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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. Transient by Zachry Wheeler
From N.T. Narbutovskih:
Transient is a story about a persecuted group of individuals that live just beneath the surface of society in a future version of seattle. We are dropped directly into the action with our lead character walking through the streets, trying it desperately not to be identified. We shortly find out why this is so important, as another of his kind is identified by local police and engages in the standoff. It doesn’t end well.
Although I love the concept of this Urban near future sci-fi action, there was an issue with long and drawn out, almost slow motion, action sequences. This made me skip a lot of the flowery pros to figure out what happened next. Overall, the author slams the tension level up to 11 and simply leaves it there. This quickly results in a good bit of drama fatigue.
The world building is clearly thought out, however I was disappointed that the foreign language inserts were not set apart visually for the reader. I found myself running into a Russian or Ukrainian word, attempting to pronounce it in english, realizing that it was not in fact an English word, and then having to go back and reread it in the appropriate accent.
Finally, while I’m all for good detail, a lot of the detail that was included seemed unnecessary and detracted from the flow of the story. I felt that certain specific details could have been left out without me losing the thread or significantly reducing my visualization and enjoyment of the universe that the author portrays.
Overall, the storytelling of this book is very solid, and does a good job dropping you directly into the action and making you want to find out what happens next. The author also does a good job strategically, that is they create some great empty spaces in the overall narrative that has the reader I wanted to see filled. Leslie, I was very happy to see that the motivations of the characters on all sides were left as relatively ambiguous regarding good and evil. Well I only read the first few chapters, I am not entirely sure if the main point of view character is a good or a bad guy, or if the society is structured for justice, and so on. These? Leave me wanting to know more, and I will likely continue this book.
2. Safe Passage by Clay Wise
From Maria Korolov:
The author has several similar books on Amazon, two of which have also made the top ten list this year: White Out, which we reviewed in November, Seeking Shelter, which we reviewed in September, and The Homestead, which we reviewed back in July.
I’m not a fan of EMP survival books, so I’m not the target audience for this.
This book starts out with Lori and her teenage daughter, looking for food and books, trying to avoid running into looters in a city that’s been all but destroyed. Both carry guns. Then there’s a flashback to her normal life, two years prior, with her daughter and her husband, Jesse. The news channels are talking about a big solar flare that’s coming. Lori teaches English literature at a high school.
Then we’re back in the present day again. Lori and her daughter are basically commandos by now, with no qualms about killing people if they need to in order to survive.
The book is very readable and suspenseful. Lori reminds me of Sarah Connor in the Terminator series. It’s just not my preference for leisure reading — I get enough dystopian future just from watching the daily news. I want my escapist reading to be a lot more escapist.
3. Between Ink and Shadows by Melissa Wright
This is the first of three books in the Between Ink and Shadows epic fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The third book is due out next month.
From Maria Korolov:
Nim was born to be a thief, indebted to a magical organization that has her tied to society’s dark underbelly. But she wants to get free.
Her father used to be high up in court society, close to the king himself, but got tangled up in a dark bargain that cost him his station and his freedom. But at least he didn’t get hanged, even if his daughter did end up with his debt.
In this world, magic is illegal, which means that it’s the criminals that use it. Nim herself is only human, but the criminal who holds her debt is one of the most powerful magic users. But the interest on the debt means that she’ll never be free. Her next task is to steal something from the king’s seneschal. It’s an impossible job. The seneschal was second to the king, and the man responsible for hanging those associated with magic. He’s the head of law and order in the country. But if she fails, she’ll lose what little freedom she does have.
I like Nim, I like the story, and am looking forward to reading further as she finds a way out of her predicament.
4. Possessed by Tana Stone
This is the first of six books in the Raider Warlords of the Vandar sci-fi romance series. The other books are $4.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
First, I’m not a fan of “naked male chest” on the cover genre. And I’m not a fan of the “sex with aliens” genre. I’m also not a fan of books where the female protagonist is a slave owned by the male protagonist. That’s just creepy. I know it’s escapist fantasy. But it weirds me out.
So the story starts when Astrid lets her sister’s ship drift into Vandar territory. Astrid is a lousy navigator. She got the job by virtue of nepotism. It’s her sister’s ship, and the sister put her in a job where she can do the least damage.
They’re attacked by Vandar raiders and are hopelessly outmatched. They’re going to be boarded, and the Vandar are not known for showing mercy.
Then we switch to the point of view of Kratos, the head of the Vandar warrior horde, with a whole armada of ships behind him.
So I guess I can see where this is going.
The book is very readable and probably extremely addictive. If this is your kind thing, you’ll probably enjoy it very much. I’m enjoying it so far, even though I’d rather not be.
5. Once Upon a Mermaid by Demelza Carlton
This is a collected set of four books about mermaids, starting with Ocean’s Justice, the first book in the six-book Siren of War fantasy series, which we reviewed in December. It also includes Silence: Little Mermaid Retold, one of the books in the 25-book Romance a Medieval Fairytale series, Ocean’s Secret, the first of three books in the Siren of Secrets series, and Halcyon, the first of two books in the Colony: Aqua series.
Demelza Carlton is regular on this list. In July, we reviewed Embellish: Brave Little Tailor Retold, one of the books in the 25-book Romance a Medieval Fairytale series. We also reviewed other books in that same series, including Hunt: Red Riding Hood Retold, reviewed in April, and, also that month, we reviewed Blow: Three Little Pigs Retold, then, in May, we reviewed Melt: Snow Queen Retold and, in September, Dance: Cinderella Retold.
From Amira Loutfi:
Ocean’s Justice is a retelling of the Little Mermaid. Demelza Carlton’s books tend to be oddly structured and fast-paced. This one is giving me reverse harem vibes, to be honest.
Judging from the dialogue in the first chapter, which is only one page long, I am guessing that a few people were angry with Maria and decided to throw her into the ocean on a raft. A hundred words later, she is rescued by a few kind strangers in a boat.
In the next scene, there is a boy, Charlie Seaborn, who is basically telling us what happened. He helps her get dressed and is so embarrassed, but she’s cool with it.
The Captain confronts Maria — saying that the crew believes her to be a monster who sank the last ship she was on. Because I read the blurb, I know that Maria is a monster of sorts, but I’m still unclear on what kind.
If you like to read fast, oddly structured stories with reverse harem vibes, then I say buy!
But I won’t be back. Although I am kind of curious about what type of monster Maria is!
6. The Settlement’s Cradle by Kyra Gregory
This is the first of five books in The Settlement epic fantasy series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Skye is trying to learn to be a surgeon by watching her father and brother work, and by practicing on pigs.
They live in a village in the Epizon, a civilization of survivors from the end of the world. Technology had been blamed for the apocalypse, so now people avoid it. Guns still exist, but people now prefer arrows. And women aren’t doctors and nurses anymore, relegated to housework and childbearing.
Then a warden shows up at their door, needing help with an old arrow wound. The warden is suspicious that she’s there, but she says that she’s just helping with cleaning up.
The story is very readable, and Skye is an appealing character, but I’m not a fan of the dystopian setting. Again, it cuts a little too close for comfort these days.
7. Victory’s Wake by Daniel Gibbs
This is the first of five books in the Deception Fleet military sci-fi series. The other books are $0.99 to $2.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited. The five book is scheduled to be released next month.
From N.T. Narbutovskih:
Victory’s Wake is a military science fiction story set just following a major interstellar war. Well one side has emerged victorious, there are strong indications that an insurgency is just beginning. Refugees on a transport ship are held in orbit, and systematically abused by shadowy powers. Further out in the newly formed coalition government, the political leaders put together an elite unit to deal with reports of human trafficking, smuggling, and other illegal activities.
Well the concept is sound and it hits all of the expected tropes in a work of military science fiction, this book suffers from an overload of information at the very beginning. The reader is dropped into a deeply complicated political situation, and only very minimal time is given to allow the reader to orient themselves.
One other issue is that a strong political ideology casts everything into the colors of right and wrong from a deeply libertarian standpoint. The ragtag band of individuals that value freedom and personal autonomy have banded together to defeat the evil socialist government. It does not leave a lot of room for the reader to examine these ideologies, and actually served as a barrier to becoming invested more in the story.
Additionally, I thought that the characters lacked individual voice. This combined with most of the characters seemingly pooled from a formula of tropes made it extremely difficult for me to become emotionally invested in them. Overall, it is a possible example of the genre, however I will not be reading any more of this installment.
8. The King’s Omega by Merri Bright
This is the first of four books in The Lost Lines romantic fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited. The third and fourth books are scheduled to be released later on this year.
From Maria Korolov:
This book is billed as a “reverse harem” story, where the female protagonist dates several men at once and isn’t forced to choose between them.
King Rigol wants to help his kingdom survive the coming war with Verdan. To do that, he and his brother have to find the King’s Omega, whoever she is, and receive her gift. At least, that’s the prophecy that’s Rigol’s been hearing for the past twelve weeks. But all the Omegas are gone, died in the plagues. All that’s left are normal humans, who are called Betas. And this world also has Alphas, who are all strong, aggressive men.
I’m not a big fan of the “alpha” and “beta” myth. And it is a myth. There are no alpha wolves and beta wolves. There are just parent wolves who boss their kids around. But I digress.
Anyway, according to legend, Omegas have some kind of magic and are the perfect complements for the aggressive Alphas.
The enemy kingdom is attacking because they’ve also heard the prophecy, and want to capture that mysterious Omega for themselves. I don’t want to like this book, but I do. It’s funny and very easy to read.
9. Find Me by Francesca Riley
This is the first of four books in the Immersed young adult paranormal romantic suspense series. The other books are $2.99 to $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The fourth book is scheduled to be released next October.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not the target reader for young adult books. I’m not a fan of young adults. I don’t have the patience for them and just want them off my lawn.
Skye, seventeen years old, keeps having nightmares about drowning in the ocean and an angel saving her.
Ten years ago, her mother disappeared. She thought her mother was dead, even though her body was never found. But then she sees a document open on her dad’s computer that says that her mother had left him for someone else.
They’d since moved away from the town where they were living then, but now her best friend asks her to come visit for the summer. Maybe she can find out what really happened to her mother.
She missed the ferry and has to catch a ride on a random boat, they get caught in a fog bank, hit the ferry, and she falls into the water and almost drowns.
Again, the book is very readable. And a little creepy. Skye sees someone in the water, beneath the waves, before the crash happens. And it seemed like it was the angel from her dreams who’d saved her from drowning. I can easily see reading this book, and if I didn’t already have a lot of books on my reading shelf, I would stick with it.
10. Crave Me by Aidy Award
This is the eighth book in the nine-book Dragons Love Curves paranormal romance series. The other books are $4.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Aidy Award is a frequent flyer on these top ten lists. In November, we reviewed Hungry Wolf, the last book in the four-book Alpha Wolves Want Curves series of shapeshifter romance. And in June we reviewed Tamed, the first book in the three-book Black Dragon Brotherhood series, another shapeshifter romance.
And last week, two of her books were on this list — Protected, the first of two books in the Claimed By The Seven Realms fantasy romance series, and Baby Me, the fifth book in the nine-book Dragons Love Curves series.
On the off-chance that I’ll want to read the whole series, I normally do reviews by starting with the first book in the set. In this case, that would be Chase Me.
Ciara is a wedding planner — never the bride. She has a crush on one of the other employees on the team, wears a mysterious necklace, and is run ragged by her mother, who owns the company.
I like Ciara. The story has a rom-com style and moves with a light, breezy feel. But then it takes a sudden very weird turn. A wedding guest accuses her of stealing a magic relic, attacks her, and when she tries to get away, she’s grabbed by giant talons and pulled up into the sky, screaming.
Then we switch to the guy’s point of view, and he’s super annoying. I’m not the target audience for romance books in general. But I’m definitely not the target audience of stories where the male character is super annoying and unbearable when we first meet him.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria and Nick discuss all these books in the video below: