Did you know that Amazon has a list of the top-selling and free sci-fi and fantasy books? The list changes constantly — authors and publishers set their books to free temporarily to promote their work, and, of course, books move up and down in the rankings. Read on to find your fun free read for this weekend! And grab the books quickly because they don’t always stay free for long.
This week’s list is completely different from those of the previous weeks. So if you’re a fan of free books, there are going to be new things to read all the time. If you want to get this list in your inbox every Friday afternoon, subscribe to the MetaStellar weekly newsletter.
There are a lot of books to go through, so this week I’m being helped out by a couple of other members of our MetaStellar community. If you’d like to join me in doing these reviews — and taping our regular Free Friday videos — email me at [email protected].
5. Her Savior by V. Vaughn
This is the fifteenth of 20 books in Northeast Kingdom Bears paranormal romance series. The other books are $5.99 to $9.99 each, but they’re all in Kindle Unlimited. This author has been on our Free Friday list before, with another shifter romance. We reviewed Lion Hearts Tiger, the first book of the six-book Heartland Shifters series, in May of 2021.
From Maria Korolov:
So, first, getting the preliminaries out of the way — I’m not a fan of romance because I have a cold, cold heart. I’m not the target audience of the book. I can tell right away because of the naked guy on the cover.
However, given that for more of human history it’s pictures of naked women that have dominated commerce, I applaud the fact that the tides are turning in the right direction. Women deserve the right to look at bare male chests as much as they want to. And, judging by the sales of books in the paranormal romance category, they definitely do.
Christmas is Holly’s favorite time of year. But her only family is Gigi, her best friend and partner in her hair salon, and Opal, who works as the receptionist. All three of them are shape shifters. They turn in to cougars. The actual animal kind, not the man-hungry older woman kind.
Holly is lonely, but she’s already worked her way through all the werecougars in her clan, and her cat side didn’t like any of them. Opal tells Holly that there’s a hot new guy in town.
Then that hot guy walks into the salon. He wants a haircut. They flirt, she cuts his hair, he asks her out to dinner.
In the next chapter, they go out to dinner, and he rubs her feet.
In the next chapter after that, they go to her place and have hot, explicit sex, and she finds out that he’s a wear-bear. She thought she was another kind of cat shifter. He’s happy, he thinks Holly is his mate. Holly isn’t, and kicks him out.
In the next chapter, she’s back at work, and her friends sympathize with her plight. And we learn what the problem is — the alpha of her clan will never let her be mated to a werebear. They’d have to leave town and she’d lose her friends and everything she knows.
So there you go.
I don’t know if I can really do the book justice. The writing is engaging and pulls you in, but I really don’t care about her predicament. Personally, I think she should stay away from the guy — the whole “fated mates” thing skeeves me out. And she should also travel the world a bit. Broaden her horizons. But I have strong suspicions that they’ll end up together and live happily ever after. If you enjoy that kind of thing, then check this book out. Also, several other books in the series are free today as well, so you should grab them while you have the chance.
4. Queens and Monsters by India Amare
This is the first of four books in The Blood Falls paranormal romance series. The other books are $4.99 each, but they’re all in Kindle Unlimited. The author has been on this list before.
From Maria Korolov:
Again — naked guy on the cover, so this book is not for me. Why am I reading this, then? Because our usual romance reviewers aren’t available today. If you’re like to join our team, email me! I’m at [email protected]. Please save me from all this mushy romantic stuff — and save our readers from my snark.
The book starts out by telling us that, back in 1960, a strong earthquake struck Chile and opened a barrier between our world and another — and something came through.
Then, in the present day, we meet Rhysa, a college student who works in the university bookstore. One day, a woman in fancy dress comes in, looking for a new release, accompanied by her two brothers, one of whom is very sexy. The books are all sold out, but Rhysa has a copy hidden away. The grateful customers promises to return and bring a cake.
When Rhysa’s back at work on Monday, the woman comes in, bearing chocolate cake.
Then there’s an accident outside and one of the woman’s brothers is hurt, the sexy one. He’s been shot in the shoulder.
Rhysa feels very weird when she sees the blood. She hears voices, and feels paralyzed and feverish. She goes home, in pain, and passes out naked in a cold shower. When she wakes up, she’s in her bed, and the woman is there and tells Rhysa that she’s a vampire. She’s always been one — the sight of all that blood has woken up her vampire side.
The woman fills Rhysa in on who her parents are, and on her new powers and life as a vampire. Seems Rhysa’s the sole heir of the House of Axl, her father was dead, and her father’s family was at war with her mother’s family.
And there’s sex. Lots and lots of sex. And lots and lots of family drama.
As with all the books on at the top of the bestseller list, it’s extremely readable. But I’m not particularly caught up in Rhysa’s story and I hate all the family drama so I’m not going to stick with it.
3. Between a Witch and a Hard Place by Celia Roman
This is the first of four books in the Vanessa Kinley, Witch PI urban fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each, and they’re not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Alex Mueller:
The book begins with a list. A list created by the story’s heroine that tells her how to live her life.
Don’t pick fights you can’t win. Which is reasonable.
Don’t date people with pretty hair. Odd, but you do you.
Never interact with vampires. Probably not a bad idea.
So naturally, the first thing that happens is that she has to interact with a vampire. A very sexy vampire who would probably seem even sexier if supposed sex appeal wasn’t constantly being shoved down our throats.
Seriously, our heroine spends one quarter of the time noticing how sexy the vampire is when he’s around, one quarter of the time remembering how sexy he is when he’s not around. Which means half the time is spent describing the various ways vampires can be sexy.
But this isn’t just a sexy vampire. No. It’s a sexy vampire with a job opportunity. The job? Get the heroine to track down her missing mother who hasn’t been seen in sixteen years.
Why’d the mother leave? We don’t know
What connection does the mother have to the vampire looking for her? We don’t know.
What do we know? The vampire is sexy.
I’m pretty torn when it comes to this story. One the one hand I like mystery, and I like urban fantasy. What I don’t like is constantly being reminded how sexy one character is. We get it already, vampires are sexy! They’ve been sexy since Bram Stoker wrote Dracula! And you know what? Nobody will ever live up to the standard set by the big man himself and the three sexy vampire ladies who live in his house. It’s not going to happen!
If you like urban fantasy, if you like mystery, and if you’re okay with a sexy vampire eclipsing all other aspects of the story, you’ll probably like this one.
I don’t. And I won’t be going ahead with it.
2. Stone Guardian by Gayle Katz
This is the first of six books in the Masonry, Magic, and Love paranormal romance series. The other books are $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. The author has been on this list before. In August of 2022, we reviewed Closed Campus, the first of six books in the Jane Zombie post apocalyptic science fiction series.
From Terrence Smith:
I have never been one for paranormal romances. I just don’t like the idea of a female getting intimate with some supernatural creature, especially when that creature turns out to be toxic or controlling. On a side note, Bella should have chosen Jacob.
But when I saw that this book had made the top five in Amazon’s best-selling free science-fiction and fantasy book list, I was somewhat intrigued. Gargoyles have not been explored in paranormal romance that much. Also, I have an affinity for gargoyles, thanks to the Disney animated series Gargoyles, which combined elements of Celtic myth, Shakespeare, the grittiness of Batman, and a little Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for good measure. Additionally, the subtitle says it is a “sweet” romance, so hopefully there’s none of the domineering that happens sometimes in other books in this genre.
The story follows Nancy, a librarian and college student in a small Vermont town, who has an affinity for the gargoyles that watch over her place of employment. One gargoyle in particular catches her eye. She likes to confide in it all her problems, especially the ones that have hit her all at once. Funding has been cut to the library, so her job is in jeopardy. Also, recent credit card purchases from her boyfriend imply that he is seeing someone else behind her back. Her best friend, Diana, tries to perk her up, but she doesn’t want to dump all her issues on her.
Her co-librarian, Gram, has an eye for her. At first, he comes off as creepy, keeping a steady gaze upon her, and touching her elbow when asking her if everything is alright. However, he does seem like he genuinely cares about her, offering to get her a job at a relative’s library. His awkward behavior and collection of Marvel action figures implies to me that he has a hint of Autism, but probably only because I think every awkward nerd is Autistic.
Nancy would eventually make a wish at the library fountain for the happily ever after that she believes she deserves. She finds that evening that the coin she tossed into the fountain starts glowing, signaling the start of a new adventure with some Gargoyle romance as well.
Author Gayle Catz perfectly captures what book lovers find enchanting about the library. The beautiful architecture, the musty smell of shelves upon shelves of books. Libraries are not just places of knowledge, they are also places of comfort, true sanctuaries. The writing also depicts the falling autumn leaves and the evening autumn chill, which makes this New Englander particularly happy.
I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. It has a bit of the cheesiness of a standard Hallmark Channel rom-com, and the atmosphere of the best of New England. I cannot say I will continue reading this, but if I had no other alternative than to read a paranormal romance, it would probably be this one.
1. Amaranthe I: Rise by G. S. Jennsen
This is a box set of the first three books in the 21-book Amaranthe space opera series. You also get two short stories and other bonus content. The author has been on this list before. In fact, we’ve reviewed the first book in this box set in September of 2021 and then again this past February. The other books in this series are $3.99 to $6.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited — but several others are either free today or on sale for $0.99.
From Maria Korolov:
Eight years before the start of the story, according to the prologue, Alex quit her corporate job with one of the top starship manufacturers in the Earth alliance. She’s been saving up her paycheck, and bought her own ship.
Then we switch to the capital of the Senecan Federation, where Caleb and a fellow agent capture a criminal accused of blackmailing an official selling classified Federation secrets. There’s a lot of action here. I like it.
Then we switch to an Earth Alliance colony, where Alex is picking up her brand-new ship, built based on her own, personal design.
Then we switch to an independent colony, where we meet Caleb again. He’s visiting a woman he seems to be close to who runs a shop. An enforcer for a local gang is trying to get her to pay protection.
Then we switch back to Alex, who’s sharing a meal with a friend, talking about her mom about whether to choose a job mining nanodiamonds or another scouting for new habitable worlds.
Then back to Caleb, who’s now following the enforcer. At one point, he bumps into someone who almost makes him abandon his mission — but then she’s gone.
Then back to Alex and her friend, who are jostled by someone as they leave the restaurant. The man’s deep, lilting voice resonates with her, sending a sensual tremor fluttering along Alex’s spine. Oooh. Alex and Caleb are going to get together. On the one hand, I don’t like the prospect of a looming romance. But, on the other hand, Caleb is pretty action-focused. Maybe they’ll team up purely to kill people or have space adventures. I can always hope!
Then we’re with Caleb again. He’s caught up to the enforcer, broken his arm, and forced him to lead the way to the criminals’ hangout, where he kills three criminals. He leaves the guy with the broken arm alive to spread the word that his friends is off-limits.
Then we finally get to the actual opening of the first book in the series, Starshine.
An unnamed alien is concerned about a woman investigating a particular regions of space. The alien would prefer that she not be there, since this woman has a notable talent for discovering what others miss. A man, also unnamed, offers to have the woman killed.
The alien thinks that might backfire and cause unwanted attention, so decides to save murder for a last resort.
The man promises to distract the woman from her pursuit instead.
In addition to the woman, the Senecans are also investigating, the alien says. And they’re an even bigger problem. But the alien has other resources in place to deal with the Senecans. And something is about to happen that will distract all of humanity and focus them inward for quite some time.
That’s pretty ominous. I’m guessing that the alien — and the guy the alien is talking to — are the bad guys. And that Alex is the woman they’re talking about. And Caleb is one of those meddling Senecans.
That was the prologue. In chapter one, we see Alex again. She’s on Earth now, in Seattle, installing a stealth system upgrade on her scout ship, when an old family friend stops by. He tells Alex that her mother wants to see her. In the car there, they discuss an upcoming trade summit between the Earth Alliance and the Seneca Federation. Her mom is an admiral in the Earth Alliance and wants her to take a cushy desk job instead of gallivanting around the galaxy. Alex turns down the job offer, and tries to ignore all the passive-agressive insults her mother slings her way about her work and her love life.
I like Alex very much. I like Caleb. I like the skullduggery and the politics, and I’m enjoying Alex standing up to her big-shot mom.
I’m sticking with this box set this weekend.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
Or watch Maria, Terrence and Alex discuss all five books in the video below: