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Free Friday: Today’s top free Amazon sci-fi and fantasy books for Aug. 27
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. A Spartan’s Sorrow by Hannah Lynn
This is the second of three books in The Grecian Women Series. The other books are$3.99 and $4.99 but the first is in Kindle Unlimited. The third is scheduled to be released next March.
From Maria Korolov:
Since A Spartan’s Sorrow is the second book in the series, I started reading with the first book instead, Athena’s Child. It’s a retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Medusa, the one with snakes for hair who turns men to stone, and Perseus, the hero who, in the original myth, beheaded her.
It’s a traditional retelling, set in ancient Greece, and written in a slightly stilted language. It starts out with Medusa at thirteen, about to be married off by her parents, but her father is worried about how her future husband will treat her. He takes her to the temple of Athena so that she can learn her fate, where she meets the goddess and is chosen by her to serve as a priestess.
I found the writing style to be a little difficult to get through. We also don’t really get inside the characters to get to know them, so I’m not particularly invested in what happens to Medusa. Will she get her head cut off in this version of the story? So far, three chapters in, I don’t care much.
2. Secret Baby For The Soldier Bear by Meg Ripley
This is the first of seven books in Shifter Nation: Special Ops Shifters: L.A. Force paranormal romance series. The other books are $2.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Apparently, there are a bunch of other series under the Shifter Nation umbrella. The books have steamy sex and happy endings. Plus, they’re in Kindle Unlimited. So if you’re into that kind of book, check it out to see if you like the author’s style. If you do, you’ll be set for life.
But it’s not my kind of book at all.
That said, it’s compulsively readable.
Gabe, a shifter, is asked to help start a new unit of special operatives based in Los Angeles. He was in the US Army’s Delta Force before his medical discharge.
Now, some of the shifters in L.A. are forming gangs, and it could be dangerous for the shifter community if the situation got out of hand. I can definitely see reading the rest of this book this weekend.
It looks like there’s a lot more to the Shifter Nation story, so if I were to get into these books I’d probably go and start with the first series, Shifter Nation: Wild Frontier Shifters, or maybe Shifter Nation: Special Ops Shifters, the first series in the Special Ops books.
3. The Given by Gary Clark
This is the first of three books in the Interland young adult dystopian series. The other books are $2.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
So, first, the standard disclaimers. I’m not typically a fan of young adult books. And I don’t like dystopias. Our world is a mess enough as it is, I don’t want to see even more of the same in my leisure reading.
Jay and Sammy live with an abusive mother and a telepathic father. Jay just turned 18, and can read minds as well. Her father tells her to keep her powers a secret.
Other gifted people are protesting, fighting for their rights. Jay’s mother, who is bitter and abusive, calls them extremists but Jay and her father are sympathetic.
At school, Jay and her best friend Cassie are hoping that marks would appear on their wrists to indicate that they have power. And Jay is practicing her telepathic powers. She’s able to make a school bully pee his pants.
I don’t have much patience for Jay and her problems. Maybe I’m too old and crotchety. The book is perfectly readable otherwise, so maybe it’s just me.
4. The City on the Sea by Heather Carson
This is the first of four books in the City on the Sea Series dystopian climate change series. The other books are $3.99 but are in Kindle Unlimited. The fourth and final book in the series is scheduled to be released next month.
From Maria Korolov:
The book is told in the present tense, which always makes reading a little bit more difficult for me. I know it’s the latest trend, but it always takes me extra effort and time to get into a book with this particular narrative technique. It’s unusual, and takes me out of the story.
Brooke is taking her nephew Zander to the sea, and he tries to steal a pebble from the beach. She takes it back and then brings Zander home to her pregnant sister, who lives in a two-room shack. It’s more space than a lot of people have, but smaller than the childhood home where Brooke still lives, taking care of her mother. Her sisters offers to let her move in with them — things aren’t going well between Brooke and her mother. Brooke is 18 and has been working as a spinner for two years, twisting strips of plastic bags into cords. The plastic bags were buried by the millions at the bottom of the sea when the world sank, and people now use them to make fabric since there isn’t enough land to grow plants for fiber.
Seems that generations ago, the core of the earth heated to unstable temperatures. There’s no more technology, books are gone. So’s Brooke’s dad, he had an accident and drowned five months ago. She’s stuck with her mother, who’s always angry and full of hatred.
Despite the present tense, the writing style is lyrical and quickly draws me in. Brooke is a compelling character, and the world is well realized.
But the story is moving a little too slowly for my taste, and I probably won’t be coming back to finish it.
5. Mission: Improper by Bec McMaster
This is the first of six books in the London Steampunk: The Blue Blood Conspiracy steampunk vampire romance series. The other books are $2.99 to $5.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m a big fan of the steampunk genre. I love the clothes, the technology, the period setting.
I like the fact that the woman on the cover has a knife stuck in her garter. Not a fan of the broody handsome guy. He looks a little too full of himself. Maybe she’ll stab him with her knife.
Caleb lives in the Nighthawks Guild headquarters with other rogue blue bloods. At first I thought this meant minor nobles, but from the context it seem to be that they’re vampires. This particular Guild is into chasing criminals.
Then someone dropped a mysterious invitation on his bed, scented with perfume. Caleb also likes chasing women, so this draws his attention. Fellow guild member Ava, an inventor with a mechanical heart, got the same invitation.
They bump into each other at the front steps of a nondescript Georgian townhouse and are taken inside to the library. There are other blue bloods already there, as well as a mechanical man. And another person shows up, someone Caleb had partnered with a year before — Ingrid. It was a case he couldn’t solve, but she did. Not only did she humiliate him by beating him at his own profession, but she’d also left him tied naked to his bed for his fellow Nighthawks to find.
In the next chapter, we get Ingrid’s point of view. She must be the one with the knife. She’s been gone for a year out of the country and now she’s back. The new case promises a good payday, and she needs the money to pay informants and researchers. Her one goal is to find the family she’d been stolen from years ago.
I like the plot and the setting. But their romantic interactions are a little cringy. It makes me wish even more that she would stab him. Instead, she’s attracted to him and is having trouble fighting that attraction because she doesn’t trust him.
Anyway, then we get to the main story. Someone has been stirring up trouble for the monarchy, causing riots. Their would-be employers are putting together a team to discover who’s behind the incidents. Each of the people who got an invitation has a particular skill.
In one of the incidents, an entire street of people mysteriously vanished, leaving half-finished dishes and no signs of violence or disturbance. In another incident, a crowd attending a fighting match was slaughtered, together with most of the fighters, with no clues as to what happened.
I am very much enjoying the story and the setting, and I’ll probably keep reading, despite the cringy romantic subplot.
6. Night Shift Witch by Cate Lawley
This is the first of four books in Night Shift Witch Mysteries, a cozy paranormal mystery series. The other books are $0.99 to $2.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
This one is a paranormal cozy mystery. It takes place in 1999 out in the boonies of Texas.
Stephanie is a powerful witch in training, and she’s experienced in reading people via skin-to-skin contact. Recently, she’s been practicing the skill of seeing into a person’s “truth” through their eyes.
This new way of reading people has been hard to turn off, so it made her job interview at the funeral home a bit awkward. She didn’t want to make eye contact with her interviewer because she didn’t want to see too much of him. She was also clearly checking him out. They’re both young. Her witchy powers tell her he seems nice.
He hired her for the night shift.
The narration sounds a lot like a stream of consciousness. For the first three chapters, Stephanie’s attention is absorbed in the guy who interviewed her, and whether or not he really was nice.
When she meets with her mentor, she realizes that she made a mistake by accepting the job. There are a few possible explanations for her bizarre experience with him — only one of which is safe. First, her boss might genuinely be a nice guy — this would be great, but would kill the story. Second, he might have latent magical abilities himself, and it’s dangerous for a witch to come into close contact with a magical person who isn’t trained. Third, he might be a full witch himself, and if he is, then why is he not registered? Why is he going rogue? That might mean that he is dangerous.
If I’m going to make a guess at the rest of the plot, it would be that Stephanie continues to work there, even though she still can’t figure him out. She stays because she’s sort of in love with him. Then, more characters are introduced and then a big crime occurs. Whodunnit? Maybe? I’m not super experienced with the cozy mystery genre.
It’s clear why people like this book so much.
7. Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble by H.P. Mallory
This is the first of 24 books in The Underworld Series of romantic paranormal mysteries. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
So the mystery here is REALLY getting me.
The cover is absolutely ridiculous. It’s not, in my opinion, a good reflection of the story.
We start off with some otherworldly action, and then quickly get into a conversation between Jolie and her friend about her love life. This is the first time I’m reading such a detailed description of the body types of both the protagonist and her best friend. I don’t like it.
But I do like how it opens
“It’s not every day you see a ghost.” And the follow-up is satisfying.
Jolie owns a psychic reading shop, and her best friend works with her. She is alone when the otherworldly thing happens and it disappears without explaining anything. It’s a handsome ghost and it smiles at her. Hell yes.
Then, in the middle of that ridiculous conversation where Jolie mentally objectifies herself and her best friend, a very handsome guy — who looks like Paul Newman — enters the shop. In Jolie’s eyes, he is surrounded by a rare aura — it looks like blue electricity. She’s been seeing auras ever since she was small and she’s never seen an aura like this. He wants Jolie to “read” him by touching his hands. She gets nothing. It’s an unusual way for her to read someone. Then, she just tells him about the blue aura. That does it! He wants to come back.
I am so sold on this story. He almost tells her that he’s been coming to the shop because of her. That was only the first chapter.
This is starting to seem like a fish-out-water story. And I’m totally digging it. I find the Paul Newman look-alike to be fascinating — and that’s saying something because these gorgeous musclemen usually don’t captivate me. Jolie sees Rand for one last reading, and he smirks — sorry Maria — and gives her a pep talk. That mysterious ghost in the beginning was HIS. He is impressed that Jolie could see that ghost and his electric aura. He’s a warlock. And he needs her help.
They strike up a deal, in traditional fairy-tale fashion — YES!
This story moves quickly enough for me. I will likely come back to finish it this weekend.
8. Kradak the Champion by Shawn Inmon
This is the first of two books in An Arkana Sword and Sorcery Adventure series. The other book is $3.99 but is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Steve Monstross is an actor struggling in his career. He’s been in movies, always playing Kradak, and has a million followers on social media. At the end of one of his movie showings, he answers a few questions from the audience. They are pretty rude — one woman asks to see him naked and another one asks him why he’s wearing such strange clothes.
He was playing a powerful warrior in the movie. No, she says, it’s the weird civilian clothes that she doesn’t understand. He is immediately checking her out. She’s hot.
And later, he bumps into her again. She keeps saying ridiculous things and acting like a complete bimbo. And she has her “sister” with her who seems normal. He agrees to take them both home, and the bimbo character keeps saying things that make it sound like she comes from a demon/witch/magical otherworld.
There’s another guy — Mikol. He’s blind and raises weird animals in darkness. He has bred super-strong blind bird creatures that can read his mind. He’s also been caring for blind dogs. They can see in other ways.
It’s well-written, the plot moves quickly enough, and Steve is a pretty sympathetic character. Maybe I’ll be back.
9. The Merging by John P. Logsdon
This is the first of ten books in the Las Vegas Paranormal Police Department paranormal police procedural series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Ohh — a Las Vegas paranormal police department book… sounds promising.
There are 45 novels total in this universe and it spans across North America, Europe, and Asia. You can read more about it on John Logsdon’s website.
The website promises tons of fast-paced, high-action, hilarious adventures.
The protagonist works for the Las Vegas Paranormal Police Department, and is magical, but not a vampire or werewolf. He is an amalgamate — meaning he’s got a mishmash of magical abilities. He thinks he might be the only one, and he assumes that he will gradually discover more random powers.
On page one, he is chasing a rogue vampire through the city with his steamy, hot partner, Rachel. He’s super into her. The banter is great if you’re into it. And the chase scene is fascinating. Police dramas always are. Rachel and the protagonist say that because nobody saw the vampire bite anyone, he would only get “a few years” and then maybe rehab.
The world is fascinating. The action of the three chapters anyway is exciting. No spoilers. Just know that it was riveting.
I’m into it. I’ll be back.
If you are into paranormal anything at all or police thrillers, I highly recommend this one.
10. New Moon by JJ King
This is the first of five books in the Alpha Wolf Academy young adult paranormal romance series. The other books are $3.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
An Alpha Wolf Academy also sounds promising. And bit like Harry Potter. Let’s go!
AWA is an elite school for wealthy wolf shifters, and Elena feels like an outcast because she’s there on a scholarship.
This seems to me like a school drama, and it does remind me a bit of Harry Potter. It’s a lot like many other school dramas where the protagonist is out of her element facing a bunch of wealthy snobs. There is a mean girl clique, a boy who gets bullied, and a handsome nice boy that the leading mean girl seems to believe belongs to her. The headmistress says that she will need to meet with Elena every week to review her academic and social progress. She encourages the protagonist to continue to be compassionate. I guess that’s our Dumbledore character?
In general, I enjoy class differences as an element of storytelling. But it’s kinda weird that the headmistress has time to meet with Elena every week. Maybe I missed something?
The nice handsome boy is the twin brother of the leader of the mean girls. He and the protagonist are instantly attracted to each other.
In the office of the headmistress, at their first meeting, Elena learns that she was accepted because of her incredible writing ability. And she has been assigned a student-mentor to help broaden her social life. The mentor is the leading mean girl. And in chapter three we have the first instance of maliciousness. The mean girl really wants Elena to stay away from her brother.
How mysterious. Why is she trying so hard to keep them apart? I won’t be coming back to this one.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].