From the Indie Bookshelves: Top 10 Books of 2015 (at the Halfway Point in the Year)
by Patrick Hodges
A couple months ago, I wrote a post about how I love doing book review swaps – and if you don’t know what that is, let me ‘splain. I contact another independent, self-published author, just like myself, and the two of us agree to read each other’s works in exchange for an honest review to be posted on Amazon and GoodReads.
As of this morning, I’m up to 65 reviews for my book, Joshua’s Island, a great many of which did, in fact, come from fellow authors. Which means, if you follow my path of logic, I have read a LOT of books over the past six months. Since the start of 2015, I have read 50 books – not one of them by an author you’ve likely heard of.
I won’t lie to you: some of these books were a hard slog to get through. A few of them were so overlong or poorly formatted or horribly edited (assuming they were edited at all) that I couldn’t get through them. But that was only a small percentage. Though many of them were not standouts, and not likely books I’ll ever read again, almost all of them have been enjoyable, regardless of genre. And some have been absolutely spectacular, books that I would stack up against those penned by bestselling authors whose works are showcased front and center in whatever brick-and-mortar bookstore you frequent.
As a YA author, I have read the most books within my own genre, which is to be expected. But there have been occasions when I’ve stepped outside my box, based on recommendations of other authors, and have been happy I did. Of the 50 books I have read this year, I have selected 10 that I would recommend to anyone, regardless of age; books I will happily read again someday; and all of which were written by authors just like me, hopeful writers who want nothing more than to get their stories out into the world.
In no particular order, here are my Ten Favorite Books of 2015 (so far).
Into Shadow by T.D. Shields. – In the year 2259, Earth has been devastated by global war, bombings, and the melting of the polar icecaps. The North American Alliance is led by distinguished military hero President Walker, and the First Lady, his teenage daughter Poppy. Outwardly classy and diplomatic, Poppy is surprisingly strong and resilient, and her survival skills are put to the test when a violent coup has her running for her life. She must flee to the ruins of the city formerly known as Denver, where she must use all her cunning and bravery to survive. A truly riveting story, and I cannot wait for the conclusion of the saga, Into Light, which should come out later this year.
Lyric the Unknown by Jim Maher – A wave of darkness envelops the world, swallowing all in its path. Ten-year-old Lyric Bell awakens 50 years later, still a child, to find the remnants of humanity eking out a meager existence on the rooftops of the skyscrapers she once marveled at. All she has from her former life is the violin she loathed with every fiber of her being. But now, in a society where music is forbidden, she finds joy and solace in the thing she once hated. Beautiful, poignant, utterly wonderful.
Sunlight Parted by Sean Redenbaugh – This paranormal tale centers on Seth, a young man who wakes up naked on a dark, supernatural beach, next to an abandoned, run-down beach house on the shores of an unmoving ocean. And then, suddenly, he is at the side of the woman he adores, a mysterious lady named Sovannah. But just as he is about to embrace true happiness, he is returned to the same beach house, again and again. I honestly cannot say enough good things about this story. It is immaculately written, gut-wrenching, and has changed the way I view life and death. A modern masterpiece.
The Monsters Anonymous Club: Don’t Play with Dead Things by J.L. Lipp – The fact that this book is meant for middle-grade kids didn’t dampen my love for it. A story about a group of stalwart preteens who band together to investigate and battle spectral forces that rear their heads in the town of Bayview, Michigan is funny, endearing, and scary in all the right places. If you have kids or teens, get this book for them. It is absolutely worth whatever paltry sum you might pay for it.
The Institute by Kayla Howarth – You’ve likely heard of the YA dystopian series that have sold millions of copies, like Divergent and The Hunger Games. Well, if there were any justice, this series would be right alongside them. In the future, where the population has been decimated and every country has closed its borders, people with supernatural abilities (known as “Defectives”) pop up every now and then. They must hide themselves or be sent to The Institute, where society can be kept safe from them. Teenage girl Allira Daniels wants nothing more than to keep her Defective brother Shilah out of their clutches, but soon embarks on a journey that will force her to become the heroine she never dreamt she could be. Absolutely tremendous storytelling, and I can’t wait for the final chapter of the trilogy.
Lady Sun by Marni MacRae – I’d never read a romance novel before, and that’s what I thought I was getting when I started Lady Sun. But what I got instead was a gripping story of survival and adventure as we follow the travails of Sophia, a rancher seeking refuge from the memory of a bitter divorce on the remote islands of the Maldives. Near her destination, she meets Lucas, a Montana cowboy seeking the same solitude after a breakup of his own. But when their transport to paradise is hijacked by modern-day pirates, the two must work together to survive Mother Nature in all its fury. A story of love, dependence, and survival that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Locksmith’s Closet by Paul Briggs – When I read the blurb – “A solitary boy named Lachlan Smith finds a portal to the future in the closet of his new house” – I expected this to be a rollicking, plot-driven adventure story. Boy, was I surprised when it turned out exactly the opposite. As Lock explores a parallel Earth where humanity has been wiped out, searching for clues that might somehow prevent the catastrophe, the story takes a completely unexpected turn by delving deep into the characters, never letting you forget that the kids are still kids, with everyday, real-life problems. A true gem.
Skin Cage by Nico Laeser – I heard glowing review after glowing review about this book from fellow members of a Facebook author’s group I joined recently, so I had to check it out for myself. Boy, were the rave reviews justified. At the beginning, we meet Daniel, a teenage boy left a quadriplegic by a parasite, dependent on machines to survive and unable to communicate. We see life through his eyes as his condition affects those around him, and just like that, we segue into the life of David, an ex-journalist with terminal cancer. I won’t explain the connection between the two, but it is such a well-written, unique take on life, death, and transition that I would think you’d rather read about it yourself. It’s THAT good.
Henchmen by Eric Lahti – Imagine a gang of bad guys whose ultimate mission is to blow up Congress. Could you root for them? Well, what if I told you they were led by a seven-foot-tall blonde demigod named Eve who is super strong and immune to bullets? Really, what more do you need? This crime caper is told with such flair and humor that you’ll forget how insane the concept is and just go along for the ride, laughing nearly every step of the way. Pick this up; you’ll thank me.
What Happened to David by P.M. DeVuono – Just finished this a few days ago. Probably closer in theme and tone to Joshua’s Island than any book out there, this endearing story follows two mid-teens who meet at an “alternative” school in a section of Los Angeles where gang violence and death runs rampant. David and Mary make a connection based on events of their past, a past that includes bullying, bad friends,1 and worse enemies. I’m a sucker for young love (obviously), but this book made me read from beginning to end without stopping, and I was reaching for a tissue at the end of it. Absolutely beautiful.
Pick up any (or all) of these books on Amazon. If you’re part of Kindle Unlimited, you’ll be able to download some of these for free. You probably won’t have to pay more than $2.99 for any of them. They are all so, SO worth it.
Patrick Hodges lives in Arizona with his wife of fourteen years, Vaneza. After doing weekly columns for entertainment-related websites, he has turned his attention to writing fiction. He is passionate about sending positive messages to young people. Joshua’s Island is his first novel. A sequel is in the works. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or “like” him on Facebook.