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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. 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 Friday videos — email me at [email protected].
10. Eclipsing the Aurora by Peter J. Foote
This is the first of three books in the Consensus Universe space opera series. The other books are $0.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m a big fan of space operas. The blue cover makes me think that this is going to be a sad book, but hey, you never know.
The prologue starts with a few paragraphs about nuclear fusion, then a living black moon appears where there was only cosmic radiation before. What’s a living black moon? Ahh — it’s an alien space ship. The aliens on board have scales and weird names. There are tens of thousands of them, and at least one of them has seen some action, since he’s got some serious battle wounds. They’re ruled by a pulsing red orb called the Exalted Creator and communicate with it telepathically.
They’re there to build a weapon to use on the third planet from the sun, where the local beings are weak, and the planet might be a good colony site. And to keep from being noticed by their enemy, they’re going to make their attack look like a natural disaster.
Then we get to the real story. In chapter one, we meet Nigel, who wears a living symbiotic butler suit. He’s on an alien planet from from Earth, helping some frog-shaped alien refugees get settled in. Oh, and in addition to wearing a weird suit, he’s also got an alien named Vivian living in his head.
Nigel is having trouble communicating with the frog aliens, so he turns his body over to Vivian, who speaks their language, and is able to get everything going.
That evening, another human shows up. Her name is Asa, and she and Nigel are crushing on each other, but neither one is going to do anything about it, despite Vivian’s prodding. Nigel is from Earth, but Asa was born elsewhere — her connection to Earth is 30 to 40 generations in the past. She’s come to warn Nigel that Earth is under attack from the Menace. They’re building something around the sun, and have been for years.
Seems that Nigel is the only Earther in the Consensus, which is some kind of intergalatic alien organization. There are references to past events. I just checked the author’s website, and it doesn’t look like there are any precursor series to this one. I checked the book’s Amazon description, and it says that Vivian is an alien from an ancient race living deep in Earth’s oceans. She saved Nigel from drowning and convinced him to join the Consensus.
We get glimpses of this back story in chapter two. Nigel and Vivian are back on earth, near where she found him seven years earlier. Apparently, Nigel has been avoiding Earth for the past seven years, even though he’s got a child there. Nigel is having some sort of mental breakdown. Vivian is trying to convince him to deal with his issues, and he promises to track down the woman he left behind before he leaves again.
After they land, Nigel retrieves a cell phone — a flip phone, with an antenna, and types out a message with his thumbs. Then Vivian does something to him, against his will. It seems like she’s making him forget her so that he can deal with his issues on his own, without her help.
Then, in chapter three, we’re told that Nigel is dreaming of the summer of 1991. Is this a flashback? Is this an actual dream? He’s at home, at a biker bar near his house on his father’s farm, when he sees Sandra surrounded by a bunch of bikers. He tries to talk to her, but she doesn’t want to. We learn that she was his high school crush, and then they had one night together, when she was having problems with her husband.
Nigel goes to his house. His father’s upstairs, watching TV. His mother recently died of cancer. It’s twelve years since Nigel graduated from high school, two years since his high school reunion — and since Sandra had a baby. It sounds like one of the bikers was Sandra’s husband, and the baby is Nigel’s. Anyway, the biker shows up at Nigel’s house and beats him up. Nigel fights back, hits the biker with his unloaded shotgun, knocks him out. Other bikers show up, get their leader, and a guy in a suit shows up and has the bikers load the unconscious guy into the trunk of his car, then makes Nigel get into the back seat, where Sandra is already sitting. They all drive to a hydro dam and the suit tosses Nigel in.
All of this takes a few chapters.
In chapter eight, Nigel wakes up in the Atlantic ocean, spitting up water. He’s in a tube of warm light. And, though he remembers his legs having been injured after the fall off the dam, they’re fine now. And he’s wearing an unfamiliar form-fitting black suit that feels like a diver’s suit. He flab and beer gut are also gone, replaced by abs of steel.
I’m really confused by the timeline and by all the drama. I can’t even tell when the story is set. Is it in the near future? Far future? What’s going on? Plus, I don’t like Nigel. I don’t think I’ll be sticking with it.
9. Hangry as Hell by Ward Parker
This is the first of nine books in the Freaky Florida cozy paranormal mystery series. The other books are $2.99 to $3.99. The series is not in Kindle Unlimited. This isn’t the first time Ward Parker has been on this list, we reviewed the first three books of his Freaky Florida series earlier this year in January, and, just this past September, his book A Magic Touch, the first of eight books in the Memory Guild cozy paranormal mystery series. And we previously reviewed this book in November of 2022.
From Maria Korolov:
The books were funny, the characters were fun, and the plots compelling enough to keep me going from book to book. I gobbled them all right up, since they were all in Kindle Unlimited. Unfortunately, the Freaky Florida series is not in Kindle Unlimited, so I haven’t read most of the books in it.
So I’m a little hesitant to start reading this one — I don’t want to give myself any spoilers in case I do go back and buy the other books.
So why don’t I tell you about the series as a whole…
Missy Mindle is a home-health nurse who offers medical screenings and basic care for seniors. Who just happen to include vampires, werewolves, and other creatures. This is Florida, after all. All sorts of people end up here.
We start out with her visiting Leonard Schwartz, a vampire who lives on the ocean front in Squid Tower, a condominium community, and is overweight despite being on an all-liquid diet.
Her job involves a lot of challenges. Vampires don’t like to be lectured on their eating habits, and getting blood and urine samples can be tricky.
Oh, and she also has some magical powers, which comes in handy when she has to keep the vampires from biting her.
She regularly comes by to visit her friend from the Memory Guild series, too, though, for the most part, the series are located in separate towns and have different sets of characters.
The books are the perfect amount of cozy, not too romantic, not grim at all, but with a nice pacing that pulls you along and before you know it you’ve binged half-a-dozen books in one weekend.
8. Empyrean Witch by J.S. Malcom
This is the first of three books in the Demigoddess Chronicles myth and legend fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and are in Kindle Unlimited. We previously reviewed this book this past March. And this author has been on this list with other books, as well. In March, we reviewed the book The Shadow Order, the first book in the Crossroads Witch urban fantasy series. And we reviewed Autumn Winters in June of 2022.
From Maria Korolov:
The book starts out with Cassie waiting for her friend Julia to meet her in front of a house. Julia, who now rides a motorcycle, shared a body with Cassie for fifteen years. Hold on a second… this is starting to ring a bell.
Since I haven’t finished that series yet, I’m going to stop reading before I give myself too many spoilers. And I recommend that you go and read that other series, first. It’s in Kindle Unlimited.
Meanwhile, here’s what I thought of that book.
Cassie runs a supernatural cleaning service. She’s not as good a psychic as her sister, but she’s got to eat, and her rent is due. Her first customer, Dean Richardson, is the owner of an old brick townhouse. He bought it six months ago as an investment property and has lost three tenants since, all of whom were willing to break their lease to get out there.
I like Cassie. I like her backstory — she was abducted as a child and had to escape her own body. It took years for her to get back to her actual self. In effect, she was a ghost during much of her adolescence. Now she sees ghosts everywhere.
I’d love to read the full backstory some day.
The writing style reminds me a lot of Kelley Armstrong. I’ll definitely be coming back to this one.
But speaking of backstory — it looks like this series isn’t just a spinoff of one series, but also a continuation of another, of The Realm Watchers series. That one is also in Kindle Unlimited. So maybe go and read that one first.
7. Inked by Rachel Rener
This is the first of four books in the Gilded Blood urban fantasy series. The other books are $.99 to $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. This book has been on our top ten list before. We previously reviewed it in September of 2022.
From Melody Friedenthal:
Talia, our protagonist, is a tattoo artist. She’s in the middle of applying her skills to a biker client when she runs out of ink.
I have no tats and my feelings about them are mixed — I’ve seen some superlative ones and I’ve seen some ones that looked like they were applied by a drunk amateur who failed kindergarten crayon-drawing class.
Talia works for Zayn, whom she finds attractive in the extreme. Looking at the cover image and making a small extrapolation — a supernatural romance? Really not my thing, but we labor on…
Zayn is nowhere to be found that day, and doesn’t answer his phone. So Talia decides to use the extra-special super-duper ink Zayn keeps locked up in his office because the customer is waiting. She breaks in to said office and steals ink in the light brown color that she needs, then steals some more so that the tattooed snake she’s creating has some spectacular, glowing red eyes.
This is an interesting beginning and it reads smoothly so far, so I shall read more…
The customer goes to the restroom and from behind that closed door, Talia hears him scream. When she jimmies open the door a crack, his body is blocking its further movement. Then she sees a serpent rising up from the floor…
This is intriguing. Did her stolen ink make the snake animate? Cool.
I also like that Talia is Jewish, which is shown, not told. We almost never see a Jewish protagonist in a fantasy book, so that detail adds an interesting wrinkle. It remains to be seen if it’s just for color or if it’s actually a plot element.
Ok, I’ve changed my mind, maybe I do like supernatural romances – or, at least, this one. I’m going to finish this book tonight.
I recommend this book for people who think there is mystery in tattoos, those who like supernatural stories, and folks looking for Jewish female protagonists.
6. 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. This book has been on our top ten list before. We previously reviewed it this past January.
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.
5. Accidental Magic by Iris Beaglehole
This is the first of eight books in the Myrtlewood Mysteries urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 to $5.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. The eighth book is currently available for pre-order, and will be coming out this coming July.
From Christina Brown:
Another book with a middle aged protagonist, which I always am a fan of.
It opens with a prologue from the main character’s grandmother which I found unnecessary, as I do most prologues.
Once we get to the story, we’re introduced to Rosemary who is barely staying afloat in life and caring for her teenage daughter when she is requested to meet with her late grandmother’s lawyer for the reading of her will. Arriving for the meeting, she finds the lawyer’s office is ominously in flames and they must reschedule. They end up in the town where her grandmother is from to meet the lawyer and end up in a magical tea shop where they learn there were suspicious circumstances around her death.
I found this enjoyable, although Rosemary was a little too bumbly for my liking, always late and rambling and it came off a little cliche. There is also no mention of magic from Rosemary or her daughter Athena, only from grandmother Thorn who is already dead and I wanted to know if they just didn’t believe in it or if they used it at all.
I did, however, appreciate that Rosemary has a healthy relationship with her teenage daughter where many stories seem to focus on antagonistic relationships instead.
If you’re looking for small town cozy mystery vibes, I’d give it a shot. I think I’ll read a few more chapters and see if it hooks me.
4. The Gravedigger’s Son and the Waif Girl by Sam Feuerbach
This is the first of four books in The Gravedigger’s Son sword and sorcery fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 to $3.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Farin is the gravedigger’s son, preparing an old woman’s body for burial. It feels like a fantasy setting. There’s been a plague seven years earlier and three quarters of the villagers died, including Farin’s mother. Now it’s just him and his father, the village gravedigger. Farin is 18 and has been routinely beaten by his alcoholic father while growing up.
As he cleans the body, he ignores all the signs of violence. The bruises on her neck. The bits of skin under her fingernails. He’s still working on the body that evening, when it’s already dark, when an amulet appears out of nowhere on the dead woman’s chest. Farin puts the amulet on a string and hangs it around his own neck. He plans to give it back to the woman’s family, but needs to hide it from his father, first. Apparently, dad is fond of robbing corpses and selling the goods in a distant village and drinking the proceeds.
To find the woman’s family, Farin goes to the village tavern. He has to go there to pick up his father’s pickaxe and shovel, anyway. The man left it there when he got drunk. He learns that the dead woman had no family, but that she might have been a lady-in-waiting at the king’s court when she was much younger. The woman herself was known to have been a maker of poisons. An old friend, the innkeeper’s son, convinces Farin to go to the old woman’s house to see if she has any love potions sitting around.
The hut is a disaster area. It looks like someone has already searched it, looking for something. He and his friend find all sort of creepy-looking things and evil plants, and flee — Farin accidentally leaving the pickaxe and shovel behind. The next day, he heads back to her cottage, and is beaten up by three village boys. When he gets to the cottage, he’s full of anger about the beating, goes to the back yard, and pulls up the old woman’s magic mandrake plant. It is supposed to scream when pulled up, but it doesn’t.
Then he takes his father’s tools to the churchyard, where the funeral is already in progress. There’s a stranger at the ceremony, who grabs Farin. He wants something that belonged to the old woman, but won’t tell anyone what it is. When the priest asks, he denies that he’s a relative, so the old woman’s property will now go to the church. There’s a scratch on the stranger’s face, so he’s probably the one who killed her, and he now wants the amulet. He saw Farin go into the old woman’s house, and suspects that he has the amulet.
Five days after the funeral, a knight shows up and makes the villagers exhume the old woman’s body. Farin, of course, is the one who has to dig her up. But the grave is empty. The knight demands to know what happened. And Farin explains that there was a stranger at the burial — and that the stranger killed the old woman. He tells him about the scratches and strangulations marks.
The knight tells him that the stranger was a member of an evil death cult, then rides away.
This setting is pretty grim and Farin’s life is pretty miserable. I don’t like the other people in the village, and while Farin himself is sympathetic, I’m getting a little frustrated by his inability to stand up for himself.
But the story is pretty compelling and pulls you in. I’m having trouble letting go of it.
3. Silver Spells by Kate Moseman
This is the first of four books in the Midlife Elementals urban fantasy series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited. This is the fourth time this book has been on this list. We previously reviewed it this past January and twice last year.
From Maria Korolov:
When not reading books about kick-ass women killing people and space battles, I thoroughly enjoy cozy magical mysteries.
In this one, Luella is a social media manager at a sunscreen factory. Her daughter has just gone away to college. And she gets fired. No explanation, nothing. As she’s packing up her stuff, a strange white dog runs into the building and runs out again. Only Luella and her two best friends see it — the other employees don’t react at all.
Her boyfriend implies that it’s her own fault she got fired, despite her good performance reviews, and she dumps him on the spot. Good for her.
Now she’s living in an apartment she can no longer afford, with college bills that she can no longer afford to pay, so she jumps at an opportunity to live rent-free house-sitting for her mom’s friend while she job-hunts.
And the weird stuff just keeps piling up. I’m seven chapters in, and there’s still no sign of a mystery. Other than the obvious one about what’s with all the magic happening to Luella and her two friends. But I’m enjoying it very much, I like the characters and the sunny Florida setting. We’re buried in snow here where I live in Western Massachusetts, so I can use some sunshine, even if it’s just in a book.
2. Homestead in Shadows by Robert J Walker
This is a standalone EMP thriller. Usually it’s $0.99, but today it’s free. If you like this book, the author has several others available and they are all in Kindle Unlimited. This isn’t the first time the author has been on this list. Last month we reviewed The Frozen Frontier, which he co-wrote with Marie Wilkens and Alexandria Clarke. Last December, we reviewed his book The Cabin in the Woods, a year ago last April we reviewed The Hidden Prepper, and in May of 2021, we reviewed Off The Grid, all three books are about EMP survival.
From Alex Korolov:
This one’s an EMP story, so if you’re into apocalyptic fiction, it might be your type of book. An electromagnetic pulse hits hard near the beginning of the story, and the book gets going into apocalyptic survival mode very quickly.
Albert Bradlow is a doctor who travels to Native American reservations around the Midwest to provide his services at different clinics. In the first chapter, Albert’s treating patients at a reservation when the chief’s grandmother, who’s over a 100 years old, comes up to him and tells him she’s been having recurring dreams about a great calamity, and she says it’s going to happen very soon.
After this doomsday warning, Albert finishes working, and his old buddy Lloyd meets him outside the reservation. They’re both riding their Harley Davidson motorcycles. They ride their bikes into the unnamed coastal city where Albert lives, and the EMP hits right when they’re in the center of town. All power goes out and the streets are suddenly dark.
For some reason, the men’s motorcycles keep running — probably because they’re old vintage Harleys not dependent on electronic injection — but everything else goes out. Hundreds of cars smash into each other as Albert and Lloyd barely get off the road. A series of extremely loud explosions go off as well, accompanied by bright flashing lights.
I only got through the first chapter, but I thought it was an exciting start to an EMP story. I like the fast pace, and I like that the main character is a doctor of Native American descent who rides a Harley. He seems like an interesting person, and I’ll keep reading to see how he gets through this apocalyptic scenario.
1. Breach of Peace by Daniel Gibbs and Gary Stevens
This is the first of seven books in the Breach of Faith space opera series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each but they’re all in Kindle Unlimited. Gibbs has been on this list before. In January of 2022, we reviewed Victory’s Wake, the first of five books in the Deception Fleet military sci-fi series. And, last September, we reviewed Weapons Free, the first of five books in Battlegroup Z military sci-fi series. In fact, even this book has been on our list, as well. We previously reviewed it last August.
From Maria Korolov:
I love space operas. It’s my favorite genre, not counting Terry Pratchett, who’s a genre all to himself.
There’s a war going on between the League of Sol and the Terran Coalition. In the middle of it is the Shadow Wolf, a trading ship with a ragtag crew. But before we get to that ship, we hear from an admiral with the League of Sol, who has a plan to bring the Terran Coalition down. A plan to turn his enemies’ sentimentalism and war-weariness against them, and make them all part of the League machine. Apparently, the League are the bad guys.
We also meet Miri, a woman on a ship that’s just been captured by the League. Most likely, by the aforementioned admiral. She escapes from her ship by climbing into a space suit and jumping off just before it goes through a worm hole. She’s got enough air to last for two days. Floating in space. All alone.
Then we get to the Shadow Wolf, which is carrying cargo without the proper license from the League — lithium ore, a restricted material. They’re boarded by an inspector, who finds the ore. But the captain has a plan to get around that.
Meanwhile, Miri has now been floating in space for ten hours, and her oxygen is half gone.
I love this story, and the writing style. It’s extremely readable, fast-paced, and suspenseful. I’m planning to stick with it, especially since the rest of the books are in Kindle Unlimited.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
Or watch Maria discuss all ten books in the video below: