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Free Friday: Today’s top free Amazon sci-fi and fantasy books for June 11
By Maria Korolov and Amira Loutfi
Did you know that Amazon has a list of the top-selling and free sci-fi and fantasy books?
The list changes constantly — authors set their books to free temporarily to promote their work, and, of course, books move up and down in the rankings. But are any of the books actually worth reading? Well, I read the first few chapters of each to find out, so you don’t have to.
This week’s list is completely different from those of the previous weeks. So if you’re a fan of free books, it looks like there are going to be new things to read all the time.
I’ve noticed that if you try to open the list on a mobile device, it will take you to the listings that cost money, instead. I’ve found that by switching to the “desktop site” in the mobile browser, the free list comes up.
Oh, and if there’s a book that catches your eye, grab it quickly, since the books are often free for only a short time. And, Amazon allows you to lend your e-books, for free, to your friends. Even free e-books. Here are the instructions.
Most of these books are the first book in the series, and in each case I’ve checked to see whether the rest of the books are free as well, or whether they’re in Kindle Unlimited. Learn more about Kindle Unlimited here.
The list is accurate as of the time of writing, but may have changed since the story was posted.
1. Ben Archer by Rae Knightly
This is the a box set of the first three books in the six-book The Alien Skill Series. The other book are $4.99 to $5.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
This is a young adult series, so right there, I’m not the target audience for this. I’m a grumpy old person with no patience for those pesky kids. Get off my lawn! That’s what I always say.
But that all that aside… It’s a month after something called “The Cosmic Fall.” Twelve-year-old Ben Archer has been in bed with a high fever for almost three weeks and is only now starting to recover, but he’s still having memory issues and nightmares.
So it seems that a meteor took out a U.S. satellite. Or, well, that’s the official story. But officials from the U.S., China, and Canada are investigating what really happened — that three alien spaceships had crashed in a town called Chilliwack, in British Columbia. The one that’s intact fell and is now in a secret underground facility, where it’s mysteriously floating a few feet off the ground.
Agent Theodore Connelly, a Canadian, is on the joint investigations team. But no! It turns out he’s one of the aliens, in disguise. He can alter his shape!
Meanwhile, Ben has episodes of paralysis and has been sent home from school. His mother is keeping secret the fact that he was a witness to the crash so that he wouldn’t be hounded by reporters. There are bullies teasing him, and his grandfather is in the hospital.
I’m not particularly enthused by the main characters. And the premise is interesting, but the story is slow to get going, so I’m probably not going to keep reading.
But I’m guessing that the boy will turn out to have some kind of weird alien powers. Okay, I cheated and read the description. Yes, he turns out to have alien powers. And he teams up with Agent Connelly. The two go on the run to escape from the government and from a shapeshifting alien enemy. That sounds pretty promising, and the writing is very readable. Okay, I might come back to it this weekend.
2. Archangel Down by C. Gockel
This is the first book in the nine-book Archangel Project series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 each, and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Have I been doing this series too long? I could swear I’ve read this book before?
Noa is a pilot in the Galactic Republic Fleet but has been captured and put in a concentration camp while on leave on her home planet. She has to escape and tell authorities about the place so that it can be shut down.
She escapes by hiding in a pile of dead bodies that is being driven to another location. She was planning to jump off the wagon before it got to its destination, but she fell asleep due to being so weak and tired after her captivity. She is now being buried alive with the corpses when her captors stop everything because a battle breaks out in the sky above her. She uses the distraction to escape.
It’s a great beginning, and a compelling main character. I was planning to keep reading, but never actually came back to finish the book. Today, I kept reading, and remembered why I was planning to come back to it. The action is fast-paced, the way I like it, and Noa is smart and capable. I’m enjoying the book.
Update: I’ve read most of the series now, paying for them with my own cold, hard, cash. The first three books, which make up a complete little arc, were excellent. Plenty of action, strong characters, and an underlying thread about what it means to be human. Meaty. The rest of the books follow different characters in the same universe and are still fun, but not as … well, meaty.
3. Chameleon by Cara Bristol
This is the first book in the five-book Alien Castaways series. The rest of the books are $3,99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The fifth book isn’t out yet, but is due later this month.
From Maria Korolov:
From the description, this sounds a lot like the movie Starman.
Chameleon is a shape-shifting alien who crash-lands near a small town in Idaho. He has to repair his ship and get back before enemies find him. If they do, Earth will be in danger, as well.
Meanwhile, Kevanne Girardi is a young widow who’s looking for a good handyman to help her on her rundown lavender farm. Lavender farm? Really? But okay… let get into it.
Oh, and I love the beginning!
A group of ‘Topians is trying to scape from planet ‘Topia before Xeno Consortium fighters can reach them. They’re on a Xeno ship that they took over from a Xeno that they captured. The Xeno had come in disguise, and tried to warn them about an invasion. When the ‘Topians scanned him, they found that he was a Xeno himself, and only pretending to be a ‘Topian, so they took him prisoner when they took over his ship and tried to flee the planet.
The prisoner is, of course, Chameleon. And he didn’t stay a prisoner long — he escaped by disguising himself as one of the ‘Topian crew members.
Turns out, Chameleon was a member of the Xeno Consorium High Council, but one who had opposed the destruction of ‘Topia, who had warned the planet of the attack, and had helped several thousand people escape annihilation. The rest perished. ‘Topians were a Xeno experiment — a population with a mishmash of genes from different species, all with different abilities. The Xenos decided they didn’t like the outcome of the experiment, so they would destroy the whole place.
During the escape, the ship is damaged, and they come out of hyperdrive in an uninhabited part of the galaxy, the Orion Spur. But Chameleon knows of an inhabited planet nearby, Earth. Earth has some basic space technology, and has alliances with extraterrestrials, mostly notably with the Intergalactic Dating Agency.
Hah! Until this point, the book read like a hard sci-fi space opera. Now it looks like it’s going to be a soap opera, instead. Of course, I already guessed that from the cover. The shirtless guy gave it away.
Anyway, they decide to land on Earth and see if they can find any other aliens to help them make repairs before the Xenos find them. Maybe the Intergalactic Dating Agency can help.
Now onto Kevanne. Her roof is leaking. Been there. Can sympathize. She’s up there, putting a tarp over the whole thing, when she sees a meteorite come down. She makes a wish on the shooting car – she wishes for her dream man to come. Specifically, a handyman. But instead of speeding up and crashing, it slowed down and landed without an explosion. She thought it was an alien ship, except aliens tended to prefer visiting the big cities, where the Intergalactic Dating Agency arranged its meets-and-greets.
She climbs down off the roof, jumps on her four-wheeler and heads off to investigate.
I like Kevanne. I like Chameleon. The premise is cheesy and all the names even cheesier but I can’t help it. Since starting this Free Friday series, I seem to have developed a taste for cheese!
4. Cursed Wolf by Brogan Thomas
This is the first of the three-book Creatures of the Otherworld series. The second book is $4.99 but is in Kindle Unlimited. The third book isn’t out yet — it’s due to be released in October.
From Maria Korolov:
Forrest is a werewolf, but she’s been in wolf form longer than she’s been in human form, fourteen years. She can’t turn back, and the other shifters think she’s gone feral, nothing more than a dog, no longer capable of intelligent thought.
But she’s still herself, on the inside, still the nine-year-old girl she was when she shifted. And she wants to protect her step-brother from forming a life-long bond with Liz, a bitchy shifter who’s not only cheating on Forrest’s step-brother, but plans to have Forrest killed. Plus, the whole pack is living on Forrest’s property, which used to belong to her mother.
She risks her life to expose Liz, and, in doing so, is able to shift back to human.
It turns out that someone had put a magical electric collar on her to keep her under control while she was in animal form.
So this is a young adult novel.
It’s told in the first person, and in the present tense. I don’t generally like reading books in the present tense — it feels odd. But in this particular story, it gives it a lot of immediacy. You really feel what Forrest is going through, and how she’s been victimized. I couldn’t stop reading.
5. Hero in a Halfling by William Tyler Davis
This is the first of three books in the Epik Fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Epik Stout is a halfling in a fantasy world who’s bored with his job in a bar. He lives in the Bog with other halflings, where they stay out of the way of the affairs of humans and dwarves.
But Epik is fascinated by all that. Especially by human knights, kings and wizards. It sounds fun and exciting.
I like Epik. I like the other patrons in his bar, and the way the halflings gossip and bicker with one another.
When Epik was a kid, a wizard had come to the area, looking to collect some bugs. Ever since, Epik had wanted to be a wizard and have magic of his own. He’s been planning to go to the city and find that wizard for years.
Finally, he decides to quit his job and go do just that.
I’m enjoying the book. It reminds me of early books by Terry Pratchett.
6. Expelled Reaper by Robyn Jenkins
This is the the first book of two book in the Lost Reaper Series. The other books is $3.99 each, and is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
One of my favorite TV shows is Dead Like Me, where a woman played by Ellen Muth is killed by a falling toilet seat and goes to work as a grim reaper. Her boss is played by Mandy Patinkin, and he was great in this show, as was Muth. So I’m a big fan of the premise.
Let’s see if this novel has any of that same magic!
Lara is a teenager. She still lives at home, and sneaks into her bedroom through the window. She stopped going to high school — she got her GED instead — and now instead of applying to colleges or getting a real job, she’s working part-time at the mall and hanging out with her loser boyfriend. Her dad is on her case, too.
She doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life, so takes her boyfriend’s suggestion to move with him to Atlanta and get a place together. Then she trips on some broken cement, breaks her neck, and dies.
And there’s her dead mother’s voice, telling her that it’s all going to be okay. She goes to heaven, and within a month, is chosen to be a reaper.
I’m surprised by the pacing. The author spent more time on Lara folding clothes at her dead-end mall job than on her whole first month after she died. How did she get promoted to angel status? How was she chosen to be a reaper? What’s heaven even like? These are all more important questions than her mall job!
Anyway, now she’s working as a reaper. She shows up when people die and puts them in an elevator to heaven — or to hell. And she lives in heaven with her mom.
Actually, it doesn’t seem too different from her previous life. Dead-end job. Living with a parent. Her mom even complains when she stays out late after her shift is over.
Then she’s out on a call when something goes wrong. She’s grounded on earth and can’t get back.
So she sets up shop as a psychic, helping people talk to dead loved ones. Again, this all happens within the space of a couple of paragraphs. What? I want to know more!
But it turns out she’s a bad psychic. Not bad in the faking it sense — she can really talk to the dead. It’s just that she doesn’t pay much attention to them, refuses to do any favors for them. Just collects her cash and … oh, she’s got another job. She’s working as a bounty hunter for the supernatural. She had partnered up with a druid to hunt down supernaturals. Shapeshifters were the worst. And there’s something about a big box retailers and car pooling to a leadership workshop.
Okay, is there a prequel that I’m missing here? I cheated and read the description and other reviews — doesn’t seem like it. I guess the author just has a habit of skipping over the good stuff.
Anyway, I’m confused about what’s going on, and I don’t like the main character enough to stick with it.
7. A Grave Magic by Bilinda Sheehan
This is the first of eight book in The Shadow Sorceress series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Andreas is the master of the city’s vampires. A magical woman wants him to kill someone and bring her a child. He refuses, and she kills him.
And he doesn’t come back in the next chapter. So this isn’t a story about Andreas. Though I could have guessed that from the cover.
No, it’s the story of Amber Morgan. She’s one of the Elite Preternatural Force. She works the desk, sorting through potential cases for signs of supernatural involvement. But she really wants to be out in the field. So she jumps at a chance to ignore her orders and join Graham, a more senior agent, for a ride-along.
Graham suspects her secret — that’s she’s really a witch. If the Elite found out, she’d be in serious trouble. Graham wants her to use her powers to help him with a crime scene – a suspected vampire attack.
So it seems that the Elite is okay with normal humans like themselves using magical spells, but they’re not okay with people who have intrinsic magical abilities.
Anyway, her first crime scene is a horror show. There’s a dead child, a dead mother who is still capable of attacking people, and lots of vampire energy in the air.
In general, I like the premise. I like police procedurals with supernatural elements. Amber is a little young, a little new to the job, a little resentful of not being in the field, and a little lacking in common sense — why is she working for an organization that’s opposed to witches if she’s a witch herself? But the book is growing on me. I might come back and finish it this weekend.
8. Owned by the Alien by Tammy Walsh
This is the first book in the six-book Fated Mates of the Titan Empire series. The rest of the books are $0.99 each, but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
The cover touts a topless, headless man. Can’t imagine what this one is about. Can you?
So our protagonist is a young woman abducted by very handsome aliens. In their culture, you are mated for life with the first person — or alien? — that you have sex with. She wants to go back home, but the chief of the aliens needs to have sex specifically with her for medicinal purposes.
The chief says that if they do it just one once then he’ll return her to earth. Sounds a bit sketchy. Right?
So I really like the first few lines. I’m a big sucker for openings:
A funny thing happens when you smash through a barrier and descend into a ravine two hundred feet below.
Gravity ceases to exist. You float up out of your seat, held in place only by a flimsy seatbelt. Time slows and you have eons to think, knowing your end is approaching, and you can’t do a damn thing to prevent it.
The opening scene is really good. It sort of brings me back to my own preteen years when I was driving around in a car full of excited girls. We never drove off a cliff, though. And we didn’t get abducted by aliens.
These girls seem dumb. I kind of like that. They are less mature than a set of working women are usually expected to be. The opening scene made me feel like they must be in high school or younger.
The first chapter is about a bachelorette outing where the protagonist meets a handsome stranger. Each one of them is like a sorority girl that never grew up. It reminds me of the girl from the Flight Attendant.
On the drive home, a vehicle ahead of them shoots straight up into the air. Their reactions are satisfyingly in line with what I’d expect.
My assumption is that the handsome stranger is the alien who needs a human female to mate with. Haha.
9. Runner by Evie Mitchell
This is the first book in the four-book Nameless Souls MC series. The rest of the books are $2.99 and $3.99 each, but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The fourth book isn’t out yet, but is due to be released this November.
From Amira Loutfi:
This one includes a trigger warning — there’s violence and abuse. Ok. Let’s dive in.
A virus has engulfed the world — and in the midst of this dystopian nightmare, Ellie meets Runner. Runner is a powerful dude in “The After” and he vows to protect Ellie as long as she surrenders to him. Wow. Sounds like some people are really thirsty for traditional gender roles.
I think I just love the way this person writes.
The world has “gone to shit” but there is a bubble of about 13 young women who have been able to survive on a college campus with their STEM skills. Things were relatively fine for a couple hundred days. Then “The Purge” occurred. And that all changed. A group of about 40 men discovered where the women were living and they want them.
The women are in a difficult position and they have to figure out a new strategy to survive. That might mean teaming up with a slightly less horrible gang of men. I feel pulled in to their terrifying brainstorming session as they discuss the issue.
This author is really good. It’s a sexy dystopian survival story. I like it.
10. All Too Familiar by Belinda White
This is the first book in the five-book series Accidental Familiar. The other books are $0.99 each, but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Amethyst Ravenswind belongs to a famous witch family and she is the first among generations who has very little magic in her blood. She is a talented former policewoman and the novel opens with her tasering a drunk to the ground. She turns him in to a friend of hers and then rushes off to take an exam for a witches’ brewing license. She needs the money.
She knew she wasn’t ready for the exam and she also knows that she probably shouldn’t get a license because her magic is so weak. To make matter worse, her aunt makes for a very judgy proctor. Further, in this world, even humans with no magic at all are able to pass this exam. She fails. That’s cute. It makes me feel sorry for her. She’s so incompetent in the thing that her family is famous for.
The narrative is first person, and we hear a lot of Amethyst’s charming snarky attitude. Her aunt advises her in the beginning to get a familiar. And I think that this judgy aunt is the same one accused of murder — so I’m assuming Amethyst will spend the bulk of the novel figuring out how to clear her aunt’s name.
From Maria Korolov:
Hey, I’ve read this book already! Another book by the same author, Witch of a Godmother, was on the Amazon top ten free science fiction and fantasy book list on March 26. I read that book, and loved it, and went on to read all the other books by the author. That book was the first in the five-book Witch Reborn series. All Too Familiar is the first book in the prequel series, set in the same universe.
These are books in the cozy paranormal mystery genre. I love cozy mysteries, and the paranormal gives them just a little bit of extra punch. It’s a little like if in Murder She Wrote, Angela Lansbury’s Jessica Fletcher was not just a mystery author but also secretly a fairy godmother. And, oh my God, I want to see that show. Come to think of it, that would make for a great series of novellas. Anyone out there interested in collaborating on them in a virtual writers’ room?
Anyway, back to All Too Familiar. Amethyst Willamina Ravenswind, or Amie for short, is a freelance photographer and bounty hunter who’s working on her private investigator license. So, right there, I’m hooked. But, there’s also a family that’s known in her small town for having witchy powers — not that anyone really believes in any of that! — a rival coven, a magic governing association, a meet-cute romance, and, of course, a murder mystery.
I loved, loved, loved this book. Like I said, I loved it so much I read everything else the author has ever written. The characters are all quirky and likable, the stories are fun and light-hearted, and the writing is breezy and witty.
Plus, like me, Amie is allergic to cats. Which makes it hard for her to get a familiar so she can amplify her ridiculously weak magic powers so that she can get better at the whole investigating thing. Allergy medication to the rescue! I can sympathize. I’m a cat lover, and have to take allergy meds daily so that I get to have pets.
Best of all, all of these books are in Kindle Unlimited. I have a subscription, so it didn’t cost me anything extra for all this cozy reading.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].