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Great indie novels I read in 2011

Instead of a "Best novels I read this year" post, as I've done in the past, I'm going to do things a bit differently and list only the small-press and self-published novels I've read. These authors are not only lovely people, each and every one (and I know because I've either met them or corresponded with them online), but will appreciate it far more if you support them, whereas Liz Gilbert ain't gonna notice if we boost another few copies of Eat Pray Love. (Which I did read this year, and mostly liked, but hey, you've already heard of that.)

Go see my Goodreads profile if you want to find the reviews for *all* the books, famous or not, that I've read lately. Otherwise, here are the indies that can use your help and are actively seeking avid fans. Most are available as paperbacks, and all (I think) as ebooks, and please do find one that'll make a great gift for someone you like--or a treat for yourself. So, in no real order...



The Hambledown Dream, Dean Mayes. Two young men's souls, one living and one dead, fuse into one body, linked by a passion for music and the love for a certain woman in Australia. Will he find her again, across the borders of death (not to mention the International Date Line)? Literary fiction meets paranormal romance. Made me weepy in a happy way.



Dark is the Sky, Jessica Chambers. This was such a skillful "ensemble cast" novel, full of all kinds of characters in a dysfunctional family. I was gripped by both the sympathy for their sufferings and misunderstandings, and the burning need to find out what exactly happened on that tragic day that damaged everyone so thoroughly. Intricately plotted, and written with a gorgeous sense of setting, this book is a sure bet for those of us who grew up on darkly romantic stories like Rebecca.



Shadow of a Distant Morning, William Topek. I don't usually like film-noir-ish detective stories, but this one rocked. The protagonist was super-smart, funny, and human, and the plot was devilishly intricate, while the violence was kept to tasteful levels. Great historical detail too. Come visit Kansas City in 1934--but bring a bulletproof vest.



Tallis' Third Tune, Ellen Ekstrom. Beautifully written, this novel takes the ordinary life of a twentieth-century woman and turns it into a poignant, surreal ride through the afterlife and our own world. Makes you ponder what you'd do differently if given the chance to alter your past. And, of course, makes you hope our heroine will find a way to end up with that one romantic, sweet musician who got away. (This year I also read Ellen's Armor of Light--a magical-historical retelling of the legend of St. George and the dragon. Tolkien fans, give it a try!)



Counterpoint: Dylan's Story, Ruth Sims. Oh, fans of historical slash, this one's for you. Nineteenth-century Englishmen in love against all odds, while trying to pursue respectable careers in music. What's a virtuoso to do? Non-graphic as far as the sexual content, but still highly romantic--and heartbreaking at times.



Letters from Wishing Rock, Pam Stucky. When Ruby, stinging after a broken engagement, moves to a quirky little Puget Sound island town where everyone lives and works in one big apartment building (which is in fact the town's *only* building), she knows life is about to change. And Pam Stucky shows the change--along with some trips to Scotland and other far-flung locations--in a story told entirely in the form of emails; a modern epistolary novel. With some free recipes. Delightful overall, with a "Northern Exposure" vibe.



Between, Cyndi Tefft. Outlander fans, take note: those of you into historical Highland men in your paranormals, sexy accents and kilts and all, try Cyndi Tefft's book on for size! Modern college freshman Lindsey, upon her death, meets such a fellow in the realm between heaven and Earth, and they're instantly attracted to one another. But the rules of "between" mean they'll have to be torn away from each other...unless they can find a loophole.



Priscilla the Great, Sybil Nelson. Got a smart, sassy middle-school kid on your gift list--or anyone, really, who enjoys fun superhero stories like "The Incredibles" or something Joss Whedon might write? Snap up this book, which has some truly funny, and definitely original, twists on the usual "kid superhero" tale. Adventure for the whole family!



Roeing Oaks, Kristina Emmons. Here's a good one for fans of sweet historical romance. Emmons begins with the unusual (though historically factual) premise of auctioning off one's wife, and follows through into the disinherited daughter's mission to reinstate justice to her family. Luckily there's a kind and mysterious rich man willing to assist her...cue the Cinderella romance!



Amber Frost, Suzi Davis. Ready for an all-out young-adult swooningly romantic paranormal novel? Well, here you go--and it's set in our beautiful Northwest but is blessedly free of vampires and werewolves! The paranormal element is still quite magical, but subtler and more original. The young hero's skin does NOT glitter, I am happy to say. Rather, he has black hair, tattoos, earrings, and regular warm blood in his veins, on top of a private-school uniform, and possesses a sweet and philosophical temperament with just a hint of danger. Totally squee-worthy. Sequel is now out, too! I am excited.



The Gentleman and the Rogue, Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon. Last but certainly not least, male/male lovin'! Yaaaaay! Yes, it's erotica, be warned. But it's well-written erotica. It has, like, an actual plot, and realistic, likable characters. (And sizzling Scenes of Adult Intimacy. Aplenty.) Bonus points for the authors' research on street cant of the times. The linguist in me enjoyed that.

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Now. Weren't those some beautiful book covers? I tell you, great work is being done out there. Round of applause to authors, indie publishers, and cover artists! Happy holidays!