Indie Ebook Award Winners 2017

The third annual LJ Indie Ebook Awards has now come to a close. Committees of librarians—plus the authors of some of last year’s winners—volunteered their time to evaluate hundreds of submissions and determine the best ebooks self-publishing has to offer in Sf/Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, and YA. These books—and many others—can be found in SELF-e, a subscription-based digital discovery platform for indie fiction. Congratulations to all of the honorees, including our first-ever overall winner, A Queen from the North.

ROMANCE

Overall Winner

McRae, Erin & Racheline Maltese. A Queen from the North. Avian30. (Royal Roses, Bk. 1). May 2017. 418p. ebk. ISBN 9781537890357. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Prince Arthur is next in line for the throne of an alternate Britain, where the War of the Roses never truly ended and the rivalry between York and Lancaster holds strong. With his father secretly ailing, Arthur must abandon his image as a womanizing widower in order to produce an heir. Recently dumped by her boyfriend and rejected from her first-choice PhD program, a distraught and defensive Lady Amelia Brockett makes quite the impression when she bumps into the Prince of Wales at a horse race. Amelia, the youngest daughter of a minor earl from the backwater of Yorkshire, feels the sense of injustice among the people. When Arthur proposes a strategic marriage—one that might finally unite their houses—Amelia has the chance to change the country, but it will prove difficult. Her public actions must present her as a trustworthy future queen, but she privately rejects the archaic royal manual, balks at the royal wedding ceremony, and refuses to apologize for being slut-shamed in the media. All the while, a political union grows into genuine love. VERDICT A slow-burn romance, this alternative history updates the British monarchy with feminist themes, social issues, and LGBTQ characters.—Lissa Staley, Topeka and Shawnee Cty. P.L., KS

Honorable Mentions

LeCoeur, Ursula. The Perfect Partner. Royal Street. (Love in New Orleans, Bk. 4). Aug. 2017. 290p. ebk. ISBN N/A. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Carine Bouchard is the advice columnist for the Daily Picayune in 1880s New Orleans. She enjoys the work, until her editor renames her column “Dear Jacqueline and Jacques” and pairs her with a male writer. Her Jacques is Vespasian Colville, a man who flirted with ruin after focusing on a dispassionate woman at the expense of his obligations. Before being made to collaborate at the newspaper, the bluestocking and the rake knew each other as children but were both firmly stuck in their roles. They agree to disagree in their column replies, and readers will be laughing at the conflicting advice. Then they get troubling letters from a girl who suspects she is being slowly poisoned by relatives in pursuit of her impending inheritance. Carine and Vespasian both race across the city to help, eventually sparking a mutual attraction and realizing that they’re better together. VERDICT LeCoeur, a mother-daughter writing team, delivers a solid stand-alone in the “Love in New Orleans” series filled with witty banter, love potions, and historical flair.—Lissa Staley, Topeka and Shawnee Cty. P.L., KS

Vince, Suzanne Whitfield. The Other Side of the World: Rowan’s Story. Suzanne Whitfield Vince. (Other Side of the World, Bk. 1). 2015. 202p. ebk. ISBN N/A. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Rowan McClain’s successful career as a romance writer has saved her from a desk job in accounting but ruined the goals she previously shared with her husband. As their marriage deteriorates, Rowan receives a letter and begins corresponding with one of her readers. Lieut. Luke Cartwright joined the army to escape the pain of losing his parents, but his mind is overwhelmed by the brutality he witnessed in battle. When he’s given a book by Rowan that reminds him what it means to connect, Luke writes to the author to express his gratitude. Their communication increases in honesty and intimacy, ending in a goodbye mailed with a blood-spattered photo. Rowan is certain that her pen pal has been killed in the line of duty. After her divorce, Rowan agrees to go on a blind date with her sister’s patient—an injured soldier just returned to civilian life. Odd when Rowan feels as though she knows this man from somewhere. VERDICT Vince writes an affecting story that has a similar feel to the film You’ve Got Mail. Brimming with raw emotion, it will tug at the heart of any romantic.—Lissa Staley, Topeka and Shawnee Cty. P.L., KS

SF/FANTASY

Winner

Walker, Loren. Eko. Octopus & Elephant. (NINE, Bk. 1). 2016. 428p. ebk. ISBN 9780997392210. SF
Sydel is a young medical apprentice in the Jala Communia with knowledge of—but no real experience with—the outside world. That is until one night an injured woman is brought in, a blue-haired mercenary named Phaira, who Sydel decides to help. Instead of being rewarded for her demonstrated skill, Sydel is shocked when the elders expel her. Phaira, along with her two brothers, bring Sydel with them to the louder, advanced North. Soon Sydel’s true worth is discovered: she is an Eko, with mental and healing powers that would be a wonderful asset to a benevolent society—or a tremendous prize to a powerful few. Now the siblings must find a way to protect Sydel and themselves against a range of enemies. VERDICT Walker has created a fascinating, rough world, where industry and technology are up against less-mechanized areas. Well-rounded characters and a fast-paced plot will keep readers engaged. Luckily, for fans, there is already a sequel (Nadi).—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., South Deerfield

Honorable Mentions

John, Joseph. The Eighth Day. Joseph John. 2016. 270p. ebk. ISBN 9781537865911. SF
It’s seemingly just another day when an unkempt stranger appears in front of Shawn Jaffe to tell him, “Nothing you know is real.” Without warning, another man in a dark suit shoots the stranger and places a bewildered Shawn on a path to discover if this random proclamation is correct. Shawn is left to question everything he has ever believed to exist: his job, his home, those around him, and even his own mind. Paranoia, deeply felt in John’s riveting prose, begins to take its toll as Shawn feels eyes on him everywhere he goes. Someone is out there—watching him, manipulating him—but whom? What he doesn’t know is that not only is his life on line—humanity itself is at risk of extinction. VERDICT An absorbing narrative dealing with covert missions, clones, and brain mapping lead a merry chase. Intense action and mysterious intrigue make this highly desirable.—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., South Deerfield

Tapper, Mark Leo. The Vials of Our Wrath. Sousa House. May 2017. 258p. ebk. ISBN N/A. SF 
In the 23rd century, the population is healthier than ever, and the Global Health Directorate has successfully implemented regeneration therapy. However, not everyone is finding happiness in their second life. Dr. Rosemary “Roger” Mitchell discovers that the Directorate Council is winnowing out those who do not equal their vision of the best of humankind and genocide is impending. While trying to save those she can, Roger becomes stuck between the Directorate and an opposing religious group, the Community of Natural Aging—and neither side has a problem using violence for their cause. Fanaticism is not limited to religion and power is not limited to science, giving readers who love the genre something deeper to ponder. VERDICT Tapper offers up a thrilling look into the inevitable sides of morality, scientific directive, and pursuing health to its extreme. His grasp of advanced medicine and people’s wants and fears make for an incredible read.—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., South Deerfield

Mystery

Winner

Chacon, Iris. Finding Miranda. CreateSpace: Amazon. 2016. 230p. ebk. ISBN 9781311180315. Mys
Librarian Miranda Ogilvy is the new girl next door in the small town of Minokee, FL, where she hopes to make a home of her late aunt’s cottage. She’s just settled into a routine with the gun-toting, porch-sitting old ladies on her block when blind radio deejay Shep Krausse runs—literally—into her life. However, Miranda isn’t Shep’s only new acquaintance. Beneath Minokee’s quaint exterior is a darker truth. Readers are in for a treat when Miranda and Shep team up against the sinister forces out to off them both, proving that our enemies are closer than we might think. Still, the ample comic relief and romantic scenes help to lighten the load of the novel’s murderous elements. VERDICT The many delicious twists and turns provide a wild ride as Miranda and Shep try to prevent chaos from reigning in their neighborhood. Those seeking a perfect balance of cozy mystery, romance, and nail-biting drama should look no further.—Emilie Hancock, Mount Pleasant Regional Lib., SC

Honorable Mentions

Castle, Anna. Publish and Perish. Anna Castle. (Francis Bacon, Bk. 4). Jun. 2017. 338p. ebk. ISBN 9781945382116. Mys
In 16th-century England, a mischievous Martin Marprelate wreaks havoc on London’s most proficient writers. His fiery pamphlets in support of a stronger Protestant Reformation in the Church of England send Puritan society into an infernal rage—including the archbishop, who would love to see him hang. Between the enraged pamphleteers with whom he is at constant war and the aggravated religious figureheads, Marprelate faces certain peril. There’s just one problem: nobody knows who he actually is or where he’s been printing his controversial works. When two writers are murdered after being mistaken for Thomas Nashe, a man who appears dangerously close to nabbing Marprelate, Francis Bacon steps in to find the killer—and hopefully Marprelate. VERDICT In this aptly titled fourth book in the “Francis Bacon” series, Castle combines her impressive knowledge of English religion and politics during the period with masterly creativity. The result is a lively, clever story that will leave mystery fans delighted.—Emilie Hancock, Mount Pleasant Regional Lib., SC  

Lawson, B.V. Elegy in Scarlet. Crimetime. (Scott Drayco, Bk. 4). 2016. 278p. ebk. ISBN 9780990458296. Mys
In the fourth installment of Lawson’s mystery series, crime consultant Scott Drayco has a lot on his plate. As if the pressure from a career-changing legal battle wasn’t enough, his long-lost mother suddenly walks back into the picture—and could very well be a murderer to boot. The many mysteries presenting themselves to Drayco prove much too irresistible not to explore, and he ignores advice from everyone around him to stay out of things. From the start, Lawson weaves a swiftly moving tale starring a keen, sharp-witted, and not-always-truthful cast. Rather than revealing answers, lightning-speed dialog raises as many riddles for the characters as it does the audience breathlessly awaiting the next unexpected plot point. VERDICT This labyrinthine novel is great for those who love to be as intellectually frenzied as the detectives in the stories they read. They’ll be eagerly flipping back to look for Lawson’s strategically placed clues.—Emilie Hancock, Mount Pleasant Regional Lib., SC

YA

Winner

Shaw, L. Lee. Aging Out. Boho. Aug. 2017. 234p. ebk. ISBN 9780998845517. F
After aging out of foster care, many young adults leave with a garbage bag of belongings and a woefully limited understanding of true independence—a stark reality that is quickly nipping at the heels of the three teens in Shaw’s compelling novel. Myron desperately tries to lead a righteous life but is stuck in the shadow of his criminal family; Soosie loves her sister even though she tried to kill her; and Adam was abandoned by his mother and grandmother. In order to secure some money for when they’re on their own, they find odd jobs at a geriatric home. As it turns out, the residents at Soda Springs Care Center are facing futures that are just as uncertain. While dealing with their own demons, the teens band together to stand hand-in-hand when their new companions are suddenly handed eviction notices. Interactions among the generations allow for the discussion of universal suffering. VERDICT Penning poignant, familiar characters and a surprise ending, Shaw presents a story of grief, closure, and the importance of forging meaningful relationships.—Maria McCarville, PLs. of Saginaw, MI

Honorable Mentions

Anna-Langston, Lis. Tupelo Honey. CreateSpace: Amazon. 2016. 270p. ebk. ISBN 9781495964725. F
Named after Elvis Presley’s birthplace, Tupelo Honey is a spunky yet neglected child who lives with an abusive junkie mother and her mother’s drug-dealing boyfriend, Nash. The opening pages set the tragic stage, with the three traveling to New York and Mexico for drugs, placing Tupelo Honey in harm’s way. The heartbreak spins out from there, when Tupelo Honey’s mother abandons her, and her grandmother, who tries to fill the void, dies. Still, Anna-Langston would not have her audience thinking all is so bleak. Tupelo Honey rolls with the punches, getting through with pragmatism, her imaginary friend, and an unexpected father figure in Nash. Anna-Langston expertly captures the devastating effects of drug use on both users and their loved ones—a factor that perhaps skews the novel toward older teens. VERDICT Told through Tupelo Honey’s perspective, this coming-of-age tale is a quirky, touching book that proves hope and love to be powerful medicines in difficult times.—Maria McCarville, PLs. of Saginaw, MI

Reyes, Laurisa White. Petals. Skyrocket. Mar. 2017. ebk. ISBN N/A. F
From the very first line, Reyes pulls readers into the gripping story of Carly Perez. A fatal car crash on Christmas leaves her with broken bones, fuzzy memories of the accident, frightening dreams, and the despair of losing her mother. They say that time heals all wounds, but Carly’s father has his doubts and decides that they will spend their first holiday after the accident with his estranged family in Guatemala. However, the trip brings about questions of her father’s past, a mysterious man whom Carly is convinced is following her, and the reality of what happened on the day her mother died. The drama unfolds against the vivid backdrop of the city of Reu at Christmastime, which Reyes paints in gorgeous detail. VERDICT Reyes’s spellbinding narrative is like being told a story by a close friend. Peppered with twists and secrets, it will hold readers’ attention to the last page.—Maria McCarville, PLs. of Saginaw, MI

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Kate DiGirolomo About Kate DiGirolomo

Kate DiGirolomo is the SELF-e Community Coordinator at Library Journal. She received her Master's degree in Library and Information Science at Pratt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @KateDiGirolomo.

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for such a lovely review of Petals. I’m truly honored.

  2. Iris Chacon says:

    Thank you for all the time and energy so unselfishly devoted to indie authors. And many thanks for the award and fabulous review for Finding Miranda. I’m flabbergasted, humbled, and honored.

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