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. A Happy Christmas Ceilidh by Zoe Tasia
This is a novella related to the two-book The Shrouded Isle cozy magical mystery series. The other books are $3.99 and $4.99 each, and are not in Kindle Unlimited. This is the author’s first time on our Free Friday list.
From Maria Korolov:
I haven’t read the series this book is related to, so I’m not sure I’ll know what’s going on here, but I do love cozy magical mysteries and I’m definitely feeling the Christmas spirit right now — so I’ve got high hopes.
When the book opens, Becca is having dinner with her boyfriend, Greg, and her two daughters, and the chapter is in her point of view, told in the first person. I scrolled ahead, and this is one of those books where chapters are told from the viewpoint of different characters. It’s not my favorite approach, but pretty common in romance books.
Anyway, Greg tells Becca not to move because a wee man is leering at her. Becca’s daughters play along and say they can see it, too. Greg throws a roll at it — and it turns out to be an Elf on the Shelf.
Greg’s dialog is in the Scottish dialect, which makes it a little difficult to read. He’s something called a Keeper of the Forest, which means that he can see fae and return any escaped ones back to their homes in the forest. Becca fell in love with him and decided to stay on the island where he lives. I assume this took place in a previous book in the series.
Anyway, we see some family holiday hijinks, where Becca and Greg use the Elf on the Shelf to play a prank on the two girls.
Instead, they’re the ones who get pranked – the elf is moving around, seemingly on its own, and hiding things. The question is, who’s the prankster? The girls? Or the toy elf? Or someone — or something — else? One morning, the elf is inside an unopened cereal box. So Becca and Greg stay up to try to find out who’s been moving the elf.
It’s a cute holiday story and a quick read. I’ll probably finish it tonight.
4. By the Pact by Joanna Maciejewska
This is the first of four books in the Pacts Arcane and Otherwise epic fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each, and are not in Kindle Unlimited. This is the author’s first time on our Free Friday list.
From Kristin Noland:
The book starts with Kamira, an arcanist who made a demon pact for her magical powers. Trapped in a crystal in the depths of the Towers is the demon Veranesh. The trapped demon breaks Kamira’s demon pact she made long ago and forces her to choose between death and helping him escape. She agrees to help the demon.
Then we meet Ryell, who survived a war between demons and the rulers of his country. He’s looking for the traitor within the rulers’ inner circle.
Then there’s Prince Allyv, who’s on a royal ship with his mother, the queen. He suspects an advisor of not having the country’s best interests in mind, while his mother completely trusts the advisor.
Kamira is a spunky, logical character who I bonded with easily. She’s got a friend and protector who seems kind, yet strong. And I have respect for Ryell, who is a planner who wants all the information before he acts. I’m unsure about Prince Allyv. His scene was quite short, but I believe he is smart, yet acts like a spoiled child at times.
But overall, there are a lot of characters to keep track of, so the book isn’t to my taste, and I won’t be finishing it.
But I believe fans of fantasy who like escaping to a world of castles, strange creatures, and the battle between good and evil entities will enjoy this novel.
3. Time Visitor by Elyse Douglas
This is a standalone novel of time-travel romance, but if you like this book, the author has many other highly-rated time-travel romance books on Amazon, all of which are in Kindle Unlimited. This is the author’s first time on our Free Friday list.
From Maria Korolov:
As you might know, from previous Free Fridays, I’m not a fan of romance. I prefer violence and mayhem. But I do have a soft spot in my normally cold, cold heart for Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
This book starts in 1944 with Paul, a Navy pilot, about to get into his dive bomber for a training mission.
We also find out that Paul’s a war hero who flew at Midway. He’s a flight instructor now because he was wounded.
He’s leading the other planes east of the Florida coast when they see a strange, oval-shaped cloud. He’s never seen anything like it before. He decides to fly over it, and he and the other planes in the format ascend — and the cloud rises up to meet them and all their compasses start to spin wildly. The planes are getting low on fuel, and the pilots can’t tell where they are. The pilots panic, and there’s a lot of radio traffic between them and the Fort Lauderdale tower, which says a rescue ship is on its way to their last known location.
Then a spiraling tunnel of purple light sucks in Paul’s plane.
In the next chapter, we switch to the year 2005, in Ohio. Gretchen is having dinner with a friend, a year exactly since her husband and small daughter died in a car accident. The friend, Carl, is an older man and deeply in love with her — and her real estate agent. She tells him that she plans to sell her house and move back to New York. He begs her to stay, says he loves her. But she’s adamant. She wants to get away from her memories, and go back to the place where most of her friends are.
That night, she’s at home when her phone rings. When she picks it up, she hears Paul’s last radio transmission. The one from decades ago. It creeps her out, and she hangs up. The phone rings again, and she turns it off. Then she hears an airplane flying over her house. It flies past and the sound dies — and then comes back again, louder this time, and she can hear the engine cough and sputter. She looks outside and sees a plane landing in the field on her land.
Then we switch to Paul’s point of view, as he’s trying to land in the field. He’s just barely able to make it before the engine dies, out of fuel.
Then we’re back with Gretchen. She runs out to the vintage plane and he asks her to make a call for him. But he’s bleeding, so she decides to help him out of the cockpit first and take him back to her house, then make the call. He keeps talking about a naval base, and a war, and being in Florida, and she thinks that’s he’s confused due to the accident.
For some reason, she doesn’t call 911, but tries to clean his head wound on her own while he falls asleep. Are you supposed to let people sleep if they’ve got a concussion? She really should have called for an ambulance.
In the morning, she finally texts a friend of hers, a doctor, and asks her to come over. Oh, and refuses to tell her friend any details.
When her friend arrives, Gretchen brings her up to speed, but instead of immediately calling for an ambulance, the doctor friend decides to have breakfast, then, finally, she looks at Paul. Paul wakes up, demands a phone and says he has to call his superiors — but the number he provides doesn’t even have an area code. In fact, Paul doesn’t know what an area code is. The doctor friend asks for his personal history, and Paul says that he’s 28, and was born in 1916.
The doctor says that he might have a sustained concussion and some bruises and needs to go to the hospital immediately. He needs a CT scan and a complete psychiatric workup. Then she leaves.
Instead of taking Paul straight to the hospital, Gretchen feeds him breakfast and gets him a change of clothes. They talk about what happened, and Paul freaks out about everything — the cell phones, the date, the fact that he’s in the modern world. He doesn’t believe what’s happening, so she offers to drive him around. Maybe she should drive him to the hospital. Instead, she takes him through town to the park.
They stop and chat again, and she suggests that maybe his plane got lost in the Bermuda Triangle. Then she pulls out her phone, goes online, and finds a news story about five Navy planes that disappeared off the Florida coast in 1944. One of the missing pilots? Paul.
The next chapter, Paul is still hanging out at her house. She still hasn’t taken him to a hospital. In fact, they concocted a plan to tell people that he’d been in an air show and got lost.
I’m confused by all of this. Why not call the Navy? It would be easy enough for them to confirm Paul’s identity, what with the plane right there and all. He’d get medical treatment, probably a pension, and have all the scientists in the world trying to figure out what happened to him.
Gretchen’s doctor friend wants her to contact the military. But Gretchen decides to keep Paul a secret. And now Paul doesn’t want to call them, either. I’m getting very frustrated with these people. Sure, I understand that if Gretchen called 911 the minute she saw the plane come down into her field, we wouldn’t have a romance. This is definitely a situation that calls for suspension of disbelief, at least if you want a romance. So there’s the problem — I don’t want a romance. I don’t care about Gretchen. I care about all those poor scientists who are missing out on the opportunity to research what happened to Paul.
So I’m not going to be sticking with this book. But it does remind me a bit of the movie Starman, except with a time traveler instead of an alien. So if you liked that, check it out.
2. Enchanted Christmas by Christine Pope
This is a box set of five paranormal romance novellas by a USA Today bestselling author. If you like her books, she has several paranormal romance and urban fantasy series on Amazon, but none of them are in Kindle Unlimited. This is not the author’s first time on our Free Friday list. This past August, we reviewed Magic in the Desert, a box set of the first books in three of her paranormal romance series. And, in January, we reviewed Found Objects, the first of seven books in the Paranormal Penny Mysteries cozy mystery series. Finally, in July of 2021, we reviewed Storm Born, the first book of the nine-book The Witches of Wheeler Park series.
From Maria Korolov:
The first novella, Flight Before Christmas — normally $2.99 on Amazon — opens with Kai listening to Jack Frost ranting about how annoying Santa Claus is and how its time to take winter back. Kai is one of Jack Frost’s frost elves, and he is also annoyed — annoyed about having to carry out Jack Frost’s every whim and about the guy’s obsession with Santa Claus.
Kai wants something more. He wants to visit a warm beach. Eat popcorn. See a movie. But he’s one of Jack Frost’s slaves, and Jack Frost has nearly god-like powers.
Then Jack Frost says that this year, the frost elves will take action and take back the North Pole. It’s not just bluster anymore. Kai realizes that Jack Frost needs to be stopped. Instead, Kai is assigned to the strike team. The plan is to capture Santa Claus so that he can’t deliver presents and take the reindeer hostage so that Santa’s elves can’t deliver presents in his stead.
Kai is forced to go along with the plan. If he doesn’t, Jack Frost will turn him into an ice statue and then shatter it with an axe.
When Jack Frost and his frost elves invade the North Pole, Santa comes with them without putting up a fight.
What can Kai do? He’s going to need a lot of help if he’s going to take on Jack Frost. The other frost elves wouldn’t dare help him. His only option is to go to the human world and find a witch.
I like the story so far. I think it would make a great Christmas movie, too. I can definitely see myself finishing this.
1. Mind Machines by Dima Zales
This is the first of three books in the Human++ techno-thriller series by a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. The other two books are $3.99 each, and are not in Kindle Unlimited. This is not the author’s first time on our Free Friday list. In February of 2022, we reviewed Oasis, the first of three books in The Last Humans young adult dystopian future series.
From Alex Korolov:
People who like futuristic stories — especially those dealing with nanotechnology and creepy medical procedures — will be into this one.
The book starts with a dream. Our main character, Misha, is in an operating room with his Russian mother and grandfather. Misha’s mom is being injected in the neck by a cold-mannered doctor. A giant-sized plunger fills Ava’s neck with a gray goo, which makes her scream as her body dissolves into a puddle of gray, liquid, self-replicating nanocytes. I assume nanocytes are some form of nano robot.
In the next chapter, we learn that Misha owns a company called Techno, which offers nanocyte treatments. Today, his mom is getting a nanocyte injection to help treat some brain damage she suffered in an accident. It turns out her memory was badly damaged, but she can still talk normally. Misha’s mom gets the injection, but it doesn’t melt her into goo. In fact, not much actually happens. I guess it’s not a fast miracle-cure type of treatment.
Then we learn that his mother is the first person to get the experimental treatment, which penetrates the blood-brain barrier to help improve a patient’s brain functions. Misha apparently started his company because of his desire to save his mother’s damaged brain.
This is as far as I got with this story. Besides the dramatic dream that starts this book, it’s a bit of a slow roll. The beginning chapters are all about introducing our main character and his family, and explaining his motivations for starting a nanocyte medical treatment company.
I find the topic of futuristic nano-scale medical technology a really cool topic, and I’m personally excited to see how it will help motor- and brain-impaired humans as the technology develops. Since it’s an interesting topic to me, I plan to keep reading this story to see where it leads. If I had to guess, I bet something crazy will happen with the nanocyte treatments, but I’ll just have to keep reading to find out.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
Or watch Maria talk about all five books in the video below: