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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. Tempted by the Gargoyle by Lisa Carlisle
This is the first of four books in the Stone Sentries paranormal romance series. The other books are $4.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. USA Today bestselling-author Lisa Carlisle has been on this list before, we reviewed Rebel Spell back in August of 2022.
From Maria Korolov:
First, a disclaimer. I’m not a fan of romance, even if the romance is with a monster. Or maybe especially if the romance is with a monster. But, judging by the cover, the protagonist might kick some butt, so I’ll keep an open mind.
We meet Larissa and Janie at an outdoor cafe in Harvard Square. That’s in Cambridge. I like Cambridge. My daughter went to college in Boston, and my best friend lived there for many years, so I’d often drive in from my home in Western Massachusetts.
Janie is trying to get Larissa to go out and have fun. Larissa, a cop, has been spending her time working double shifts, fighting crime. Meanwhile, Janie has been recovering from the bombings, which left her with a permanent limp and scars.
Is this about the Boston Marathon bombing? Or something else?
There’s going to be a Supermoon this Saturday, and people are saying that it’s the night to meet your perfect match. Other people are saying the apocalypse is nigh. So, the usual.
Then Larissa gets a premonition. She’s been having them since she was a kid. But it’s just a faint twinge, and she decides to go out dancing with Jamie. Also, she doesn’t believe in astrology or apocalypses.
Then, in the next scene, we switch to Roman’s point of view. It’s Saturday night, and he’s patrolling a rooftop with his deputy. The club roof gives him a good view of Boston. He’s a gargoyle, a stone sentry, and others of his kind are on rooftops all over the city, either in their stone shapes or their human forms. He has a vague feeling that something is wrong.
He’s taken command of guarding the region after the Boston Marathon bombings, and he’s particularly wary of werewolves. They haven’t been seen since the bombings, but that doesn’t mean they’re not around.
Then we’re back to Janie and Larissa. Jane has rented them a hotel room on Beacon Hill. After they drop off their things — and Larissa leaves her gun — they catch a cab to the new club with the skull-and-bone advertisements and the dungeon. They stop by the dungeon, grab a drink, then head up to the club’s roof deck. Larissa is still having weird feelings. She senses that changes are coming.
Then we’re back to Roman. He’s seen Larissa and likes the way she looks in her party dress. And there’s something about her that puts his senses on edge, that triggers his instincts to protect her. Then he senses dark magic.
Then we’re back to Larissa. She’s annoyed that Roman is starting at her, and tells him to cut it out. But she trips over her heels and falls into his chest, he buys her a drink, they’re both attracted to each other, yada yada, but then Janie shows up — she just scored tickets to some cool new attraction on the Boston Common, a dome where people can fly crossed with speed dating.
They show up, stand in line, every woman wearing a dress gets a pair of shorts, they put on special vests, and now they can fly around in the air.
I thought this was going to be one of those things with a giant fan at the bottom flowing air up, but it seems to be more like jet packs, but without the jets.
Roman follows Larissa into the dome, plays the game, catches up with her, she hits on him, and they go off to spend the night together in her hotel room.
There’s a nice sense of foreboding here, but a bit too much romance for my taste. Still, I had to pull myself away in order to go on to the next book on this list. The writing definitely draws you in.
9. When They Came by Kody Boye
This is the first of three books in the When They Came dystopian young adult science fiction series. The other books are $4.99 each. The series is not in Kindle Unlimited. Kody Boye has been on this list before. We reviewed When The Red Wolf Runs back in September of 2021.
From Maria Korolov:
This book has everything — young adult, alien invaders, horror, a dystopian future — everything I hate, that is. But we’re short of volunteer reviewers today, so I’m stuck with it.
Ana Mia is 17 and is about to graduate into the work force. Six years before, in 2024, the aliens arrived and, instead of solving world hunger or doing something else that would actually be useful, they decided to destroy humanity instead. He father was one of those harvested, drawn up into one of the space ships, never to be seen again.
The aliens look like tailless werewolves and now people don’t go outside at night.
Ana decides to join the Midnight Guard, following in her older sister’s footsteps, to help defend people against the aliens. Out of 30 kids in her age group, only three have signed up.
The first night, she joins the other guards on the wall. She can see the aliens showing up, and the guards shoot one when it gets too close and the other aliens drag it away. But nothing else happens. The next day, she starts firearm training and gets to know one of the other new recruits. For some reason, even though there are very few kids here her age, she doesn’t already know him well, but I’m getting the feeling that a romance is brewing.
It’s a very slow-paced beginning and a nightmarish, creepy setting.
But I do have to say it’s well-written. The better to give you nightmares.
I won’t be sticking with it, but if you’re a fan of books like the Hunger Games, and don’t mind a little creepy horror, you might enjoy it.
8. Voodoo and Vampires by Theophilus Monroe
This is the first of eight books in The Blood Witch Saga paranormal romance series. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. This isn’t the first time the author has been on this list, we reviewed The Curse of the Cain back in August of 2022.
From Maria Korolov:
As you might have gathered if you’ve read any of my other reviews, I don’t like romance. I can tolerate it in small doses, especially if its wrapped inside a quaint and charming cozy mystery or some fun space battles or some wanton violence. But I don’t like it when the romance is the focal point of the story. This is probably something I should discuss with my therapist but, for now, let me just say that I’m probably not the target audience for this book.
I also don’t like the fact that the girl on the cover is wearing a sexy school uniform, because I hate young adults and all their drama. And don’t even get me started on the wolf.
The story starts with our protagonist on a mission. Hailey is supposed to seduce and assassinate the vampire king. But she’s not really the seduce and assassinate type, she tells us. She’s more of a kick your ass and torture the truth out of you type.
Okay, she sounds like my kind of woman.
Hailey has been a vampire for seven years, and she needs to eat before her goes on her mission. But she’s picky. She doesn’t want to bite anyone with a beard, and she doesn’t like biting women. Seems that she’s a blood witch, and can taste everything in the blood, and she prefers the taste of men’s blood. Worst of all, she can’t use her magic to get herself a victim so she doesn’t give away the fact that she’s also witch to the vampire king.
She’s 23, but she looks 16, because that’s how old she was when she became a vampire. And she still wears her old school uniform.
The first chapter is about her finding someone to bite. The second chapter is backstory, from when she was 14, and first found her family’s forbidden old grimoires in the attic.
Then there’s some vampire politics about why Hailey is supposed to kill the vampire king. Apparently, he’s old school, and sees humans as the enemy.
Then there’s more backstory from when she was a teenager and first becoming a witch.
The book starts out really really slowly. I’m up to the fifth chapter and she still hasn’t assassinated a single person. I don’t think I’ll be sticking with it.
But if you like teenage drama and vampire politics, you might enjoy this book.
7. The Frost Eater by Carol Beth Anderson
This is the first of three books in The Magic Eaters romantic fantasy series. The other books are $4.43 and $4.99 each. The series is not in Kindle Unlimited. We previously reviewed this entire series back in February 2022.
From Maria Korolov:
This book is billed as a dystopian young adult fantasy — and the only part of that I like is the fantasy part, so I’m worried that this book isn’t for me.
Nora is 17, the daughter of the king. She’ll take over as ruler one day. Until then, she accompanies her father at his duties.
The story is set 200 years after some kind of cataclysm killed billions of people, leaving the few survivors to rebuilt civilization.
There’s also magic in this world, and Nora has magic powers.
Nora and her father are visiting a town and having some kind of shindig with the mayor and the town’s residents when another magic user shows up. This one has powers of flight and he shows off in the sky. Then he makes an ice ramp — so, he has two magic powers, which is apparently unusual in this world. Nora can make ice, but not as well as this guy can. Then his ramp breaks and he falls, embarrassed.
Then, in the next chapter, we switch to the guy’s point of view. Krey was the flying magic user. He’s flying home, and falls again. Luckily, nobody was around to see him this time. He’s also 17. And while he’s talented, he’s also very impulsive. Apparently, his ex-girlfriend has gone off to the capital to be an apprentice for the king, but he thinks that something is fishy about it. He’s spent six weeks writing letters, trying to reach her, or find out where she is, to no avail. So he was showing off in hopes of getting recruited as well.
I like the writing style very much. It’s very light and readable and moves at an engaging pace. And I do like the magic system, and the setting. But I don’t like the fact that it’s about young adults, so I don’t know whether I’ll stick with it or not.
6. Curse of Shadows by Robert Adauto III
This is the first of three books in the Coyle and Fang Adventure Series. The other books are $4.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m a fan of steampunk mysteries and, judging by the cover, this book should be right up my alley.
We start in San Francisco in 1892 with a quote from Robert Burns — the mice and men line — but it’s slightly misquoted. The original is “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley” but the book has it at “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” The second wording is, in fact, the first result on Google — but it’s not the correct quote. Did the author deliberately choose the more modern wording to make things easier for the reader? Or to say something about the character in the book who said the quote? Or was it a mistake, based on a too-quick Google search?
This is going to bug me all day. Like an itchy sweater.
Anyway, the guy who says the quote is Drake, who chews tobacco, the leader of a gang of 24 mercenaries hired to break into a secret military storage warehouse, secure a dangerous asset, and get her to the next objective.
He hired 24 mercenaries because the warehouse has 12 guards. Each mercenary is armed with a bowie knife and carbine rifle and has the combat skills to use them both.
I like Drake. He quotes Scottish poetry. Well, kind of quotes it. And he’s a meticulous planner.
Then the mercenaries go in, killing every single guard by silently slicing their throat and throwing the bodies into the bay. Oh, and the warehouse guards are all new — the veteran guards have all been given a week off. These new, fresh-faced guys were much easier to take down.
I don’t think I like Drake any more.
Then the mercenaries to forged keys to go through the gate, and Drake gives the right password to a three-armed robot waiting inside. As they go deep into the warehouse, the front door slams shut behind them. Then the mercenaries find what they’re looking for — a cage with a vampire inside.
Drake tells the vampire, whose name is Fang, that he’s looking for a book that curses people into monsters. He promises not to kill her if she helps them. He’s got some kind of magic bullet that can hurt her — and his mercenaries are similarly equipped. He’s also kind some kind of magical music box that keeps her calm and compliant.
But when they get back to the entrance with the cage, the robot refuses to acknowledge the password. Seems that there’s a different password for getting out. Fang says she knows what it is, but she wants the music box in return.
They give her the music box — otherwise, they’ll all be caught — and successfully get her out of the warehouse. Then she breaks out the cage, dodges all their magic bullets… well, dodges some of them.
At the end of the battle, Fang considers shooting herself with one of the magic bullets, to end her misery. She doesn’t want to live as a monster. A monster who might have killed her little sister. Then her little sister appears next to her and gives her a mission. She must find the book that the bad guys are after and keep it from getting into the wrong hands. And to do that, she’s going to need help. She’s going to need a very, very good detective.
I love this beginning. It’s perfectly paced, Fang is a great character, and the guy who misquoted Burns is punished for his literary crime. And his other crimes, too, I guess. Well, technically, Fang killed him because he was a killer, a misogynist, and hurt little girls. But I’m telling myself it’s because of the quote.
I think I’ll be sticking with this one.
5. Wicked Games by M.J. Scott
This is the first of four books in the TechWitch urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each, and the fourth book is currently available for pre-order and will be coming out June 6, 2023.
From Maria Korolov:
Maggie, also known as the TechWitch, debugs computer code. This is the near future, so the debugging is more like therapy for the computer systems. The book was published in 2018, before the advent of ChatGPT and other large language models, but the author was pretty prescient here.
The book starts out with her in a gaming club, in a virtual reality chair, about to play a game, when a mysterious new client shows up inside the game itself and offers her a job. Apparently, he’s one of the richest guys on the planet and likes his privacy. He’s having some issues with a financial system, and needs her help.
He creeps her out — but also, he’s rich and hot, and she needs money. So she takes the gig.
Two days later, as promised, she shows up at his corporate offices. She goes through security, signs a non-disclosure agreement — which she first reads carefully — and finds out exactly what the problem is. Seems the rich guy is developing a new computer game. It’s in the final testing stage, and one of the testers had a nervous breakdown, and two others vanished.
She thinks he might need the police instead of her. Or an actual witch. Apparently, there’s magic in this world. In fact, Maggie’s own mother had been a witch.
Anyway, he’s already called the police, and has his own investigators out looking for the missing testers. What he wants her to do is look at the code and see if there’s anything there that might affect people’s behavior.
And he’s willing to pay a lot of money for her services. The problem is that she’ll have to get an interface chip. She’s held on getting one so far because she doesn’t want to have a first-generation implant connected to her nervous system. He says she won’t be getting the consumer version, but the next one. But she’s no more enthused about experimental next-gen chips than she is about first-gen.
But first, they give her a tour and she gets to try out the latest game. An earlier, safer, version. Supposedly. When she’s got the headset on, something creepy happens in the game, she’s paralyzed, and has to be pulled out of it.
Despite that, she decides to take the job.
I do like the setting here. One the things I cover in my day job as a tech journalist is virtual reality, so I’m always interested in reading fictional depictions of what the future might bring.
But I don’t like all the romantic tension between her and the rich guy. I’ve got a cold, cold heart.
And some of the tech she’s seeing around her already feels dated. For example, the computer-generated voices are surprisingly realistic. Surprising to her, that is. In real life, today, we already have computer-generated voices that indistinguishable from human ones. But this is a minor quibble. I’ve got the same problem with pretty much every sci-fi book I read these days that has AIs in it.
I have a personal pet peeve with any setting where humans are used for dangerous work like space mining or battles because they’re cheaper or faster than computers.
But anyway, pet peeves aside, the book is readable, interesting, and relevant. I might stick with it.
4. All Androids Lie by H. Peter Alesso
This is a collection of sci-fi short stories. If you like this book the author has several other books and they are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
This is a short story collection, which isn’t my favorite genre. I know, I know, I edit a magazine where all we do is publish short stories. But see, the thing is, I have a really bad memory for names. It usually takes me a book or two to learn who the main characters are, which is why I prefer to read long series.
But I do like the title of the first short story — “All Androids Lie.” Obviously, the author’s heard of ChatGPT.
What I don’t like is all the adjectives and adverbs sprinkled around the first page. But I can look past that.
The story is about William, a lawyer defending a man accused of money laundering, fraud, identity theft, and evading arrest.
William claims that the guy is innocent, and the evidence is all circumstantial.
The twist is — both William and the prosecuting attorney are both androids. And so is the defendant. Sentient androids, with full legal rights.
But the story is a bit confusing and all the adjectives and adverbs are getting in my way. I don’t usually say this because by the time books make it to this top ten list they’re typically very well edited and are extremely readable, but I get the feeling that this collection needs a touch of content editing.
3. After the Ending by Lindsey Pogue and Lindsey Fairleigh
This is the first book in the The Ending dystopian science fiction series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
According to the book’s prologue, 90 percent of people on the world have died. Survivors have developed unbelievable abilities. And the protagonist has found love with the least likely person.
I don’t mind the unbelievable abilities, but massive death tolls — and romantic plots — are not my thing. So normally, I’d put the book down right then and there.
Anyway, after the prologue, the book starts right in with a flu that’s much worse than normal, sending people to the hospital. And there’s hand sanitizer. Lots of it. I guess the post-Covid novels are finally arriving.
Hold on a second, let me check the publication date. This book came out in 2013.
Over the course of the first couple of chapters, people are getting sick left and right, going to the emergency room, dying. Danielle and Zoe, the two protagonists, and sympathetic characters. I don’t like seeing them surrounded by all the horrors. Zoe’s roommate dies. So does Danielle’s boyfriend and best friend.
And both Zoe and Danielle get sick. Very sick. And the symptoms sounds way too close to Covid.
I can’t read this. It’s just too close to reality.
2. The Dragoneer Trilogy by Vickie Knestaut and Danny Knestaut
This is a collection of the first three of eight books in The Dragoneer fantasy series. The other books are $5.99 each, but the entire series is in Kindle Unlimited. We previously reviewed the first book of this series in October of 2021.
From Maria Korolov:
When I was a kid, the Dragonriders of Pern were some of my all-time favorite books. These books remind me a lot of those.
Trysten is bringing water to the dragons. Her father is the dragoneer of the weyr. While he’s been sick, she’s had the dragons to herself. Now he’s back, and he doesn’t believe that she can hear the dragons, doesn’t want her to be the next dragoneer. Women don’t become dragoneers.
Instead, someone else, a young man, is slated to take over, as soon as he bonds with a dragon. But the bond isn’t happening. She likes the young man — he’s been like a brother to her — but she hopes that he’ll fail in the upcoming trials and that she will become the next dragoneer.
Her father doesn’t want her to compete for the position. Plus, the law says that only men can compete. Her mother agrees, but suggests that Trysten can become a hordesman — I think that’s a dragon rider. And, maybe someday, she can become a dragoneer.
It’s a slow-paced book and an old-fashioned kind of story. I don’t think I’ll be sticking with it because I’ve read this same story too many times before — a girl wants to do something she’s not allowed to because she’s a girl. That’s not this book’s fault. If I was reading it a couple of decades ago, I think I would like it very much. And if you’re younger than I am, or, at least, not as jaded, you might also enjoy it.
1. The Last Bunker by James Hunt
This is the last of four books in EMP Survivor Series of small family EMP survival. The other books are $2.49 to $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. This isn’t the first time James Hunt has been on this list. We reviewed his book Days of Blood last October, The Fallout back in November 2021, and The Last Island in April of this year.
From Alex Korolov:
An EMP story is where an electromagnetic pulse wipes out all electronically powered devices, including cellphones and vehicles.
The story starts a few days after the EMP. The first chapter follows a guy named Damien, a man who’s spent years preparing for just such an emergency. Apparently he’s been planning to infiltrate a top secret government facility just outside Washington, and the EMP has given him the opportunity to get into the place.
The secret facility is unguarded, so Damien manages to get in. After interrogating the only staff member left at the facility, he finds what he’s looking for. It turns out the facility weaponized infectious diseases, and apparently Damien plans to use one particular disease to carry out revenge on some man who badly injured him in the past.
I only had time to read the first chapter, but I’d keep reading this one. I like that it starts a little after the EMP blast. Many EMP stories start just as the EMP is about to occur, so it’s nice to read a story that skips past the initial confusion and mayhem. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’ve just reviewed many stories that follow that formula.
I also like that this book has action right from the get go, as some EMP stories are surprisingly slow reading for the first few chapters. I’d say I generally like my apocalypse stories full of action and suspense, and so far this book does that.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria discuss all ten books in the video below: