Self-published books: What to read

Some favorite under-the-radar writers and their recent releases.


The rise of self-publishing and digital publishing has allowed many fine but otherwise unknown writers to get their voices out into the world. It’s extremely difficult for new authors to break into any of the big publishing houses or even the independent presses. And it’s hard to get new books reviewed: At HCN, for example, we seldom review self-published books. Though some of them are excellent, they’re not always well-written or well-edited, and we lack the staffing to go through all the volumes we receive.

But here are some titles that have come out over the past year that we think our readers might enjoy. Book descriptions are supplied by their authors, and We’ve also listed places where you can buy these books.

Spider Woman’s Loom, Lorie Adair, Foreverland Press.;
Set on the vast and starkly beautiful Navajo Reservation in the aftermath of Indian agents exploiting the land and sending children to faraway boarding schools for assimilation, Spider Woman’s Loom is narrated by Noni Lee, an old Navajo weaver whose instinct for survival and fierce resistance drives away even those she loves most. When her estranged niece Shi’yazhi returns, Noni Lee is forced to face memories of her own innocence and beauty as well as the haunting traumas that stripped them away. Weaving a traditional rug, Noni Lee reconstructs a history and sense of family for herself and Shi’yazhi — the legacy of Spider Woman, whose gifts of creation and resiliency are a rite passed mother to child.

The Ballad of Desiree, Susan Carr.;; Ingram
In the early 1970s, Desiree, a 22-year-old free spirit, travels the logging roads of Idaho and Washington, where she meets a Gypsy man named Ruby and Big Paul Skinny, an L.A. songwriter who discovers Desiree’s beautiful singing voice. From the mysteries of a Native American smoke lodge to the idylls of a mountain homestead to the bohemian lights of a burgeoning Seattle music scene, the novel takes readers through a turbulent decade that changed everything.

Jiggles, Rolf, and the Remarkable Finale to Frank Stone’s Career, Wendell Duffield, iUniverse.;
As aging atheist and semi-retired geologist Frank Stone becomes depressed over the possibility that his exciting career of studying volcanoes is rapidly coming to an end, the opportunity to pursue one last project unexpectedly enters his university office. The bearer of this welcome news is Richard Stewart, the university’s seismologist and a staunch Mormon. In spite of their fundamentally opposed views of the roles of science versus faith in life’s journey, the two professors join forces to correctly forecast and then monitor an eruption that feeds lava into the Grand Canyon, and thereby dams the Colorado River.

Into the Roaring Fork, Jeff Howe, Cameron & Greys Publishing.;
They set out for Aspen in 1985 — a one-year post-graduation detour to play in the Rockies prior to entering the “real world.” They wouldn’t need much, just ordinary jobs with a ski pass attached, a one-bedroom apartment, and each other. But tempted by the decadent side of this iconic resort town, Alex Cavanaugh enters into an illicit agreement with a new acquaintance and finds himself on a remote forest trail, where the crime he is committing pales in comparison to the one his path will cross.

The Vendetta of Felipe Espinosa, Adam James Jones, Five Star Publications.;
1863. Civil War rages in the East. An unclaimed wealth of natural resources beckon prospectors to the West. Far from and between it all, a gunman stalks the territories on a divine mission to kill American settlers. He would elude governors and armies, bounty hunters and posses, until his demise at the climax of a fierce high country manhunt. By then, Felipe Espinosa had claimed more than 30 lives to quietly become one of the nation’s first serial killers and foreign terrorists.

The New Indians, Joe Jessup, iUniverse.;
In places like Big Scratch, Montana, where everything environmental is seen as a threat to jobs and prosperity, land developers and oil and mining companies chop up big ranches, leaving behind a mountain of contamination that causes environmental groups to lock down public land. As hard lines are drawn in the sand, Sierra Club demonstrators are beaten and a girl is missing after a peaceful protest on national forest land. In this gripping contemporary Western tale, two sides clash in opposition over a changing landscape as an aging cowboy attempts to find the place his grandfather once called the middle ground.

Evel Knievel Jumps the Snake River Canyon ... and Other Stories Close to Home, Kelly Jones, Ninth Avenue Press.;
When 10-year-old Pick Patterson finds himself stuck with bossy Grandma Grace and unemployed, easygoing Uncle Buddy in Twin Falls, he thinks he’s in for a boring summer in a hick town in the middle of the Idaho desert. But when Evel Knievel announces he’ll jump the Snake River Canyon just north of town, everything changes.

Los Alamos: A Whistleblower’s Diary, Chuck Montano, Desert Tortoise Publishing.;;
A shocking account of foul play, theft and abuse at our nation’s premier nuclear R&D installation, uncovering a retaliatory culture where those who dare to question pay with their careers and, potentially, their lives. This is a story about military-industrial dominance, and distortions of reality. It is a first-of-its-kind exposé, venturing past LANL’s armed guards and security fences to chronicle persistent, often successful efforts to prevent hidden truths from coming to surface in the wake of headline-grabbing events.

The Rule of Equity, Jonathan Neville, CreateSpace Publishing.;;
After centuries of genocide, relocation and neglect, Native Americans watch as the government that oppressed them faces financial ruin, environmental catastrophe, and imminent social collapse. Hyrum Cobb, a brilliant Native American lawyer who heads the Bureau of Indian Affairs, devises a plan to reclaim America for his people — and for the benefit of all Americans.

Ring of Fire, Tanyo Ravicz, Denali Press.;
Master hunting guide Hank Waters, a former Navy pilot, runs a wilderness lodge on the Alaska Peninsula. The opportunity of his career comes when Prince Tariq, the Crown Prince of Rahman, arrives in Alaska to hunt brown bear. Waters has always been ambivalent about guiding his wealthy clients to hunt the bears that he loves, and his fears are not groundless. Can Hank Waters and his staff maintain order among men accustomed to having their way in the world? How far should Waters go to accommodate his guests in exchange for the money he will earn?

Smokey Bear: The Cub Who Left His Pawprints on History, Karen Signell.;
How does an intelligent wild bear manage life in captivity? This is the first novel about the real bear cub who survived a forest fire high in the New Mexican mountains to become the living representative of his namesake, Smokey Bear. Authentic photographs and apt quotations enhance this heartwarming and bittersweet story, written for adults but with appeal for all ages.

Your Smallest Bones: Stories, Sean Taylor. Seventh Tangent.;
Of these 12 stories, seven have been previously published, and two received Pushcart Prize nominations. Taylor sets his tales mostly in San Francisco, often among 20-somethings struggling to make it as they navigate relationships, work, and life’s alarums and excursions. Intelligent, subtle, minimalist stories by a promising young writer (from Kirkus Reviews).

The Illegal and the Refugee: An American Love Story, Ian Tremblay.; Apple iBooks;
A tale of tragedy and triumph that highlights the difficulties and the hardships of Latino immigration to the United States. With roots set deep in Mexico and Cuba, it is a story about letting go of the past, the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity and of deep, unconditional love.

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