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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 Theta Prophecy by Chris Dietzel
From Maria Korolov:
Chris Dietzel, I am very annoyed with you. It took me several minutes to figure out what the first book in this series was, since I didn’t want to start in the middle. But you didn’t have a series page for the book.
So I went to your website, ChrisDietzel.com, and the home page is all default filler content like “some generic text” and “featured area 1.” If you link to your website from your Amazon author page, you should at least have the home page done. Then I clicked on the novels tab and you do have your novels listed, but you only have two of the three books here.
But then I immediately felt bad. Maybe something had happened to you between the time you set up the website and now. I mean, we have had the pandemic happening. Or maybe you were hit by a bus. I would feel so bad if I made fun of your website, and you were in a coma somewhere. But then I saw that you posted on your blog just a couple of months ago. Chris, you jerk. Fix your website.
I’m also annoyed that you have a typo in your subtitle. The book is called “The Theta Prophecy: A Time Travel Dystopian.” A time travel dystopian what?
And look at your book cover. Is that a guy digging something up? Burying a body? The title of the book makes it sound like a techno thriller. The series title makes it sound like a sci-fi time travel book. The cover image makes it look like a sad mystery set in rural Minnesota. And the little review blurb across the top compares the book to George Orwell’s 1984. Those are four very different book genres.
Finally, the pricing. Authors are supposed to make the first book in the series free and charge for the rest. You’re doing it the wrong way around. Now, if I want to read this book, I have to decide whether to go ahead and shell out real money for the first book. I hate starting series in the middle.
Chris, your book just hit the top of the best-seller list. Please use this opportunity to redo the covers, fix the typo in the subtitle, change the pricing, set up the Amazon book series page, and finish up the home page on your website.
Okay, I’m done ranting now.
Back to our regularly scheduled review.
I’m not going to read The Theta Prophecy because, as far as I can tell, it’s the second book in the series and not the first. But I don’t want to pay for the first one. I know what I’ll do — I’ll do the “look inside” thing that Amazon has and read the first few pages of The Theta Timeline and see how I feel about your writing.
Oh, good, the first five chapters are in “look inside.” Excellent. Let’s get to reading.
And right away, I’m annoyed at the first paragraph. Maybe I wouldn’t normally have been annoyed, but after all the other annoyances, it doesn’t take much. In this case, I’m annoyed at a semi-colon. There’s nothing technically wrong with semi-colons. and the author uses it correctly. I just hate them. I hate semi-colons for no good reason. When I edit, I either break up the sentence into two or replace the semi-colon with a dash. I know, it’s petty and irrational.
We start out with a line of ten men wearing ill-fitting burlap clothes, holding burlap sacks, connected by some kind of tubing around their ankles. They’re in an abandoned factory, in a room with computers and some scientists.
One of the men says that this is a hell of a way for a valedictorian to go out. Another man adds that he was voted the class clown. And a third man says that he was voted most likely to die an unusual death.
That line makes up for the semi-colon. Now I like this book.
The scientists turn on their machine, the men in burlap all disappear, and one of the scientists says that he hopes that at least one of them made it. Given the series has the phrase “time travel” right in it, I’m guessing that the guys in burlap were sent either to the past or to the future.
In the next chapter, we learn that an evil government had turned to war to distract its population from massive internal problems, very similar to the plot of 1984. To stay in power it imposed increasingly cruel controls over its citizens, while waging harsher and harsher wars against its enemies, until it finally started blowing up other countries with nukes. The chapter doesn’t explain while the other countries never got together and put a stop to it. Basically, we’ve got Hitler, if he had nukes, and there were no allied powers. This chapter is all exposition.
Then, in chapter three, we find out more about the time travel thing. There’s a group of dissidents meeting secretly to try to figure out which historical events contributed to the rise of the evil government. So, that, presumably, they can go back in time and kill their Hitler. This chapter is mostly exposition, but we do finally get a named character, Isaac. We find out he lives in an apartment, owns a computer, and has a girlfriend named Jessica. Also, he’s been invited to another meeting of the dissidents. Is he a scientist? A historian? Just a random guy?
In chapter four, there’s more backstory about how time travel works and that four sets of travelers had already been sent back in time, but that nothing’s gotten better. Of course, whether it got better or not, they wouldn’t know, would they? Because nobody would remember the previous timeline.
And then there’s a little bit more backstory in chapter five, and the free preview ends. Do I know enough about Isaac to want to keep reading? Maybe, if the book was free, but not at $3.99. The only character I want to know about is the guy voted mostly likely to die an unusual death. Why did his classmates think that? I’m curious. But considering that we never even got his name, I have doubts that he’s going to show up again in the story. If I knew for sure he was going to show up, I might pay for the book.
As it is, I might come back to it if the author makes it free. Otherwise, I’ll pass.
Meanwhile, Amira has read the second book in the series.
From Amira Loutfi:
This one is kind of cool and different from other stories I usually read on these top ten lists. We start by learning a bit about the Mi’kmaq people, who are actually a real people that live around Maine.
The first chapter ends very nicely: When one little Mi’kmaq girl is out foraging one day, she sees a brilliant light in the sky and a man falls out of it. YES! I am so thrilled by this opening.
I am guessing that she will help this strange man find her tribe? But that’s not enough to make a compelling story. Maybe he’s going to stay there and he will eventually be followed by more and more people from the future who turn out to be horrible and ruin the Mi’kmaq’s environment the way they ruined their own. Hmm… OK, let’s see if I’m right.
In this world, there is an infinite number of realities and universes. And there is Daniel. Eighteen years old, feeling stuck, wishing for a better life. He lives with his father and goofs off a lot, daydreaming about amazing things happening on the islands in front of his home.
So far, I really like how this author writes and ties the story together. I’ll stop here, but I really like it.
2. Kingdom of Beauty by Deborah Grace White
This is the first book in the four-book The Kingdom Tales series. The other books are all $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The fourth book is scheduled to be released this November.
From Amira Loutfi:
This one is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. And there’s a continent in it called “Solstice.” Ok! Now I’m guessing there’s got to be wild adventures all over the continent and the beauty and the beast are forced to work together to defeat demons or something. They soon fall in love but are separated almost immediately after confessing. Let’s see if I’m right – haha.
I’m a real sucker for a strong opening line… so here’s this book’s: “The dragon let out an excited huff at the mass growing steadily larger before him. It was land, no doubt.”
Oh great — there’s a dragon! I was expecting the beast to be more like a dog, like the Disney version. He’s been flying for two weeks! And he’s got talons! His name is Recavidur. Oh, I am so happy. And also probably being a sucker again. Hmm.
He is not able to communicate with his own dragon colony, but he has a strong sense that more dragons live on this continent. And he’s so excited. Me, too.
Felicity is kind of obnoxious and rude. She appears in the first chapter, although I wish this whole story was just about Recavidur. She’s trying to bargain with a lady about a bauble that might be magical. So she’s sort of dissing it.
Wow, I was super wrong about this one, but like that it’s way better than I imagined. I’m blown away. I’ll probably come back to it, but skip all the parts without Recavidur.
So I love this world. As Felicity is bargaining with a woman over a copper talisman, they reveal that in some regions magic is banned. And Felicity is drawn to the talisman in spite of herself and her mistrust of the saleswoman. I love how the conversation helps to pull the plot forward and to illustrate the world.
So I love this. We’re only in chapter one. I’ll skip ahead to see how I feel about the rest of it.
Beauty and the Beast’s Gaston character is a guy named Kurt in this book and he’s really annoying. He tells Felicity that she’s the prettiest girl in town. He’s also really proud that he lives in the biggest house in town. Ugh. But also, yes! I love hating this narrow-minded character. This is probably the only book in these Free Friday lists that managed to make me laugh out loud.
I will be coming back. I love all of these characters. And no, for once my ardor for the first lines did not result in disappointment.
3. Nigh: Book 1 by Marie Bilodeau
This is the first novella in the five-book Nigh series. The other four novellas are also free.
From Amira Loutfi:
There are five of these Nigh books on the top ten list this week!
We start off with Alva, a snarky female auto mechanic. She works at a cute, grungy shop and she has some lame banter with her boss. The shop is closing and she is settling down to work on a small watch. I enjoy imagining her sitting at that bench, all covered in sweat and mechanic dirt… or whatever that stuff is. And how she’s now focused on this little watch. It’s cute. She drops a screw under a workbench and gets bitten by a rat when she reaches underneath to get it.
Then, something mysterious happens. The tiny little watch gear rolls itself out from under the bench.
When she arrives home that night, she finds that her front door is unlocked. Oh no. Don’t go in there, Alva. But she does.
Her kitchen drawers are all open. And everything she owns is shattered. We then dive into her memories. She grew up poor. And her father wanted her to go to university, but she had settled for a mechanic’s apprenticeship.
So far this is a good story. It’s cute and I like Alva.
As she drives to work the next day, another mysterious thing happens.
And I’m dying to see what kind of magic is in this book, now. I think there were a variety of things, including fairies.
She sets up her workbench again to continue working on the watch, then gets up for some coffee. When she gets back the pieces she left neatly arranged have been scattered across the table. Hmm. Oh! Then a stranger appears and steals her toolbox!
This is incredibly cute. I wouldn’t say I’m intrigued, but I am definitely charmed.
4. Eden by Brennan McPherson
This is first book in the four-book The Fall of Man Series. The other books are $.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
The author’s note clarifies that this is a work of fiction “based solely on the Genesis account of Adam and Eve’s lives from Genesis 1-4.” The author then says he didn’t use other sources and that the “Bible, however, is true and trustworthy.” Are a lot of the people reading and downloading books off of Amazon are religious?
I’m assuming the plot of this story will be exactly what happened in Genesis. This is probably not really a science fiction or fantasy book at all, actually. But… I will give it a go!
So Adam is with Enoch by a fire on a very cold night. Eve has passed away. Enoch can speak to God and Adam can’t — although he really wants to. Enoch will help Adam if Adam also does something for him.
Hmm… I’m already liking it.
Enoch wants to hear every detail of “what happened” and how Adam “broke the world.” They agree to do an exchange. And that’s how the story-telling begins.
I can understand why so many people like this book. It makes me feel like I’m being taken on a spiritual, imaginative ride. I won’t be coming back to it, though.
5. Nigh: Book 2 by Marie Bilodeau
This is the second novella in the five-book Nigh series. The other four novellas are also free.
From Maria Korolov:
We’re not going to review all five novellas this week because they’re basically all continuations of the same book.
However, I’ll give a quick summary from the book’s description.
First, I’d like to say that if a novel is being published as a five-part serial, whith each part a different ebook, maybe they should have better titles than “Book 1” and “Book 2.”
Anyway, auto mechanic Alva Viola Taverner is back, reeling from the events that happened in the first installment of this series.
There are fairies out there thirsting for her blood.
6. Nigh: Book 3 by Marie Bilodeau
This is the third novella in the five-book Nigh series. The other four novellas are also free.
From Maria Korolov:
The serialized story continues in this third installment.
We’re still with auto mechanic Alva Viola Taverner.
All we know from the description is that Alva still isn’t safe.
One reviewer says that this installment is “creepy and twisted as ever” and “biting my nails until number four is released.”
I’m going to peer into the book just a little bit. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but you already know that the main character is still alive from the description. In the opening scene, Alva is looking at the water trickling through a crack in her car’s windshield. Her head hurts. She can’t move her arms. And then a water drop drips from the dashboard onto her jeans, like a diamond tear, and stays perfectly round against the blue denim. Then smoke starts to form, in wisps of dark glitter.
Creepy! I like it!
7. Nigh: Book 5 by Marie Bilodeau
This is the last novella in the five-book Nigh series. The other four novellas are also free.
From Maria Korolov:
The serialized story concludes in this fifth and final installment, and we’re still with auto mechanic Alva Viola Taverner. We still have the unimaginative book title, but I like the color balance of this cover much better.
In the opening scene, Alva is back in her car, driving. The last time I saw her in her car was in the opening scene of the third book, where it sounded as if she’d been in a car accident.
I’m worried about her.
She’s heading south, away from the harsh winters that could kill her. The world around her is wild, natural, and broken, the road cracked with overgrown weeds and unrecognizable plants. Her fuel gauge is hovering just above empty.
Yup, I think I’m going to be reading these books.
8. Nigh: Book 4 by Marie Bilodeau
This is the fourth novella in the five-book Nigh series. The other four novellas are also free.
From Maria Korolov:
The serialized story continues in this fourth installment, with the same lack of title. I also don’t like this book cover. With the black and white background, and the bright red in the foreground, it looks like it wasn’t quite finished.
Anyway, we’re still with auto mechanic Alva Viola Taverner.
But now it’s not water dripping through a crack in her windshield. In the opening scene, gray patches from the the shattered sky are tumbling down around her, shimmering with bright light. They crumple and melt into the ground, where they join the purple and green stars below.
Then everything swirls together to form a new pattern.
I don’t want to read any further and give anything away, because it’s starting to look like a series I might want to read this weekend.
9. Kane by Anastasia Wilde
This is the first book of the three-book Silverlake Enforcers series. The other books are $.99 but are both in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Another shifter book! The cover on this one is odd. A flighty-eyed muscleman is rubbing a rope on the back of his neck. I have no idea what he’s doing and I’m afraid of finding out. He’s probably a wolf.
I hate the word swirl, and it comes up on the first page. I’m going to do a quick search to see how often my most hated words appear. Swirl appears twice. Plop does not appear at all. Oh, and there is a lot of explicit language. Do you really need to know anything else?
I feel like I’m basically done with this one, but… OK, come on. Let’s go.
Yes, Kane is a werewolf.
Skipping ahead, he and his girlfriend are at a ridiculous pool party in chapter nine. Apparently, Kane doesn’t usually spend that much time with other people. He wants to just go off and be a beast with his girlfriend, but she wants to stay. There’s some romantic stuff. He makes her a burger and loves making her happy. She’s his mate, after all. And then another guy teases him about his mate — suggesting the only reason she’s in such a good mood is because of the rest of the shifters there.
Not really into it myself, but I understand how others might like it. It kind of reminds me of the drama between the musclemen of ABC’s The Bachelorette. I used to be addicted to that show.
If you enjoy the usual romances on Kindle you’ll enjoy this one, too.
10. Lady Renegade by Elizabeth Rose
This is the second book of the four-book Legacy of the Blade Series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
The cover here made me think this will be a LitRPG book, where the action takes place inside a video game. It’s not.
Storm is hiding out in a thatched Highland cottage with his father, the chieftain, and his pregnant Scottish deerhound dog. Englishmen are poking about dangerously. Storm resists his father’s attempts to ambush the Englishmen. He criticizes his father for always preferring war over peace. I don’t think that this is the right time for a conversation like this, Storm. You should probably have a serious discussion about your values as a family sometime, but not in the middle of a raid.
Nine years later, Storm is now known for being an incredible fighter and killer, and having a nasty temper. He’s also known for winning every challenge he accepts and becoming wealthy as a result. He tricks a Frenchman into challenging him, after demanding that the foreigner place everything he owns on the bet.
He pulls off an incredible stunt in front of a crowd and wins the bet. Am I strange for not being interested in that?
But the accents are interesting. And I like how Storm gave in to his father’s ways.
Meanwhile, Wren is an English peasant woman who stays at the Hoof and Horn, a tavern, and gives birth to the king’s heir there. Her friend Zara, which whom she is reunited after nine years, is shocked to discover that Wren is involved in raiding Englishmen all over the country. That’s pretty cool. And Wren is planning another raid that night. Her goal is to rob the Englishmen of all that they took from the Scotts.
But her wrath is far more personal than that. An Englishman blinded her to prevent the king from wanting her anymore. And it worked. Oh, man. She’s angry. The night she was maimed still haunts her.
Her friend has some news about what happened on that night… oh my goodness. I have to know. It’s about her son, the heir.
And just as I feel this powerful desire to know what else happened, we have Storm barging into the tavern. In comparison to vengeful Wren, his gaiety is pretty cute. But I’ve had enough. I just want to know what Wren’s friend needs to tell her about her son. Oh gosh, skipping ahead, I find out that revealing this secret is delayed for over fifty pages.
So Wren bumps into Storm and they basically fall in love. This story moves slowly, but it’s good if you enjoy the whole Englishmen versus the Scots dynamic. And where’s the magic? I don’t know.
I won’t be coming back to this book. I’m too impatient.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].