OK, folks. This was an interesting project to get started on. "Needle in a haystack" doesn't begin to cover it. It's more like tossing a fishing line into the Pacific Ocean and hoping a few good paramecia will bite.
But I dropped the line over and over during the past week and managed to find 10 self-published novels that got me excited. Here's a reminder of my criteria for the Indie 500 Book List:
1 - A fiction title that has been self-published as of 2007 or later
2 - 4 stars or better on Amazon by 10 or more reviewers
3 - Reviews sound independent
4 - Story concept sounds intriguing and original
5 - Writing is strong (where I can read pages)
Also, I picked titles that, as said above, got me excited. Ones in genres or covering topics that interest me: historical fiction, thrillers, women's fiction, crime, mysteries, satires, and stories that involve journeys and cultures different from mine (U.S.). Then there were just some that looked too interesting to pass up, even if they weren't my usual book fare. As much as I could, I also Googled the book and author to check for reviews and general buzz, awards, or reviews about the book, if there is any. I've noted where I found it. So if you're vaguely interested in reading a self-published work, hopefully this list does some of the weeding out for you.
Here are this week's 10 self-published novels worth looking at. I have not read these in entirety, and the Indie 500 is not a review, it's just a list. Ten new titles will be posted every Monday this year, and the cumulative list will be accessible via a link on the top right sidebar of this blog.
1 - Deserts and Mountains: A Novel by Yilmaz Alimoglu
From the back cover: "Reminiscent of Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist with a hint of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, Alimoglu's Deserts and Mountains follows the inner and outer journey of expatriate Turk and Sufi, Ali Dogan."
2- River Bones by Mary Deal
Back cover: "A mystery surrounds the lush orchards and farmlands of California's Sacramento River Delta. As Sara Mason returns to her hometown in order to start a new life, she learns that a serial killer is terrorizing its residents."
3 - The Misadventures of Sister Mary Olga Fortitude by Davis Aujourd 'hui
Back cover: "...a satire with a spiritual message..."
4 - Voices Under Berlin: The Tale of A Monterey Mary by T.H.E. Hill
Back cover, review from author Tim Bazzett: "Hill's book is a like a jar of Prego... 'it's all in there'." ** Multiple Award Winner **
5 - Follow the Money by Ross Cavins
My take: From reading the first four pages, this feels a little 'Coen brothers' (which I like).
6 - The Shopkeeper by James D. Best
This is a Western. Strong writing, but not overdone. From the first page: "Richard's three of hearts was in mid-flight when a distant gunshot froze everything but the floating card."
7 - Under the Wolf Moon: A Novel by Barbara Townsend
Historical fiction set in the 1850s Potomac Highlands.
8 - Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese
My take: I'm intrigued by the protagonist, a struggling journalist named Christine, who crosses paths with a ping-pong-playing angel named Mercury. An absurdist poo-pooing of Armageddon, which feels like it would be sweetly reassuring, doesn't it?
9 - Tennis Dates by Colette Friedman and Hillary Leigh Gross
My take: One of the great things about self-publishing is that novellas can find a market. This book is only 144 pages and is a story about two women trying to find Mr. Right. Who can't relate to that, ladies?
10 - The Misplaced Horse by Constance Downes
My take: Ever since reading The Black Stallion as a kid, I'm a sucker for a good horse story. This had 5 stars from 13 reviewers, who sounded 'real.'
The next 10 books for the Indie 500 Booklist post here on Monday, January 17!