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Free Friday: Today’s top free Amazon sci-fi and fantasy books for June 25
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. The Last Shifter by Sadie Moss
This is the a box set of all four books in The Last Shifter series, which are all normally $4.99 each, though they are in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Frankly, I’m very disappointed with today’s selections. If you’ve been following this series, you know that I’m not a fan of books with half-naked men on the cover. My preferred genre is hard sci-fi, with hard urban fantasy second, and cozies third. On this list of ten books, only the last one is even potentially one that I would buy if I was in a bookstore looking at the covers.
So take all these reviews with a big grain of salt.
Alexis, 21, is living a quiet, boring life as a patient in the Strand Corporation medical treatment complex, after a decade in quarantine. It’s not all bad, though. Her mom visits every week, and there’re other patients and medical staff. Plus, there’s a hot new orderly.
Alexis is suffering from a rare autoimmune disease, one that’s interesting enough so that the Strand Corporation, a biomedical research firm, is covering the cost of the treatment. She has to follow a regiment of medicines, exercise, and limited contact with outside pathogens. If she does, she feels fine most days, and can kind of live a normal life. So to speak. Then she has another seizure, almost dies, and is back in the ICU for a week.
She’s recovering, getting physical therapy, but wonders if she’ll ever be cured, or will have to be a patient for the rest of her life, whatever she’s got left of it.
But given the title of the book, I’m guessing that she’s actually a werewolf and all this medical intervention is there to keep her in her human form.
And I might be right. The facility is attacked by a group of men who are there looking to rescue someone. Not her, but they take her with them when they flee, anyway. One of the men is her hot orderly. Oh, and something weird happens during all the fighting. Her mother is there, and Alexis runs to her, and her mother tries to shoot her. Oh, that can’t bode well.
The men kidnap her and she thinks that she’s about to die. I don’t blame her. If these kidnappers don’t kill her, or if she doesn’t die from a stray bullet, her autoimmune disease will do her in quickly without her meds and immediate medical intervention.
The men tell her that the Strand Corporation is experimenting on people, trying to create shifters, and she’s just one of those experiments. And they decide to head to the state of Washington, the rumored location of another pack of escaped shifters, in hope of getting the help they need to find the woman they were looking for.
I’m actually getting into this book. The story is interesting, the writing is extremely readable, the characters compelling, and it pulls you right in.
2. Tamed by Aidy Award
This is the first book in the three-book Black Dragon Brotherhood series. The other books are $3.99 and $4.99 each, but are both in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Neo is a shape-shifting dragon who’s been injured in a battle with the shadow warriors who steal the souls of magical beings. He tells the rest of his men to go on without him and bring back the info about the shadow. He can’t fly anymore, and is going to crash-land in a forest and try to hide while he heals.
Kady lives in a 255-square-foot tiny home on wheels in the mountain town of Estes Park, where she likes to binge Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix. She sees what she thinks is shooting stars, when one of them starts heading her way. As it gets closer, she can see a wing and a tail, and thinks that aliens are coming. And their ship is going to crash right into her house. Luckily, it just misses it.
She gets to the site of the crash, and there’s no ship, just a weird-looking but handsome and well-muscled alien lizard man of some kind.
Sirens approach, emergency responders are on their way. She decides that if the authorities find him, they’ll experiment on him. So she’s going to hide him. Of course, they’re both attracted to each other, and there’s lot of sexy banter and descriptions of what’s happening in their nether regions.
She’s got a little bathhouse set up, and of course she has to hide him by stripping him naked and putting him in the hot tub. There, his injuries and scaly parts will be out of sight.
This is so over the top. The dialog is nuts. But the story stands up on its own. I can totally see this as, say, a Marvel movie. Except with the sexiness knob turned all the way to eleven.
3. Mama and the Alien Warrior by Honey Phillips
This is the first book in the five-book Treasured by the Alien series. The rest of the books are $3.99 each but all are in Kindle Unlimited. The last book isn’t out yet, but is due in July.
From Amira Loutfi:
I usually am interested in really weird wacky stories, and the title and the cover say a lot about this one.
This one, however, has a bunch of babies in it. And there is a lot of dialogue coming from the babies, so that’s a little weird. I’m trying to imagine what it’s like for a three-year-old to say “The mean man grabbed you and you fell down. Then he grabbed me.”
Abby is a really nice person who runs a maternity home. She adopted her niece, Lucie, three and a half years ago. John left her six months in because he couldn’t handle the child. The story opens with Lucie waking her mother up to see the “fireworks” and, lo and behold, it’s not fireworks at all! It’s aliens!!
The aliens want pregnant human women, I guess. The women are knocked out pretty quickly, barely getting a word out of the aliens in the first encounter. They wake up in a room full of 16 beds, and a glass wall so they can see their babies. Their babies are all crying. Oh no! Abby approaches the aliens who give her a shot to make her understand their language.
The aliens describe the babies as “products” and the mothers as “breeders.” So that’s the type of aliens we’re dealing with for the rest of the book, I guess?
It’s not getting me. I’m not curious about why these aliens need human babies and mothers. I’m not curious about how Abby will work with them.
4. Dark Crown by Shanna Handel
This is the first book of the three-book Russo Royals series. The other books are $4.99 each but are both in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
This seems to be a retelling of the Beauty and Beast story, except that the beast is Vincent, a mafia king, and beauty is Felicity, a bookworm who is forced to marry him.
I’m not seeing any speculative elements here, other than the fact that it’s a retelling of a classic fairy tale.
Felicity isn’t looking forward to her wedding day. She was hoping to marry someone kind and gentle. Instead, her jerk of a father sells her in order to cover his gambling debts. His so-called precious daughter. She plans to grab her father and escape Vincent’s castle and go back to New York. Of course, she should have done that long ago. And dumped her loser dad while she was at it. On the other hand… if she’s married, without a prenup, she will have a claim to the guy’s legitimate property. And can probably get protection from the authorities to turn state’s evidence against him. I’m just spit balling here.
But based on the cover, I’m guessing she’s going to fall in love with him.
The moment of truth comes. She’s at the altar, and the priest asks if she takes Vincent as her husband. And she says no. Good for her!
So then he takes her somewhere private and spanks her. And she’s really turned on. I’m personally and politically opposed to this scene. But it is sexy. I’m starting to see what all the “Fifty Shades of Gray” fuss is all about.
5. True Angel by Jessica Lynch
This is the first of three books in the Curse of the Othersiders series. The other books are $3.99 each. The second is in Kindle Unlimited. The third isn’t out yet, but is scheduled for release next March.
From Amira Loutfi:
Camiel is an “Othersider” which means that he will eventually become an angel or demon. He exists among humans and earns good and bad points which will determine his fate. He has an “auditor” who is disguised as a cat. He’s doing pretty well for himself until he meets Avery. You see, all Outsiders are cursed. And they must abide by certain rules. One of them is that you aren’t allowed to fall in love. Clearly, he’s going to fall for Avery and then they will both have to deal with the fall-out.
That’s not a bad premise. At least there are no children and babies playing a role in the plot this time.
This world is crawling with both mortals and paranormals. Mortals always thought Cam was a demon when they saw his black wings — and it freaked them out. The story opens with him hanging around the corner of a busy street waiting for a chance to accumulate more good points with his auditor cat. I like this situation. Oh! And his auditor’s true form is a horrific monster. Yes. please go on.
The point system sort of works against Cam because he is self-centered and you only really get a lot of points when you do good for the sake of doing good. The cat grants him points based on his thoughts and intentions, so that blocks him a LOT. He’s aware of this, so that’s why he looks for loopholes in earning good points — and the loophole is that you get a few points every time you do a little good deed, such as helping a stranger across the street.
He has to keep his identity as an Othersider secret because if mortals knew he was an Othersider they wouldn’t let him help them.
I am skipping ahead to when he meets Avery.
Oh, and it’s great. No spoilers. I am coming back to this book.
6. A Wolf’s Hunger by Asa Maria Bradley
This is the first of three books in The Norse Billionaire Shifters series. The other two books are $4.99 each but aren’t out yet. One is scheduled to be released in July and the other in October.
From Maria Korolov:
Laney is at the bar in a popular San Francisco night club, drinking club soda garnished with a slice of lime to make it look like a gin and tonic. It’s part of her disguise, along with her red wig and short black dress. Her target is Arek Varg, the head alpha of the western wolf packs and the owner of a security company. She’s been hired by an insurance company to recover a stolen medallion that Arek wears around his neck.
Laney used to be a professor of anthropology and archeology, using her magic powers to evaluate and date historical artifacts, keeping her ability to shift dimensions a secret.
She steals the medallion and shifts it to another dimension.
Later, when Arek and his team review the security video, they figure out that it was Laney who took the medallion, but they don’t know who she is. They’re going to track her down, though.
Meanwhile, Laney is back at the insurance company she works for — and it’s gone. The receptionist is gone, all the employees are gone, all the office furniture, everything. She realizes that the insurance company was a fake, and she has to return the medallion, and do it quickly.
But the guy who hired her shows up, and demands the medallion. I don’t understand this part. Why shut down the office before she turns the medallion over, instead of afterwards?
Arek and his team find Laney’s apartment quickly, and discover that someone else had already ripped it apart.
Meanwhile, Laney is tortured by the bad guys but refuses to give up the medallion. Eventually, Arek finds her and brings her back to his place. She won’t tell him where the medallion is, either, unless she gets some assurances of safety. Arek decides to keep her prisoner while he deals with the bad guys, and puts her to work cataloguing his collection of magic artifacts while she’s there.
Obviously, they’re going to fall in love and do it.
I like the fact that both Laney and Arek are competent and capable, but I wish the book had more action and less mushy stuff. Yeah, I’m a really bad person to review romance novels.
7. Rook by JC Andrijeski
This is the first of ten books in the Bridge & Sword series. The other books are $3.99 to $7.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
This is the first book on today’s list that doesn’t have a man’s bare chest — or an alien’s bare chest — on the cover.
It’s not that I’m in principle opposed to male chests. I just prefer book that have something else — anything else, really — as the main focus.
The cover of this book looks promising. The author is a USA Today best-selling author. The woman on the cover looks tough. The leather cloak and the boots gives me hope that she’s on her way to kill things.
Her name is Allie and she works as a waitress in a fifties-style diner in San Francisco.
It’s in the future, the near future, since Allie talks about the fifties. But people pay their bills with their headsets, instead of with their phones.
Everybody except for one mysterious and handsome customer, that is, who’s been coming in every day lately, sitting in her section, and paying cash.
The news comes on, and we get some backstory. There are terrorist attacks happening in Europe. When politicians appear on TV, they use fake backgrounds and avatars — I’m guessing these are a futuristic version of Snapchat filters — so that “seers” can’t figure out where they are or track their minds.
And these seers are psychics. Until the 1990s, rich people have been importing and owning them in secret because the seers had been involved in two world wars. The seers come from some town in Asia, and aren’t human. Everywhere else outside the town, they’re slaves. The seers look human, just more beautiful. The main way to identify them is by their mandated slave collars.
This is starting to sound like the oppressed mages trope. Like the folks at the Mythcreants blog, I have a problem with this trope. Talented people are rarely oppressed in real life. In fact, talents can sometimes make up for things that people are actually oppressed for, like racism or sexism or classism. Just take a look at German scientists. They contributed to massive atrocities during World War II, but the Allies happily used them, the US even putting them to work in their nuclear and rocket programs.
But let’s agree to disagree. Plenty of fun-to-read books use this trope, including the Harry Potter series.
Anyway, the handsome stranger grabs Allie by the arm and hypnotizes her into leaving with them, but her friend, another waitress tries to stop him. Then Allie’s brother shows up and intervenes as well.
The stranger pulls a gun and holds it to Allie’s head and threatens to kill her. But the threat is aimed at a new arrival, some guy named Terry. Terry says that the cops are underway, and the first guy, whose name turns out to be Revi, refuses to let Allie go. Terry warns him that if he doesn’t, he’ll have to wear a collar again. So Revi is a seer.
Turns out, both Revi and Terry want Allie for something. She’s not human, either, Terry tells her. She’s a seer too, and has the power to free her people and burn the human world to the ground.
Terry rushes to attack them, and suddenly Allie’s powers show up and she mentally throws Terry into a wall. Then Jon shoots Terry through the forehead, scoops up Ally and carries her away even as police sirens approach. He gets her to a car, handcuffs her to the seat, knocks her out, and takes her somewhere.
Harry Potter and Buffy aside, I’m not a fan of stories where the young protagonist realizes that they have secret powers and are destined to change the world. Maybe I was, once, but it got old quick. For me, this trope is no longer a positive feature of a story, but an obstacle that the rest of the story has to overcome.
Turns out, Terry has been watching over Allie since she was seven and tells her about her destiny. Seems that Allie was adopted, placed with a human family to keep her safe. Since her adoptive mother is an alcoholic who regularly goes on benders, and Allie has no control over her powers, this seems to be as bad a strategy as placing Harry Potter with his aunt and uncle. And there are different factions of seers who are at war with each other.
I’m going to have to pass on this book. I’m not particularly captivated by the main characters. They all come off as idiots and Allie is very passive in this whole thing.
This is a fantasy of being whisked away from a boring, mundane life by a handsome stranger who tells you that you have magical powers and a mysterious destiny. If you like this kind of thing, the book is certainly very readable. Just not for me.
8. Unbound by A. R. Shaw
This is the first book in the three-book Dawn of Deception series. The rest of the books are $7.99 each, and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Sloane is happy her abusive husband was killed. She’d married him after her first husband and her other relatives died in the flu pandemic, and she wanted someone to take care of her and her two daughters.
Then a new disaster struck — a tsunami — and he was killed trying to steal a neighbor’s vehicle. Now she and her daughters are all alone. The rest of the neighborhood has been abandoned, all the houses partially flooded. To keep would-be attackers at bay, she decides to make it look like more than just the three of them are living there.
I like this better than some of the other survivalist books I’ve read recently. Sloane wasn’t looking forward to a disaster, isn’t happy to have been proven right, doesn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that she should immediately start killing anyone who looks at her funny.
She has guns to defend herself, but she’s alone with two daughters in the middle of a disaster zone, so it makes sense. She makes reasonable survival plans and is goal oriented and practical when it comes to carrying them out.
I like her, but the setting is a little too depressing for me, especially since we’re currently at the tail end of a pandemic ourselves. I prefer my escapist reading to be a little more escapist.
9. Dragon’s Rogue by Anastasia Wilde
This is the first book in the three-book Wild Dragons series. The other books are $0.99 and $3.99 but are both in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Oh, no, not another sexy dragon.
Blaze, 26, reads Tarot cards, and they’re showing that death is coming. Evil. Destruction. Hell on Earth.
She owns a magical artifact. She stole it from her old coven. Ten years ago, it had transformed the coven’s witches and sorcerers into evil creatures, and killed her parents.
She’s been able to hold off its power. So far.
Now the leader of that old coven is coming for her.
But the cards also tell her that someone else is coming, and that new person could be another enemy — or an ally. Meanwhile, she’s going to do some protective magic to secure the artifact.
Zane is a dragon. His goal is to find a magic artifact and use it to keep Draken Lord Vyrkon from escaping his prison and wreaking havoc. He and his adopted brother are going to burgle Blaze’s house and steal an artifact from her. Blaze is an art dealer specializing in artifacts, but she refused to sell it to them. Is this the same artifact? Or two different ones?
But when he first lays eyes on her, Zane realizes that Blaze is the woman he’s been dreaming about for a century.
This book is pulling me in.
10. The Client’s Conundrum by Cate Lawley
This is the second book in the eight-book Vegan Vamp Mysteries series. The other books are $4.99 and are not in Kindle Unlimited, with the last book not out yet but scheduled for next March. The first book in the series is free though.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m going to read the first book in the series, Adventures of a Vegan Vamp, instead of starting with the second one. I like the premise — the vegan vampire — and the cover, which promises a light cozy paranormal mystery.
Mallory is out drinking with the gang from work and they’re expecting her to pick up the tab for their drinks since she makes more than they do. She’s a little resentful about it, blames them for not making more money, but pays for the drinks anyway. So right from the first few paragraphs, I don’t like her. Either she’s a good negotiator and should own it because her job rewards good negotiation skills or, if negotiation skills are not relevant to job performance, use her skills to get raises for everyone else who deserves it.
And she should either pay for everyone’s drinks and be happy about it because she can, or if she’s not happy about doing it, then she shouldn’t do it. Also, if her negotiation skills are so good, why is she letting people bully her into making her pay for their drinks?
I suspect that she got the raise for another reason, and didn’t earn it, and is lying to herself about it, and feels guilty, and just winds up coming off as petty and passive aggressive.
But maybe I’m reading too much into it because I’m disappointed with the book’s beginning since it was the only one on today’s list that I was even remotely interested in.
Mallory is also jealous of one of her coworkers, Liz, because she’s prettier and the bartender is paying more attention to her. Mallory thinks that the bartender is a jerk and should be paying more attention to her because of her expensive suit and fresh makeup. Sounds to me like she’s the jerk. Hey, maybe becoming a vampire will redeem her?
Oh, and she really dislikes her coworkers and they dislike her. She thinks its because she’s so good at her job. She also thinks they’re gossiping about her and spreading rumors behind her back and hoping that she’ll get fired. She complains about them spreading rumors, but then she tells us, the readers, that one of them is sleeping with married coworkers and another is addicted to Facebook. So she’s an obnoxious hypocrite. Okay.
She leaves after a couple of drinks, promising herself that she won’t go out with her coworkers again. I’m sure they’ll be relieved.
Then she wakes up, and feels awful. She thinks she must have the flu. I’m guessing hangover — maybe she decided to drown her misery with some more alcohol the previous night? No, it’s three whole days later. She missed three days of work, and nobody’s been to check up on her. They just left angry messages for her on her voice mail. What a shock.
She discovers that she’s lost twenty five pounds and is now gaunt, and can’t keep any food down. And when a neighbor finally shows up to check up on her, she’s rude to the neighbor, and also lies and tells her that she lost weight with Mexican diet pills, instead of due to illness. Why lie? I have a natural inclination to dislike people who lie, especially when they lie for no good reason.
She decides not to go to her regular doctor because she thinks he won’t believe her when he tells her that she’s been sick, and hasn’t lost weight some other way. Another bad sign — if her regular doctor thinks she’s a liar, she probably is. She hunts around for a new doctor and finally finds someone who’ll see her right away.
And the doctor tells her that she’s now a vampire. Except that Mallory can’t even stand the sight of blood. At first, she thinks the doctor is crazy. Then she believes her. The doctor tells her to contact some mysterious organization, and to keep her condition a secret.
So here’s my problem. Either Mallory has some common sense, knows that vampires don’t exist, and goes and finds a better doctor — or, better yet, goes to the emergency room — or this is a suspension of disbelief kind of book where this stuff happens and people just accept it. I’m fine either way, but right now the book is trying to have it both ways.
Anyway, instead of getting a second opinion, or contacting that vampire society, she goes and buys a new car, instead. And decides to move out of her apartment to the suburbs and plant some roses. Then she figures out that she can keep liquids down, and heads to Walmart — where she won’t stand out — for some protein shakes and T-shirts that fit. And finally calls that vampire society.
She’s slowly growing on me. Okay, I’ll come back and finish the book this weekend.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].