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 Pain Colony by Shanon Hunt
This is the first of two books in The Colony series of medical techno-thrillers. The other book is $4.99 and is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I do love me a good techno thriller.
Layla is a member of a creepy cult called the Colony where everyone gets together every morning to be ritually caned. The pain is supposed to purify them. It’s all very creepy.
The second chapter jumps to a medical conference, where Allison Stevens is giving a talk about using gene therapy to treat muscular dystrophy. Afterwards, she’s celebrating at a bar with her married boyfriend when FBI agents show up and arrest him for identity fraud.
Then we go back to Layla. She’s in a session with a therapist, who’s trying to make her relive her childhood traumas in order to be able to move past them. Nothing wrong with that — except that the therapist seems to be more about creating memories of the traumas that maybe don’t actually exist.
The story just keeps getting creepier and creepier.
A little too creepy for me. I don’t like stories that are too psychologically disturbing. I also don’t like scary movies that have a lot of suspense in them.
2. Ultraxenopia by M.A. Phipps
This is the first of three books in the Project W.A.R. series of young adult dystopian thrillers. The other books are $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The third and last book is not out yet, but is scheduled to be released in March of 2022.
From Amira Loutfi:
So right away this book looks awesome. The title is cool. The science beaker on the cover is cool. The second book in the series has a similar cover, also with a beaker, but the color theme is orange.
Wynter Reeves lives in Zone one. She’s been in school for the past 13 years of her life and she is about to take an exam that will determine her entire future. If she passes she can continue in her career path. If she fails she’ll get a year of detention and then a string of lousy jobs. Yikes!
The city she lives in is surrounded by a giant wall and is called “the Heart.” I’m not sure if the Heart is in Zone one or if Zone one is in the Heart. In the first scene, Wynter is on a train not unlike a contemporary subway system. It says it has arrived at central station, where there is W. P. Headquarters and the Department of Interzonal Affairs. Outside the windows, it’s really grey and bleak. Inside, all the other riders look blank and stiff. Internally, Wynter says it is another “monotonous day” for the majority of them.
But it’s not another monotonous day for her. And she’s extremely nervous. Turns out, in this world, if you seem nervous, if you fidget, if you seem curious or act human at all, you are in danger. The survival of each person depends on how invisible they can be — metaphorically. She’s on her way to her exam and tries not to fidget. While she’s waiting to get into the headquarters, she sees a TV screen showing news of a bombing. She thinks it must be a new attack. So she listens while trying to not seem interested.
But it’s so interesting.
The newscaster says that the perpetrators are probably a rebel group known as Pheonix. The attack occurred in Zone 4. And then she warns that anyone helping Pheonix will be branded an “enemy of the state” and killed.
Wynter Reeves has got an ID chip in her left arm. Before entering, a receptionist at the headquarters scans her left arm and pricks her finger for blood. Dude. This is a really cool story so far.
She sees a bunch of her classmates on the elevator and they don’t even greet each other. All of their classes are in the same building too, the W. P. Headquarters. On the elevator, she sees a man that she recognizes from somewhere but can’t remember. He gets off on the fourth floor.
Oh boy … In the next chapter, the mysterious man is back, but then she has a mental breakdown during the exam.
I will totally be back for more of this!
3. Never A Dragon by Kevin McLaughlin and Michael Anderle
This is the first of six books in the Dragon’s Daughter series of young adult books set in a school for dragons. The other books are $4.99 each. They are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
So, first, my usual disclaimers. As a rule, I don’t like young adult fiction. I’m not the target audience for these kinds of books. I’ve raised two teenagers, and when I read the stories, all my sympathies are with these kids’ parents instead of them. There are exceptions — I did love the Harry Potter books even though I still think that Hermione should have been the protagonist, not a trust-fund legacy jock like Harry Potter. But I digress.
The book is set in Canada, but in a Canada with dragons, mages, and dwarves.
A group of dragons and their riders is out hunting rogue mages. The dragons have the power to change into human shape.
Lara, a mage and dragon rider, is killed by the rogue mages. Her dragon, Hester, is devastated by the loss but finds a survivor — a little baby that the rogue mages were trying to protect. Hester decides to save the baby and keep it hidden from the dragon authorities.
Then, sixteen years later, the baby has grown into a young woman, Kylara, with the power to change shape into a dragon. She thinks of Hester as her mom and the two of them live in New Mexico. She’s never seen any other dragons, and is under strict orders to never, ever get close to any. And then, one day, another dragon appears while Kylara is out flying, by herself, without permission.
It’s a great story, and a great setting. I’m curious about what happens next with Kylara, but, unfortunately, all my sympathies are, again, with her mom!
But I recommend this book for anyone who likes stories of young shape-shifting, magic-wielding women trying to forge their own way.
4. An Imperfectly Perfect Witch by Kate Satori
This is the first of three books in the Keystone County Witches cozy paranormal mystery series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not out yet. They are scheduled to be released this coming December and March.
From Amira Loutfi:
This is a cozy mystery that takes place in a small town that had recently integrated magic and non-magic folks. The protagonist, Katherine, is in her late forties. Cool.
Katherine is a witch who owns a shop called “Enchanted Elixers” and she runs it with her magical mother. Her neighbor in the strip mall is Betsy, a woman who hates magic and isn’t afraid to make it known. One morning, Betsy is banging aggressively on the front door, even though they aren’t open yet. When Katherine opens up, Betsy is furious about that fact that her only daughter decided to get engaged to Alex, Katherine’s witch brother. And she howls about how she won’t accept it and doesn’t want magic spoiling her blood line.
I am almost never into stories like these. She has four sisters and a brother, and we get a few too many details about the family for my taste.
At the end of the chapter, there is another encounter with Betsy, but she scampers away. I’m wondering now if that goes anywhere. And it does! Yes! Seems like Betsy is the inciting incident! She goes to the engagement party and then has an allergic reaction to something. Her throat swells up and she dies!
This does not look good for a magical family in a town that has only recently desegregated!
Will I be back…? I don’t know. Maybe?
5. Any Job Will Do by John Wilker
This is the first of three books in The Grand Human Empire space opera series. The other books are $2.99 and $3.99 each. They are not in Kindle Unlimited. The third and last book is scheduled to be released this November.
From Maria Korolov:
I love space operas. Judging by its cover, I’m totally the target audience for this book.
Jax is piloting a spaceship inside restricted space, accompanied by Skip, the ship’s AI, and a navigation droid. He’s spotted by imperial forces, and escapes by playing chicken with the largest imperial ship, then diving into a wormhole.
Seems that he’s carrying illegal cargo. He delivers the load, then heads off to his favorite spacer bar. He’s planning to get drunk and make questionable sexual choices when a potential new customer shows up. A relief organization working on a planet torn by civil war wants him to go and rescue their team because the conflict has just flared out of control.
The rescue, of course gets complicated.
I’m liking this story. It’s not particularly deep or emotionally gripping, but it’s fun and full of action. Just the kind of reading I’m looking forward to for the weekend.
6. The Heart Ladder by Sibby Spencer
This psychological thriller is the author’s debut novel.
From Amira Loutfi:
The cover describes this story as a suspense thriller. Nice… but why would it be on this list? Initially, I thought the sci-fi element may be that there are very few females left on earth. And here is a young unmarried one, pregnant. That would be enough to drive conflict.
Faith Anderson is 23 years old, pregnant, and just inherited her aunt’s English cottage. She’s from New York, but travels to the cottage. She grew up there and has a lot of nice memories playing in the dirt.
As soon as she inherits it, she flies away to London. She is on her way to build a better life for her child. As she is exiting the plane, everyone stares at her — they’re a bunch of men who are excited about the fact that she is female. As soon as she is out of the airport she throws her hat up into the air like a college grad. The excitement of travel has made her less sad. But what is she so sad about?
On a train, she sees an old lady and doesn’t know how to talk to her. They make it to the country. When she arrives at the station, she receives a note from Charlie Simpson. He says they got her a car and hopes to meet her the next day. How nice.
So far this doesn’t sound like a suspense thriller. And there are a lot of old ladies. Not sure what’s going on.
So Faith signs some papers to get her aunt’s cottage. There seems to be some weird tension between her and Charlie. And when she finally stays the night at the cottage, she thinks she can hear a woman screaming and getting attacked by something. She is terrified but feels like she ought to do something. She doesn’t though.
I think I might’ve been wrong about her being one of the few females left on earth. Maybe the men in the beginning were just a bunch of weirdos? I can see why others like this book — it’s got a young girl who inherited an English cottage and a lot of description.
Who wouldn’t be down for that?
7. Defiance by Cheree Alsop
This is the first of six books in The Wolfborne Saga urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each. They are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
The cover design makes me think that this is a western.
A wolf is running away from some other wolves, is injured, then, when on the verge of escape, is hit by a car.
The driver thinks he’s hit a large dog and takes it home, where his sister’s a vet, his mother’s worried about the fact that he doesn’t know the difference between a wolf and a dog, and his brother thinks that the wolf might be a werewolf because he believes crazy things he finds on the Internet.
The wolf is sedated, muzzled, treated, and put in a cage.
If it doesn’t escape once the sun rises, the other wolves will start trying to find him — and the family that took him in would be at risk. The wolf figures out a way out of the cage and leaps out through the window.
And then the sister, the vet who patched him up, goes after him, and the wolf decides to come back so that he can protect the family from the other wolves.
The werewolf politics are confusing to me. The protagonist, the wolf, seems to be making a lot of bad decisions.
I don’t think I’ll be sticking with the book.
8. Anomalous Secret by J.C. Skylar
This is the first of four books in the Anomalous series of young adult sci-fi romance. The other books are $2.99 each. They are all in Kindle Unlimited. The fourth and last book is scheduled to be released in September of 2022.
From Amira Loutfi:
If I saw this book in a store I would certainly pick it up. Especially with that tagline — young adult sci-fi fantasy. So this confused me because the Amazon page also calls it a YA sci-fi romance. After reading the first chapter, I’m not sure how romance is going to fit into the story. Instead, it seems to be setting up a a family drama plot thread alongside the sci-fi. So I guess it was a typo? Arright… let’s get down to business.
I glanced over the blurb and it said “an experiment gone wrong.” Perfect. Maybe this is about a young scientist who finds that the experiment she’s been working on all year has transformed a participant into… a can of beans?
Nope. This book is more of a superhero story.
Sage and Jayden are normal teenage twins with abnormal powers. This abnormality is the result of a science experiment that accidentally modified their genes when they were four years old. The mother also has a superpower — she can make others feel tranquil with one touch. So does their baby brother.
Sage’s magical power is to manipulate memories, create illusions, and control other people’s minds. Jayden can control fire.
The family is constantly being hunted by people Sage calls “trackers” and for this reason, they move around a lot. Sage has already been kidnapped at least twice by the trackers.
In the opening scene, the whole family is driving out to live in a wooden cabin in Texas. Sage is lovesick. Jayden makes her angry when he calls her “Jason.” They start school the next day.
At school, Sage stands up to a bully, impressing classmates. Then, she sees a vaccine truck and is very worried they will take her little brother’s blood. Her little brother, Hunter, is a toddler, and I don’t know what his superpower is yet, but if you take his blood you’ll see it turn an electric blue.
It’s not for me, but I can see why others like it so much! It’s like a cross between a coming-of-age and superhero story.
9. Station Cores Complete Compilation by Jonathan Brooks
This is a box set of all five books in the Station Cores LitRPG series. All the books are normally $2.99 each. They are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Jonathan Brooks has several different LitRPG series on Amazon. LitRPG is a book that is set inside a video game. Think of Tron, or The Matrix, or Ready Player One. More hard-core LitRPG includes some of the more geeky aspects of playing video games, such as character creation and grinding away to improve character statistics. It’s the literary equivalent of watching someone playing a video game on Twitch — and can be just as addictive.
So I love it when LitRPG books hit the best seller lists.
The first challenge every LitRPG story faces is to explain why the protagonist is inside a video game.
One theme I’ve been seeing lately is that people are trapped inside a game by aliens and have to survive or win the game in order to get out.
That’s the premise of one of my favorite series, Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman, and of the book Headspace by J.E. Edwin. I recommend both highly, by the way. The first is a very fun read and I can’t wait for the next installment, while the second is a bit more thoughtful and personal but very compelling.
Anyway, let’s get to the first book book in this box set, The Station Core.
Captain Praxa’s ship has just come out of a trans-dimensional jump, part of a fleet from The Collective. They are a peaceful civilization under attack by the Heliothropes, who enslave and torture the various races that are part of The Collective. The plan is to use humans to fight their battles, because we humans are so blood-thirsty and all.
So they’re going to kidnap 100 of the best soldiers and military minds on Earth, wipe their memories, and transfer their minds into virtual reality environments known as Station Cores. The aliens are torn about the morality of what they’re about to do. But it’s the only plan they’ve got.
That was the prologue that gives us the setup for what’s happening here.
Now, on to the story.
Milton spends most of his time playing a game called Crowned Lieges of Destiny, the hot new massively multi-player online role playing game. He’s 22 and is the strategy coordinator for the top guild in the game. His only source of income was finding rare in-game items for paying clients. He’s about to take on a new gig when he gets teleported into a bare gray metal room where’s he’s surrounded by other people. The other people are soldiers who look like they came straight from a battle field, and they point weapons at him.
Then they all lose consciousness.
Milton wakes up in an alien jungle, and he’s now a 20-foot metal egg. He has some camera drones that he can control. One is grabbed by a big yellow bird that flies off with it. He succeeds in getting the drone free of the bird by flying it down the bird’s gullet, killing the bird.
And he gets an announcement.
It’s a note of congratulations telling him that he’s successfully defeated the big yellow bird and therefore gained ten experience points, as well as the new skill of sensor control. He’s also unlocked an achievement, “The Harder They Fall,” that allows his drones to fly further and faster, and be more durable.
It’s the same kind of skills interface as in the Crowned Lieges of Destiny video game.
I find these kinds of stats reports to be incredibly cheesy when I see them in LitRPG books. They’re a common trope. And, to be honest, I love them. It’s very satisfying to watch a main character level up.
Then he discovers that he’s got a little AI assistant to help him through his challenges — and that the situation is a lot more dire than we thought. The alien ship he was on was attacked and destroyed. Milton only survived because his core is so tough, but it’s been damaged. He’s alone on this planet now, and, because of time dilation, it’s now 4,000 years in the future. In addition to the camera drones, he’s got a few other drones that can act as builders or defenders, and he can convert matter from one type to another. He also has the instructions for repairing his core, building a new ship, and getting off the planet — if he survives long enough.
I think I’m going to like this series.
10. The Dragoneer by Vickie Knestaut
This is the first of eight books in The Dragoneer fantasy series. The other books are $0.99 to $5.99 each. They are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
I like the cover. If I saw this in a bookstore I would pick it up and start reading.
Trysten is feeding the dragons. And the dragons, red, green, gold, etcetera, are all excited about her father coming to see them. There was an accident that kept her father away. He was the local dragoneer, but had been bedridden for a while. The alpha dragon had also been injured in the accident.
Her father is kind of a jerk. He comes to the dragon pens and barely talks to his daughter. He is limping. When she protests about him climbing over the hopper, he shuts her up. Goodness. Just because he rides the alpha dragon doesn’t mean it’s ok to be mean. The day of his accident he had had an argument with his daughter because she wanted to be the next dragoneer. And he was against it.
Turns out, Trysten can understand dragons. She hides this from her father because the first time she told him he laughed at her.
See what I mean?
Anyway, the alpha dragon isn’t healing. So this is probably going to force some changes to occur in the dragoneer pecking order. Oh, and an exciting event is coming up that will help to determine who the next dragoneer will be. I’m guessing that the dragoneer’s only child, Trysten, will prove herself and then some. Her competition, Paege, has only a weak relationship with his dragon.
It’s not for me, but I can see why other people like this book so much. The protagonist is out to prove herself against society’s expectations and it’s got dragons that people can build relationships with.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].