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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. Balanced Scales by Laura Greenwood
This is the first of six books in the Untold Tales fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
First, a disclaimer. I’m not the target audience for this book. I don’t like retellings of classic fairy tales, and, as a general rule, I think romance novels are too mushy. Finally, I dislike young adults and books aimed at that audience.
Mari, a mermaid, has just turned 18 when she saves a man from drowning after a shipwreck. She accidentally admits she’s a mermaid, and winds up losing her soul to a curse. Now, when she dies, she won’t be able to pass on to a better place, but be stuck in limbo for all eternity. To get it back, she must find the sea witch.
To break the curse, she has to go on land and find her soul — and the other souls that the curse has taken.
I like the fact that she’s taking this risk for a real reason, not just because she got a crush on the first human she laid eyes on.
The book reads well, and the story moves along quickly, but I’m not really that into it. Probably because it’s not my kind of story.
2. Moonrise Over Rabbit River by Elyce de Reefe
This is the first of seven books in The Rabbit River Saga paranormal romance series. The other books are $2.99 to $4.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited. In July, we reviewed the fourth book in the series, A Mating Of Convenience.
From Amira Loutfi:
3. Beyond the Grave by R.W. Wallace
This is the first of three books in the Ghost Detective urban fantasy series. The other two books are $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I love the premise here. Emeline Evian is a detective in France who is sent to Toulouse to look into the murders of young women. There were a bunch of old cases misclassified as suicides by lazy police detectives. As the book starts, she’s exhuming the body of Clothilde Humbert, who died in the 1980s.
The thing is, Clothilde’s ghost is still around, haunting the cemetery where the body is buried, unable to move on because of unfinished business. And there’s a second body buried next to her’s — the police detective who originally did such a bad job investigating her case. He’s also a ghost. And he also can’t move on.
The book is atmospheric and I like the unusual setting. Unusual for me, at least. I haven’t read any paranormal police procedurals set in France before.
I’m loving the book so far and will probably finish it this weekend.
4. The Dark Side of Angels by Steve Hadden
From Maria Korolov:
I do like technothrillers, but only if they’re not too scary, disturbing, or suspenseful. I know, I know — that kind of ruins the point of a technothriller. But what can you do? There’s no accounting for taste. Even if your taste is super weird.
So, anyway, I’m reading this book with a little hesitancy.
It starts with Kayla Covington, a scientist whose young son died ten years before. She’s working on genetic cures for diseases, and she’s getting close to saving her father from Parkinson’s — and then save millions of other lives.
Then her laboratory is attacked, her researchers killed, and she suspects that the government is involved with the attack. She barely escapes with her life, and with one syringe containing the synthetic compound she invented. The syringe won’t last long without refrigeration, so she does the only thing she can do to save the compound — she injects it into herself. If it works, she’ll start getting younger. But she’s going to need a second injection, of a different compound, to stop the process. Otherwise, she’ll be dead in a week.
The attack was the work of a billionaire philanthropist, Neville Lewis. He’s the inventor of mind-reading technology, and believes that by destroying the lab he has saved millions of lives, not doomed them.
FBI agent Mason Reed is investing the attack. One of the victims was the daughter of his best friend since high school, and was in the lab, working under cover.
I like the pace of the action, and the police procedural aspects of this story. I might stick with it.
5. Diplomatic Recruit by S.E. Weir and Michael Anderle
This is the first of four books in The Empress’ Spy sci-fi adventure series. The other books are $4.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited. The book is part of the broader Kurtherian Gambit universe.
From Noreen Brenner:
The novel is about a young girl named Phina, who is about to turn eighteen and whose life’s passion is spying. Her parents were also spies. The novel is set in the future, where humans have ventured into outer space, and have encountered aliens. The group of humans who dwell in outer space live under the aegis of an Empress, Bethany Anne, whose Empire is called the Etheric Empire.
The book begins with Phina managing to illicitly gain entry to a place where men affiliated with the Etheric Empire train in martial arts. Phina has a martial arts fight with one of the men and is found out for having entered illicitly, but, rather than being punished, she is offered a job as a member of the Empire’s Diplomatic Corps. However, she has to undergo diplomatic training first. Phina is far more interested in spying than in diplomacy, but she is told that she will also be able to spy. Of course, Phina accepts the offer, and her adventures ensue.
I give this book eight out of ten points. It’s very well written, and is engaging and interesting. The characters are intelligent and intriguing. Well worth reading for fans of sci-fi, especially space opera.
From Maria Korolov:
I also read the beginning of this book, but as I read it, it quickly became clear that I’m missing a lot of back story. Ah ha — the book is part of the broader Kurtherian Gambit universe. The first book in that one, Death Becomes Her, is $4.99 but is in Kindle Unlimited. That book has thousands of positive reviews, so it would probably make sense to read it first. In fact, it turns out that it was already on my reading shelf.
So I pulled it up.
It starts out with a special ops team on assignment in Virginia when everything goes wrong and one of the soldiers is killed. Meanwhile, government agent Bethany Anne has a rare blood disease and only six months to live. That makes her a perfect recruit for a military team run by a vampire. Whoa. That was unexpected.
I’m loving this. I’m not going to cheat and read the reviews to find out what’s going to happen next, but I love the military action, the twists, the fact-paced, cinematic writing style and the knowledge that we’re going to be seeing some aliens and space battles at some point. This is exactly my kind of book, and the fact that the whole series is in Kindle Unlimited is just the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae. It’s now at the top of my reading list and I fully expect to be reading the rest of it this weekend.
Update Feb. 4: I’ve read eleven — eleven! — of the books in this series. They were the worst and I couldn’t put them down. So many cliches! So much drama! So much time spent dressing up and spending money on high-end brands and even higher-end weapons and planes and ships. I wish the author would spend more time on how they built the space stations and less on the shopping trips, but overall, I seriously enjoyed these books. And, okay, all the shopping porn was also a bit of a guilty pleasure.
6. Sky Raiders by Michelle Diener
This is the first of three books in the Sky Raiders sci-fi romance series. The other books are $4.99 each and are both in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Garek and Taya are lovers from Barit, a city on a fictional planet. They were separated first by Garek’s guard duty in another city which got extended due to the arrival of the Sky Raiders. These Sky Raiders are a large multi-tasking force with colonial ambitions. While Garek was busy fighting them in another city, the Sky Raiders had a separate legion that ravaged Barit — kidnapping Taya and others and setting them to work.
Garamundo is the city that Garek was forced to protect for the past two years. While he was on duty, he couldn’t communicate with Taya and also couldn’t get access to the news that his hometown had been ravaged. The people in Barit had been kidnapped along with the Kardanx people, who live nearby and treat women like property. Taya acts as a representative among the prisoners with the Sky Raiders, asking for her kind to be separated from the Kardanx. The request is respected and the people are separated. Then one of the Kardanx women asks for Taya’s permission to join her people. I don’t know why Taya is acting like a leader among them or why anyone respects her.
This is very entertaining and fun to read. I think I feel frustrated because the world-building and the presentation of the story are not as straightforward and organized as I like. For example, I don’t know what Taya did to earn respect among her people. I don’t know what resource the Sky Raiders are after. And why are the Sky Raiders colonizing a planet when they are named Sky Raider? Wouldn’t they be more interested in conducting raids?
Second, I don’t like the relationship plot between Garek and Taya — separated lovers fighting to be reunited bores me. I think it would be far more interesting if we got rid of Garek altogether and just let Taya fall in love with a Kardanx brute.
I hate to admit it, but I might be back. I’m curious about what else will happen.
7. The Novels of H. G. Wells Volume One by H. G. Wells
From Maria Korolov:
You probably know who H. G. Wells is. His books are in the public domain and you can pick up free copies anywhere, including at Project Gutenberg.
The only real questions about this particular edition is how clean the copy is or whether it’s full of typos.
From what I can see, the editing and layout here is just fine, so if you’re in the mood to read some H.G. Wells, this box set is as good as any.
The first book is about a guy who survives a shipwreck only to end up on an island with a mad scientist.
The second book is about a super food that makes children grow into giants.
And the third book is about a businessman and a scientist who travel to the moon and find aliens there.
8. Hex Kitchen by Stephanie Fazio
This is the first of three books in the Hex Kitchen urban fantasy series. The other books are $0.99 each and are both in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I love urban fantasy, and I like funny and sarcastic books, so I’m definitely a target audience for this one. I also like books with puns in their titles.
The protagonist, Kenzie, has a pet chameleon. Ever since her grandmother died, she’s been living in a small, ratty apartment in Tennessee, working 14-hour shifts six days a week waitressing in a diner and is still late with her rent every month. She can’t even afford to get a car. She rides her bike to work. Then the cook quits and she has to fill in the kitchen. She hasn’t cooked professionally for five years, but her old training kicks in. The meal she cooks is not just tasty, though. It’s literally magical.
Then we switch to Braxton’s point of view. He’s in Australia. His family’s restaurants serve magical food and the general public must never find out because the magical authorities are keeping the existence of magic from the public. He’s just been invited to compete in the biggest magical cooking tournament of the decade. Meanwhile, the building holding one of his family’s restaurants has collapsed. He uses his magic powers to give himself super strength and tries to rescue survivors. The disaster is due to the fact that the restaurant was originally created with his brother’s magic — and now that his brother is dead, the magic is failing. They’ll have to temporarily shut down all the restaurants. The only way he can save the family business is by winning the tournament.
The book is readable, and I can easily see finishing it. But it’s not quite gripping enough to cut to the top of my reading list, so I probably won’t be finishing it any time soon.
9. Beyond by Maureen A. Miller
This is the first of three books in the Beyond young adult sci-fi romance series by a USA Today bestselling author. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
So, first, the obligatory disclaimer. I don’t like young adults or romance. And I don’t like the cover — it feels too creepy. But I’m probably in the minority on all three counts. From what I understand, other people love YA books, romance, and scary stuff.
Aimee is in high school, about to turn 18, and has never been on a real date. She’s a socially awkward clarinet player.
She’s walking her dog when it runs off into the woods. She follows it, and gets sucked up by a UFO. The aliens were after her dog, and they got her by mistake. When she wakes up on the alien ship, it’s already on its way to its next destination — and one of the aliens who captured her looks human, is just a little older than she is, and is cute. And also speaks English.
They promise to drop her back off on Earth on their next pass through — in five years.
Meanwhile, the ship she’s on is attacked by another alien species. The book is definitely readable. But, like I mentioned earlier, not my thing.
10. Endemic by Robert Chazz Chute
From Maria Korolov:
As much as I dislike young adult and romance, I dislike apocalypses even more.
We’re literally living through a pandemic and a climate crisis. The last thing I want in my escapist reading is more of that.
There’s been a zombie apocalypse. Ovid lives in New York City, where she used to be a book editor and now runs a secret farm. She’s got some mental health issues as well, including a weird voice in her head.
It’s a gripping, tense, psychological novel. Too tense for me. Because I’m a wimp.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria talk about these books in the video below: