In this edition of Indie Spotlight, our monthly thematic roundup of BookLife titles, we celebrate fiction and poetry. Want to see your book featured? Check out the Indie Spotlight Calendar at booklife.com/indiespotlight
Coming of Age
Sitting on Top of the World
About the book: Sitting on Top of the World, a BookLife Editor’s Pick, is a historical fiction story that follows spunky June Baker and her family’s struggles during the Great Depression. After a heartbreaking tragedy, 14-year-old June risks “riding the rails” to find work to help her family. What she finds on her journey teaches her much about friendship, love, and loss, but what she comes home to just might crush her.
Author statement: “Sitting on Top of the World started as an idea for a flash fiction contest and grew into a 25-chapter novel. After participating in a pitch event on Twitter and getting a like from a small publisher, I signed a contract, and my debut novel was published! Unfortunately, that publisher closed shortly after. It was devastating. I was then faced with the monumental task of rereleasing my book on my own, which I did.”
About the book: A teen violinist hopes to leave her foster care baggage behind at college. Instead, she starts sleeping around campus—from air mattresses to random couches—after a roommate nightmare.
Author statement: “Sleeping Around is about belonging, letting people in, and not demanding perfection when it comes to loving ourselves and others. I’ve struggled with all those things, and I think most young adults have too. I think many readers will connect with Corey’s internal struggles, even if not rooted in the same reasons.”
About the book: Nic Summers is taunted for being an “ugly lesbian,” which is confusing because she isn’t sure they’re totally wrong. But then her best and only friend, Sam, announces she’s moving. Nic and Sam undertake “Operation Social Interaction” for Nic to find her some new friends. It’s difficult for the introverted artist, and she starts questioning literally everything about herself, including her sexuality and gender. Once she finds the term “gender nonconforming,” things start to fall into place, even if that knowledge doesn’t tell her what to do next. Then Sam is gone, and Nic has to find her own path and live her own truth.
Author statement: “This is a semi-autobiographical novel in which I imagine being a teenager in a small Southern town today instead of in the 1980s and 1990s. If I was in high school today, I would have language and concepts related to gender identity to help guide me toward figuring out who I am and want to be. I explore the difficult journey of self-discovery in Ugly.”
The Change Agents: Whispers in the Wind
Sarah E. Lewis
About the book: The Change Agents: Whispers in the Wind is a climate fiction story with a hopeful message. Recruited out of desperation by her beloved canine who she thought was dead, a local TV reporter forges an extraordinary partnership with an animal alliance. The human-animal team catalyzes an epic race to save their shared world from the climate crisis.
Author statement: “Although I have an environmental background, this story originated out of grief after one of my dogs, Bebop, passed away unexpectedly. Struggling with the loss, I decided to write a story in which Bebop was a main character and worked with other animals and humans to fight something. As I searched for an enemy common to animals and humans, the antagonist revealed itself while reading a climate change blog I follow.”
The Scent of Gardenias
About the book: She had big dreams. But will war, tragedy, and naïveté ruin her aspirations? The Scent of Gardenias chronicles the struggle of a 20th-century woman carving her place in society. If you like raw emotional battles, family drama, and gut-wrenching dilemmas, then you’ll love Lorraine Haas’s tale of courage and tenacity.
Author statement: “Inspired by my mother’s true story, I worked with a story coach to incorporate plot points into the fictional account of a woman coming of age during World War II. The story is set in the Southeast (upper Florida, often referred to as “lower Alabama”) and chronicles the plight of women in the United States during that time in history.”
Stand a Little Out of My Sun
Angelyn Christy Voss
About the book: Stand a Little Out of My Sun captures the dramatic cross-currents of life in a Greek American family in Chicago’s industrial Southeast Side during the 1950s and 1960s. It tells the story of Sophie, who becomes the sole protector of her little brother, Niko. Sophie wishes to live with her grandparents, with their big passions and abundant love, but Niko idolizes their pa. Nine-year-old Niko becomes the newest member of an under-the-table car business run by his pa. He shuts Sophie out, and she can’t bear the way his eyes have begun to get the same hard flash as their father’s. This multigenerational novel explores forgiveness and redemption.
Author statement: “This story draws upon my early upbringing within the folds of my colorful Greek family on the East Side of Chicago. My inspiration comes from the many remarkable characters of my youth, along with their joys and sorrows. My grandparents owned a soda fountain and hamburger shop that was a gathering place for the entire neighborhood. Southeast Chicago has always been a place of neighborhoods shaped by every imaginable culture. The steel mills and factories during the 1950s brought immigrants from all over the world. The physical presence of these factories implied industrial might, and the people represented the backbone of America.”
What the Bird Sees in Flight: Collected Stories of a New Zealand Farming Family
Joseph R. Goodall
About the book: Set among the rolling green hills of New Zealand’s verdant Waikato District, this episodic collection of short stories opens a window into the life of a 20th-century dairy farming family.
Author statement: “After reading my granddad’s autobiography, I was struck by how stern yet creative my great-grandparents were, and how none of their children continued managing their dairy farm, instead selling the land to a housing developer. As I experimented with fictionalizing their history, I discovered that a series of short stories could provide a topographic map of the family’s quirks, disagreements, aspirations, and regrets.”
Jane the Quene (Book One of the Seymour Saga)
About the book: England. 1535. Jane Seymour is 27 years old and increasingly desperate to marry and secure her place in the world. When the court visits Wolf Hall, the Seymour ancestral manor, Jane has the perfect opportunity to shine: her diligence, efficiency, and newfound poise are sure to finally attract a suitor. but when she catches the eye of a volatile king, she is pulled deep into the Tudor court’s realm of plot and intrigue.
Author statement: “By day, I’m a freelance grant writer for impactful nonprofits. By night, I write historical fiction, indulging a passion for the Tudor era that I’ve harbored since I was a child.”
The Lonely Spirit
About the book: The Lonely Spirit is a short story collection sprawled across the Old West. As the only half-Comanche U.S. Marshal, L.S. Quinn straddles two worlds, searching for peace in both. Quinn is one of the best marshals, well-respected for finding criminals and bringing them to justice. His adventures pit him against criminals like Florence Finnegan, the famous brothel owner and gunslinger, and Jack Mattherson, whose attack on U.S. Senator William Quincy brings out Quinn’s desire for revenge. But Quinn isn’t always lucky: when one of his partners turns into his enemy on a lonely stretch of land, Quinn no longer knows whom to trust.
Author statement: “I started writing the short stories that appear in this collection more than a decade ago. Many of them have since been published in literary journals. I found it fascinating to delve into the history of the Old West and of the Comanche tribe in particular.”
Secrets in the Palazzo
About the book: Secrets in the Palazzo intertwines a real-life art history mystery with romance. In the novel, Rose and her conservator friend, Beatrice, find a series of clues to a centuries-old mystery that involves a lost Leonardo da Vinci painting. Beatrice falls for talented street artist Mike, who creates thought provoking murals about inclusion and diversity.
Author statement: “I am passionate about art history and have extensively researched Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.”
Walking in the Shadow
About the book: On a small, wind-blasted island off the east coast of New Zealand, a small colony of leprosy patients is isolated but not abandoned, left to live out their days in relative peace thanks to the charity of the townspeople and the compassion of the local doctor and matron of the hospital. Jimmy Kokupe is a miracle: he’s been cured. But he still carries the stigma, which makes life back on the mainland dangerous and lonely. To find a refuge, he’s returned to the camp to care for his friend, fellow patient Will, and disturbed young Charley. Healed of his physical ailments and dreaming of the girl he once planned to follow to a new life in Australia, Jimmy meets “the lady,” the island caretaker’s beautiful but troubled wife who brings their food. Can she help Jimmy forget his difficult past, overcome his own prejudices towards his mixed parentage, and find the courage to risk living in freedom?
Author statement: “I discovered the remains of the camp I write about during a day trip to Quail Island. It sparked my reporter’s curiosity, so I did some research. It kept me awake at night. I wondered, How can you adjust to being shut off from a world you could easily reach? And what can make a man who is miraculously cured give up his freedom again?”
A Lifetime Kind of Love
About the book: A Lifetime Kind of Love is a collection of poetry that follows the story of Hades and Persephone as they share a mortal lifetime. According to the myth, Hades saw Persephone on Earth and took her to the underworld, where he made her his wife. The poetry explores what that moment on Earth looked like. For what is a moment to an immortal if not a lifetime to a mortal?
Author statement: “I originally wrote this collection of poetry when I once again experienced heartbreak as a young woman. But slowly, as more poems were pulled from my subconscious, it became a story about grief, abandonment, loss of self in a lover, death, and rebirth. Hades and Persephone became the perfect mythical archetypes to draw from.”
About the book: Rearranged embodies vulnerable stories of deep, jagged trauma and the isolating path of finding self-acceptance.
Author statement: “After going through pregnancy loss in 2017, I just could not come out from under the grief. It sent me into a whirlwind of darkness, anxiety, infertility, and loss of hope. After completing therapy years later, I was finally on the path to healing parts of myself that stemmed well before the miscarriage. This healing inspired me to illustrate and put to words the most difficult and yet profound chapter in my life: my journey to motherhood. In the summer of 2021, poetry started pouring out of me and I just couldn’t stop writing my story. After receiving feedback from my readers, I realized that it was also the story of so many others who silently suffered as well.”
Years Spent: Exploring Poetry in Adventure, Life and Love
About the book: This book is a collection of poems depicting various emotions as one navigates through life’s journey. The message is simple: let your inner curiosity lead you to explore, venture out into the unknown territories, and feel the grandeur of life.
Author statement: “I work in the technology sector in Silicon Valley, but writing is my passion. This is my debut book and these poems have been written through my college days and into my work life. I hope that this book will appeal to young and old readers alike, helping them to reconnect with their emotions, new thoughts, ideas, and inspirations.”