Three awesome indie novels you should be reading right now

I’ve got two and a half releases this fall, so I’ve been busy, and neither posting much nor reading as much as I’d like. But I’ve been slowly creeping my way through my TBR pile, and I wanted to give a shout-out to three exceptional indie novels I’ve read over the past few months. They’re very different, so there’s something here for a wide range of tastes. Check them out!

51REmDft85L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Wrecked & Yours, by CeeCee James
Family saga/romance about three homeless teens, the things that drove them apart, and what brings them back together.

Already known for her gripping memoirs, this is CeeCee James’s first novel, and at $2.99, it’s a steal. James’s writing is lovely, and I defy you not to shed a tear for these well-drawn characters. But don’t worry, those teary moments are deftly balanced with terrific dialogue and moments of humor. This story has the depth to deal with weighty issues, yet never feels heavy to read.

 


 

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Insylum, by Z. Rider
Horror tale of two buddies taking one last thrill ride before one ships off to Afghanistan, into the Hotel California of haunted attractions.

For those who like their touching stories about the power of friendship to be a little, you know, bloodier. And sometimes maggotier. I became a Z. Rider fan when I read Suckers, so my expectations were high, and Insylum did not let me down. I’ll warn you though, this book is graphic and not for the faint of heart. Z. Rider knows what scares you, and is not afraid to use it.

 


 

51NMivVa83L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Sisters of Sorrow, by Axel Blackwell
YA dark fantasy full of suspense and mystery, about teens abandoned in a world of sinister secrets, monsters, witches, and evil nuns.

Don’t let the YA tag fool you, this story is gripping at any age. From edge-of-your seat action to beautifully rendered description to engaging, likable, but appropriately flawed characters (Anna is not your average YA Mary Sue), it has it all and then some. The only downside is you might feel a little guilty for how much fun you have being drawn into such a creepy world. Make sure you don’t start it until you have time to finish it.
 


 

Suckers

So here is the blurb for Suckers, by Z. Rider:

When worn-out musician Dan Ferry decides to take a shortcut back to the band’s hotel, he picks the wrong dark alley to go down. Within days of being attacked by a bat-like creature, he becomes consumed with the need to drink human blood.

Terrified of what will happen if he doesn’t get his fix–and terrified of what he’ll do to get it–he turns to his best friend and bandmate, Ray Ford, for help. But what the two don’t know as they try to keep Dan’s situation quiet is that the parasite driving Dan’s addiction has the potential to wipe out humankind.

You’ll note two key phrases there: need to drink blood and potential to wipe out humankind. That tells me it’s a vampire apocalypse novel. It takes serious balls to release a vampire apocalypse novel. The only way to write to a more saturated market would be to throw in some zombies. It’s a major challenge, and not for the faint of pen, to pull this off. Justin Cronin pulled it off. Z. Rider does, too.

I mention Cronin because sometimes Rider reminds me of him. Sometimes of Stephen King. Those are both big compliments in my world. But more importantly, she mostly doesn’t remind me of anyone. She owns this story. This story, despite having all the elements a horror story requires, is not one you’ve read before.

The bulk of the credit for that goes to the characters. Dan and Ray are interesting as individuals, but they’re even more interesting when taken together. Their relationship is a big part of the pull that keeps you turning pages when you should be doing laundry. As it’s burdened by greater and greater challenges, you want to know how much it can take. And you root for it not to fall apart.

This is a story about friendship, addiction, and then horrifying blood sucking gore. Don’t get me wrong, the horrifying blood sucking gore is quite horrifying. But it takes all three to make it work. This works very, very well.

And extra points for the mention of coffee regular. It’s been many years since I left New England, but that took me right back to my old morning commute. I don’t especially miss Boston. (Boston is great, but you know. We have sunshine and shrimp & grits here.) I don’t especially miss coffee. But I totally miss that delicious marble cruller. And also the years when eating a delicious marble cruller every day would have zero effect on my weight. Ah, youth.

And the point of that little aside is: it’s a great skill to take one detail like that and use it to evoke a setting so well. This is just good, solid writing.

Go read it.