clearly evident, and he has a vivid descriptive style that brings the reader directly into the scene he shows, whether he is discussing initiation rites, communal meals, or political upheaval. Full Review
3. The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick
Author Guy Kawasaki, who boasts numerous qualifications including the self proclaimed “chief evangelist”of Canva – an online design service – and an executive fellow of the Haas School of Business; has teamed up with Peg Fitzpatrick, social-media strategist and director of digital media for Kreussler Inc., to create a user-friendly compendium of tips and tricks to boost one’s online presence.
While the book is based on the knowledge and experience of pooled from both Kawasaki and Fitzpatrick, it is Kawasaki who writes the book in order to have one voice that achieves better clarity for the reader. Though the information and tips are plentiful, Kawasaki acknowledges that while these are tips and tricks that worked for him, this book is a springboard for further investigation, experimentation and discussion, encouraging readers to develop better techniques that they can also share with others.
Well-organized and succinctly written, The Art of Social Media is a powerful marketing tool packed with a plethora of tips to build an effective online presence. Full Review
4. Shaken Awake by Allen Madding
The news of a man frozen to death on the front steps of a Georgia church sends a wake-up call to Reverend Samuel Matthews, his financial chairperson Phil Portman, and parishioner Alvin Smith. While each contemplates how the financially strapped Peachtree Street Church can reach out to the homeless, further complications surface when a sudden snowstorm cripples the Atlanta area. The three men have no idea that their decision to open the church’s doors as a shelter will make an unexpected impact in their lives.
Author Allen Madding, founder of the non-profit organization Feed the Hungry Forsyth, has a double purpose for writing his debut novel. Loosely based on his experiences while living and working in the Atlanta area, Shaken Awake is much more than a riveting work of fiction. It is a human-interest story that should send a wake up call to all. Full Review
5. Grooveworld by Jeremy Gray
Author Jeremy Gray’s Grooveworld has all the makings of a dystopian tale—an all-powerful government-type entity determined to keep its citizens in check, a population that has been lulled into submission, and an underground group of outcasts determined to bring down the powers that be. But what separates Grooveworld from its predecessors is it’s distinctly techno Alice-in-Wonderland feel.
Gray’s reverence for all things music is apparent, and this is part of what makes the tale he weaves compelling. He liberally uses music-related terms to name characters, weapons, and other items of note. Grooveworld also asks what constitutes authenticity and if being wealthy or poor automatically negates or reinforces said authenticity. The music-related themes continue the debates of old-school versus new-school; LPs versus electronics; does music sanctioned by those who wish to control it automatically make it good or does innovation trump all? Through it all, the novel explores the effect music has on its listeners and how it can bring people together or tear them apart. Full Review
6. The Robusta Incident by Jennifer Fales
Howard Danishefsky has a genius level IQ. His absent father, Archibald, is an astrophysicist and a member of the Consortium of Evil. Despite his mundane job as a chemist at The Robusta Corporation, Howard aspires to follow in his father’s footsteps. Unfortunately, his aspirations are thwarted by his boss and former lover who is planning to terminate him from the corporate rolls. Howard’s response is to create a serum that will turn the staff of Robusta into a zombie army that he could control and ultimately use to gain access to the Consortium of Evil.
The Robusta Incident is a very different take on a zombie apocalypse. Its characters have a warped sense of humor and its monsters exhibit terrifying behavior one minute and slapstick behavior the next. The plot is somewhere between Mary Shelly and Mel Brooks. Author Jennifer Fales takes these unusual dichotomies and fashions a horror story quite different from others. Full Review
7. Henry’s Re-Entry by Welcome Cole
Henry wakes up from his latest bender in a filth-coated gas station restroom. He’s missing his belt, his wallet, his car, and one of his shoes. This sort of awakening hasn’t been uncommon for Henry since his wife died four years ago: her death sent him into guilt-ridden spiral of self-destruction that he’s certain will end in his own demise sooner or later. The odd thing about this gas station restroom, though, is that it’s in the New Mexican desert, hundreds of miles from his home in California.
Henry’s attempt to hitch back home again turns into an American road trip of a grand variety: along the way he meets a number of characters who not only help him on his journey, but force him to shed some of his self-hating, bourbon-swilling, devil-may-care exterior and confront the still-living Henry underneath. The closer he gets to California, the closer he is to realizing that it isn’t just home he’s headed toward: it’s the rest of his life. Full Review
8. After Mind by Spencer Wolf
Packet awakes in a hospital room, an artificial intelligence without a past. His vessel is the body of a preteen boy; his creators are the father and sister of that boy. Daniel and Terri are attempting to rebuild the loved one they lost: Cessini, an engineering prodigy who is somehow deathly allergic to water. Daniel insists that Packet is Cessini; Terri believes him another failed experiment. The hospital room is actually a trick of Packet’s mind; he is in a laboratory of DigiSci on the island of Tasmania.
Wolf is an excellent sci-fi writer, masterfully balancing the complex layers of setting and character at work in the novel — interiority and exteriority, past and present, vision and reality. He does not bother to hold the reader’s hand: the story starts at a sprint and rarely pauses to offer explanation. There are sufficient clues dropped along the way for the reader to pick the trail up quickly, and the world is presented with enough confidence that the audience never feel as though they are not in able hands. Full Review
9. Broken Places by Rachel Thompson
Broken Places is the heartbreaking memoir of a middle-aged woman who was molested when she was a girl and is a must-read for anyone who’s been the victim of sexual assault. Rachel Thompson’s fierce determination to survive is the key note in this poignant account of the violence she endured and the repercussions that followed – hours, weeks, months, years and decades later.
Broken Places sprinkles prose and poems about sexual abuse, powerful emotions, and love and loss, which holds the reader’s attention from beginning to end. Reading the book feels like peeking into someone’s personal diary because the author chooses to write “something you’d never show your mother or father.”
Through therapy, writing and living, the author finds some measure of healing and her book may well provide comfort and healing for others, though be forewarned: Thompson’s memoir is so powerful that it’s hard to digest in one sitting — the story is best taken in small sips. Full Review
10. Thriving with Chronic Pain by Sean Meshorer
Author Sean Meshorer has lived with chronic pain for nine years, since an exercise-related accident left him with torn ligaments in his right sacroiliac joint. Through that time, he has dealt with professional, romantic, familial, mental, and spiritual struggles related to that pain, and has managed to reclaim a mode of life that he finds fulfilling, enjoyable, and spiritually meaningful.
This book is an attempt to communicate how he did that, and to offer help based on his experience to anyone who may find themselves in a similar situation. He provides first an explanation of what chronic pain is, and how the modern medical establishment currently handles chronic pain. Then, he discusses the need to accept one’s pain as a part of life, and learn to cope with it on those terms. Finally, he offers some possible strategies for managing, possibly lessening, and even using the pain to achieve greater spiritual, emotional, and social fulfillment.
IndieReader is a venue for discriminating book-lovers to find and purchase books published by the people who wrote them. Think indie movies–produced with a singular vision – instead of the mass-marketed stuff you’d find at the multiplex. In a world where almost everything is packaged by committee, IndieReader offers you books with a single voice: the writer’s own. See more.