Bookshelf: Check out these 3 indie books

Courtesy of WolfieVibes Publications/She Writes/Schroder Media

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Courtesy of WolfieVibes Publications/She Writes/Schroder Media

The cream rises to the top with these two memoirs and a novella.

The AJC rarely writes about self-published books, and here’s why: The steady stream of new books is voluminous, and the resources we have for covering them is finite. That means we have to be selective. And because self-published books have not received the seal of approval and undergone a rigorous editing process by a traditional publisher, they are less hit and more miss when it comes to quality.

But times are changing. Many independent authors now hire their own professional editors and graphic designers, and online sales can be robust, especially in certain genres like romance and fantasy.

All that is to say, there are some good books out there that have taken nontraditional routes to publishing that are worth a second look, and here are a few that recently crossed my desk.

Published by a hybrid press, which combines elements of a traditional press and self-publishing, “Seeing Eye Girl” (She Writes Press, $16.95) by Beverly Armento, a retired educator and professor emerita at Georgia State University, is the kind of coming-of-age memoir that gives credence to Leo Tolstoy’s observation that “All happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

It’s the bizarre particulars of Armento’s chaotic childhood and physical torment that capture the reader’s attention. Beautiful, artistic and charming, Armento’s mother is also blind and mentally ill. The brave face she presents to the world hides a deep-seated paranoia and a sadistic pleasure in slapping, pinching and hitting Beverly, her eldest, who is charged with managing the household, taking care of her siblings and serving as her mother’s eyes.

But it is Armento’s indomitable, resilient spirit; her passion for school; and her hunger for order and normalcy that capture the reader’s heart. Disturbing in parts and poetic in others, the story Armento tells is one that stays with you long after you’ve read to the end.

I had the pleasure of seeing a few chapters of this book in its early stages when Armento took a couple of my writing classes at Emory Continuing Education, so it’s a real joy to see it come to fruition.

Fans of Ottessa Moshfegh and other authors of bleak fiction will like “Something Is Always Happening Somewhere” (WolfieVibes Publications, $11.99) by Kelly McClure, a New Orleans-based journalist and fiction writer.

Things go from bad to worse in this dark novella about a woman whose life unravels after her wife is murdered. Just 130 pages long, it is a well-crafted study of grief that doesn’t offer a shred of redemption. And yet! There is something so compelling about the protagonist Dale, that I felt glued to her side as she spirals, each move she makes more fatalistic than the last.

“After spending so much of our lives avoiding terrible things, when they come, it almost feels like a relief, because we know then. We know. That we were right in suspecting that they were always out there waiting for the perfect time,” Dale observes.

Reading “Something is Always Happening Somewhere” makes me eager to see what McClure does next.

On a lighter note, Chris Schroder, an Atlanta marketing and public relations executive, has written a charmingly funny and vulnerable memoir about male vanity called “Headscape” (SchroderMedia.com, $16.99).

Blessed with a full head of hair as a kid, Schroder develops a widow’s peak by eighth grade that progresses into a comb-over by age 29. His life traverses the usual ups and downs — divorce and remarriage, jobs lost and found — over the next three decades, but he never grows accustomed to his reflection in the mirror.

Then one day, his barber convinces Schroder to accompany him to Istanbul for a hair transplant. The journey takes some harrowing turns, and the procedure inadvertently prompts an early intervention into what could have been a very serious health issue. But the story ends on a happy — albeit bemused — note.

A slim read at 136 pages, augmented with personal photographs, it’s a well-told story filled with self-deprecating humor and insight into how our physical attributes shape our identity and self-worth.

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Courtesy of G.P. Putnam

Courtesy of G.P. Putnam

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Courtesy of G.P. Putnam

Crawdads redux: Just in time for the July 15 theatrical release of the film adaptation of Delia Owens’ “Where the Crawdads Sing,” Roswell Reads is making its video of the author’s 2019 talk available for viewing online between 10 a.m. Saturday, July 9, and 7 p.m. Sunday, July 10. The viewing is free, but registration is required at roswellreads2022.eventbrite.com.

Roswell Reads has been promoting the value of reading, literacy and lifelong learning through community-wide events since 2005. For information, go to RoswellReads.com.

Suzanne Van Atten is a book critic and contributing editor to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Contact her at svanatten@ajc.com and follow her on Twitter at @svanatten.