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Free Friday: Today’s top free Amazon sci-fi and fantasy books for July 30
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. Maverick Gambit by Marjorie King
This is the first book in the three-book Maverick Space Adventures series. The other books are $2.99 and $4.99 each and is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
We’ve got a couple of hard sci-fi books on the list today, which I’m excited about. When it comes to reading tastes, I’m definitely more of a fighter than a lover. And the book cover promises space ships and explosions, and, judging by the little blurb on the cover — “Sneak in. Steal Shields. Sneak out.” — there’s going to be a fun heist as well.
I bet the heist goes wrong in an amusing way.
Okay, right away, the author hits me with one of my pet peeves. Knox, a space trucker, is delivering cargo to New Earth, where they use ivy to filter the air because, the author says, “even with all of humanity’s advancements, plants still converted a human’s carbon dioxide to oxygen more efficiently than any technology.”
Plants aren’t all that efficient at this. They waste a lot of energy on growing and reproducing. The space station we have up in the sky today uses technology instead of plants to do the conversion. So do submarines, which use electrolysis. Plants would take up way too much space, and require much more upkeep. So does Knox not know how basic technology works? Or is the author trying to make the point here about the wonders of nature? I can’t tell, and it annoys me.
The real reason that New Terra has ivy everywhere is for aesthetics. It makes people feel better. It’s also a signal that the atmosphere is probably going to be safe and familiar, and that the space is well taken care of. For example, when you walk into a mall that’s filled with live, green plants, it feels like an upscale mall that’s busy and profitable. A mall with no plants, or some dusty plastic ones, is a dead or dying mall.
Okay, enough ranting. Back to the book.
Knox is being stalked by pirates. He doesn’t want a fight to break out — civilians might be hurt. Then his friend Sid shows up and the pirates slink away. Sid is extremely well armed.
So now we know that in this universe, pirates walk around space ports with impunity and routinely get into fire fights that hurt civilians and the authorities can’t be relied on.
Now back at his ship, the Maverick, Knox asks his wife when the repairs will be finished. Ximena is annoyed by something. Ah, back on Earth, pirates had attacked rural villages where Knox and his wife had helped out in the past, kidnapping children to sell them as forced warehouse labor. What the villages need are shields to protect them from attacks from space, but shields are too expensive for these small villages.
And I guess law enforcement is equally non-existent everywhere?
Anyway, Knox and his wife decide that they have to steal some shields, even if they have to hire some professional soldiers to do the job.
On the one hand, I’m very concerned about the huge economic, political and law enforcement problems that this society seems to have. On the other hand, I’m enjoying the unlimited potential for mayhem and hijinks. Does that make me a bad person?
I can see this being made into a fun space heist flick that I would totally watch in the movie theater.
2. Taken to Kor by Elizabeth Stephens
This is the fifth book in the seven-book Xiveri Mates series. The other books are all $3.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
This book can be read as a standalone, but there are some characters here from other books. The subgenre — star-crossed romance between human women and warrior aliens — is not at all my favorite type of reading. Yes, sometimes, I’ll come across a book that I can’t put down. But I hate admitting it.
So, since I have no intention at all of reading the other books, my plan is to just read the first chapter to see how it goes, then move into the other books on today’s top ten list.
According to the introduction, in a previous book Deena escaped from her grandmother’s prison on the pirate planet Kor. The grandmother, previously the leader of a human colony, had been exiled to Kor for her crimes.
Now, Deena has a set of coordinates to a human satellite, where she might be able to find refuge, as long as she can evade the pirates.
But in the first chapter, Deena is still in her cell. She’s got a stolen communication device in her ear and is chatting to someone. She’s locked up in some kind of storage area that her grandmother uses to hoard supplies from the rest of the human colony. There are also vegetables here, growing under solar lights.
And the guy she’s chatting with is the leader of the alien pirates. Deena is lonely, so she asks the alien to teach her his language. Seems that these pirates are into kidnapping human women so that they can save their species. I’ve seen this plot before, and have never liked it.
There’s a little banter between the two of them, to establish the romantic plot.
Then, in the next chapter, its 200 days later, and Deena has already escaped. I guess that all happened in the previous book. And she’s learned to speak the alien language and is almost fluent in it.
Deena is in an escape pod, and the only coordinates she knows are to a human satellite. That pirate she’d been talking to before? Rhork? He desperately wants those coordinates.
And it turns out that Rhork had lied to her when he gave her the commands to turn the communicator on and off. He’s been listening in on her all this time when she thought she had privacy. And she seems to have a bit of Stockholm Syndrome going on and is desperately in love with the alien.
Oh, and she’s an idiot and keeps giving him clues to her location.
I don’t like the premise, the slavery and the rapes, I don’t like Deena’s incompetence, or Rhork’s arrogant cruelty. I’m definitely not going to read this series — but I can see how the premise can be fun if you’re in that kind of mood.
3. Hook: Dead to Rights by Melissa Snark
This is the first book in the three-book Captain Hook and the Pirates of Neverland series. The other books are $3.99 and $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Does the world really need another retelling of Peter Pan?
But wait… what if Captain Hook was a hot, kick-ass woman?
And Peter Pan a bad guy who kidnaps children and they get murdered, or worse?
And Hook is one of the kids who escaped from Peter Pan and now makes it her mission to rescue the Lost Boys. Now Peter Pan has a schooner he’s using to steal even more children.
But Hook is the master and commander of a pirate ship, and she’ll get her revenge if it’s the last thing she’ll do.
Hook has a blue steel hook to replace her severed left hand, and is half mermaid. She’s got a problem with her temper and is paranoid about showing any weakness in front of other people.
The writing style is old-fashioned, reminding me of books written in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Which is a good fit for this kind of book, and I like it.
They come across Peter Pan’s ship, glowing with pixie dust. But despite the dust, it’s not flying, which is a sign that it’s full of unhappy children. Hook tells her pirates that the children are probably unhappy because they’re all sick with something. Probably something contagious. The pirates prepare an infirmary for the children they’re going to save. Plus, they plug up their ears with wax so they don’t fall victim to Peter Pan’s hypnotic voice.
The pirates chase Peter Pan’s ship, catch up, and the battle begins.
The action is fast, and there are mysteries aplenty. I’m definitely getting caught up in the story, and I like Hook and her pirates.
4. Stealthy Steps by Vikki Kestell
This is first book in the five-book Nanostealth series. The other books are $3.99 to $5.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The fifth book isn’t out yet, but is scheduled to be released this coming December.
From Maria Korolov:
Gemma is Dr. Bickel’s “girl Friday.” Their cavern is under attack by General Cushing, and the doctor wants Gemma to save his lab book, a scientific journal containing irreplaceable notes and observations.
Meanwhile, he’s saving his experiments — billions of nanos. If General Cushing got her hands on them, she would use them to attack the United States. But the attackers break into the lab before Dr. Bickel can safely store the nanos away, so he breaks the case and orders them to hide.
Gemma is hurt in the attack but manages to escape. They’re outside Albuquerque, in the foothills. She’s lost, and can’t remember what happened, but a mysterious light helps her find the way to safety, to her car. She gets in, automatically pulls her keys from where she hides them when she goes hiking, and starts driving home.
But she has to stop for a panic attack for a while. Because when she looks in the rearview mirror, she can’t see herself. She sees the seat back, but she herself is invisible.
So that’s where the nanos hid. They hid inside her. And they made her invisible.
So that’s the prologue. Chapter one tells us the back story. How it all started. Who Gemma is. And what’s happening with General Cushing.
Gemma is 26, very average-looking, very shy. She didn’t know what Dr. Bickel was really working on. Her parents are dead, and she and her twin sister Genie were raised by their aunt Lucy. Lucy recently died from breast cancer, and Genie’s the bad seed, so Gemma is pretty alone except for her aunt’s old cat.
She works at Sandia National Laboratories, doing administrative work and project management. There’s a lot of internal politics. Dr. Bickel’s boss in in league with General Cushing, wants to steal Dr. Bickel’s nanobot work, and he and the general are secretly plotting to get rid of Dr. Bickel — permanently. Gemma is caught in the middle of all this.
It’s a good story, and I like Gemma very much.
I look forward to reading more of it.
5. The Culling by JC Andrijeski
This is the first book in the four-book Alien Apocalypse series. The other books are $3.99 and $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
The book is billed as “an apocalyptic, romantic, science fiction, alien invasion adventure.”
I’m not fond of the apocalyptic or the romantic parts.
Jet, 19, is still living free with her family in Vancouver, hiding underground after Earth was invaded by the Nirreth.
Or, at least, she is free until the end of the first chapter, when the aliens chase her through the city and then catch her.
The aliens pull her into their hovercraft and she tries to fight them off with her sword, but she’s only able to do a little damage before they get the sword away from her and take away the rest of her weapons.
Then one of the aliens stabs her with its poisoned tail.
I definitely want to keep reading and see what happens next.
6. A Mating Of Convenience by Elyce de Reefe
This is the fourth book in the six-book The Rabbit River Saga series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
The cover is absolutely ridiculous. I encourage you to examine the shirtless guy’s face. And those veins!
Nina finds herself in trouble as she attempts to develop a new fertility drug. Nina had been using special DNA to create the serums. Turns out, there is a team of powerful wolf-shifters who feel threatened by her experiments and they kidnap her. The leader is Boaz and his team is enormous. The team has only a handful of people, but they are each enormous, like physically.
This is already kinda putting me off.
Boaz is the leader and he already called dibs on Nina. She’s his. And he has to keep a close eye on her because she keeps trying to escape. He thinks she smells like “paradise.” While she sleeps, he thinks about how his brother mated with a human witch.
Boaz had been convinced that he’d never find a mate at all since there were so few female wolf-shifters. But now he found Nina and he thinks that with time she would probably accept him as her mate, too.
It’s cute how beastly the shifters are. I think I might come back to this.
7. Wrecked by Karen Tomlinson
This is the second book in the four-book Shadow Sentinels series. The other books are $2.99 to $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The fourth book is scheduled to be released tomorrow.
From Amira Loutfi:
Come on, Wolf-shifters!! Let’s make it happen.
Holy smokes — the author warns that it contains graphic language, explicit sexual scenes, and a violent aggressive female. This sounds like a book Maria would like.
The story takes place in “the Summer Kingdom.” A blond beast-man is trying to find Walker, a fae, who deceived him and his family. The blond man is a wolf-shifter with incredible strength. He finds a small fae in his digitalis stash, who doesn’t help him find Walker. Drat. The Faerie world is very hierarchical and this fae is low-status.
He and his partner own a stash of digitalis, which is a lucrative drug in the Faerie world. Oh, so he’s a drug dealer! It’s illegal and they have to evade the Faerie authorities. So finding that little fae in his stash is quite a threat … so he has to keep him, I guess?
The blond chose this career path because he is hell-bent on finding Walker.
So it’s a revenge story. Nice.
And the protagonist loves a man. Maybe I was wrong about the gender!! But so far I haven’t come across any clear hints that it’s a male or female.
I don’t really enjoy scenes where a big scary protagonist intimidates a little scared creature. And here we have that. There’s also torture.
But then this torture/interrogation scene is interrupted when their stash is invaded by a foreign fae army! It’s one that they have never seen before. This army is also more powerful than any of the local fae armies.
I might come back and read more of this one.
8. The Final Five by Carissa Andrews
This is the first book in the four-book A Diana Hawthorne Supernatural Mystery series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The fourth book is scheduled to be released in December.
From Amira Loutfi:
In the prologue, Morgan discusses her spiritual awakening. She went to Catholic school as a kid and then studied religion in college. She loves the Goddess but still feels a bit out of balance. She had another “awakening” by the movie the Matrix and had to explain it to her sister. I don’t think there’s anything special about explaining a movie to your sister, but the narrator here seems to think that her ability to understand and explain the Matrix to others means a lot. I’m not convinced.
After college, she got into healing. Five years later, Morgan is a reiki master and she is in touch with the metaphysical world. And now we have the plot! She is on a mission to awaken the “final five” and get them ready to save the world.
These final five might be called angels. They are “the ones still with sleep and stardust in their eyes who need to know what their purpose really is. It’s their job to take over because no one else can do it. But before I can send them on their path, I’m being tested. I need to find them — but I don’t know how.”
So that’s the plot for this one. So far I feel like I’m really not into this book, but I’ll go a little deeper to see what happens.
Morgan is the bridge, which is a concept that I like. It reminds me of “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” She has a nightmare about nothingness — it probably is a warning of what is to come what with all the planetary transformation and all. Y’know? And she’s not referring to climate change.
She has already awakened several other protectors, and now there are just five more. Hmmm … Her tarot cards tell her to find “the magician.”
Nope, not for me. There’s a lot of new-age woo-woo stuff going on. I can understand why others like it, though.
9. Blue Sun Armada by Scott Moon
This is the first book of the two-book Blue Sun Armada series. The other book is $4.99 but is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Ron is wearing mech. Nice. And he’s in the middle of a nightmare. Someone is shooting at him. Turns out, a lot is happening in this scene. There’s a mysterious woman telling him to “prepare the universe for expansion” in his nightmare. It’s a nightmare he’s had several times. But as he awakens from this dream he’s still in his mech armor in the middle of a battle. And his teammates are getting frustrated with him for getting “concussed.”
They are battling Zezners. The dialogue is cheezy but charming. He’s got a power-sword. That’s kinda cool. I have never before been into mech, but I’m enjoying the action in this one. So far I’m still not sure of the plot, though.
Onwards then! In pursuit of plot we go!
So his recurring dream is about the people of Gildain, which he hates to admit. It troubles him.
There are different houses of mech warriors, called the Gildain. All of them are currently united against the Zezner aliens. Who they just defeated.
All the houses get together for an execution ceremony with King Gerard, who executes the Zezner emperor. Ron is there with his hot wife and two children. Before he goes, the Zezner emperor warns them that they don’t belong on the planet and that without their mechanized armor they’d be weak and short-lived.
I’m a little confused, but I’ll probably be coming back to this book later today. I think it kind of reminds me of Game of Thrones. I like the world and the cheezy characters.
10. Find Her by Kenneth Zink
This is the first book of the three-book The Erodium Trilogy series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
So this one is a political thriller and science fiction. It’s got great prose. Several times in the first two chapters I had to pause for a moment just to say to myself, “wow. That was a really nice way of saying that.”
The story opens with Mac, a secret service agent, trying to protect Lyla during a dangerous encounter with a bunch of terrorists. Lyla is the granddaughter of the president. There is a sudden massacre of all his teammates. He runs with the president’s granddaughter and the terrorists are after him.
Goodness. We certainly didn’t waste any time here getting into the action! The terrorists kidnap the girl at the end of this chapter, and it is awesome.
Robin is a 38-year-old fragment detective — meaning that she solves mysteries by piecing together other people’s memories. Ok, so that’s why it’s science fiction. Good enough for me.
Sahil is a young guy who lives with his Hindi-speaking parents and joined a terrorist organization.
Robin is a graduate of the academy for fragment detectives. And Sahil had also been part of the academy. Sahil, however, had decided to drop out and join the Frag Liberation Front — which is the terrorist organization mentioned above. They build their frag skills, like Robin, but are fighting for a world where frags can be “free,” unlike Robin.
Right now, Robin is chasing Sahil. He’s only seventeen. And she got a fragment of his shirt … dun dun dun!
This is a really good book so far. I will come back to it!
From Maria Korolov:
I looked at this book as well, and wound up finishing it the same day. Well paced, compelling heroine, cliff-hanger ending, extremely well-realized world and characters. It reminds me of one of those noir detective stories, with a self-destructive, alcoholic, world-weary private eye — with the added tension that Robin, the detective, is haunted by all the past memories she’s collected from the people she’s investigated as part of her job. A job that she did not pick for herself, but was forced on her by governmental policies designed to extract the maximum benefit from people like her.
One of the architects of those very policies is the president whose granddaughter has just been kidnapped, either by an international terrorist organization that’s fighting on behalf of people like her or by a foreign government unhappy with the latest moon exploitation treaty. And the only witness to the kidnapping, the granddaughter’s secret service agent, was badly hurt in the attack and Robin can’t get a good read on his memories.
Robin has submitted her resignation when her track record of success leads the president to ask her, personally, to lead the investigation. But Robin has a very good reason to want to retire.
I quite literally couldn’t put this book down once I started. Great read. I’ve already purchased the next book in the series.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].