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.
There are a lot of books to go through, so this week I’m being helped out by Amira Loutfi, our reviews editor.
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.
1. The Becoming by Jessica Meigs
This is the first book of the five-book The Becoming Series. The rest of the books are $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
There’s a sickness spreading in Atlanta which is turning people into zombies, but a news blackout is limiting what the outside world knows about what’s happening. I’m betting this novel wasn’t written recently… let me check… nope, it was originally released in 2011. Ah, the quaint old days before it was social media, non-stop, all the time, and everyone immediately posts videos of everything.
The book bounces around different characters. There’s a guy in Atlanta being chased by zombies, and barely escapes by stabbing one in the head. Then then are other people, outside of Atlanta, who are barely aware that something is happening and are going about their normal lives.
It’s an apocalyptic novel, but more readable than others that I’ve read as part of this review series. The main characters are, for the most part, normal, likable people. The only one who mildly annoys me is Remy, a petulant teenager, who likes stealing cigarettes from convenience stores and winds up arrested and in a prison cell when all the craziness starts going down. There’s also Theo, a paramedic, his younger brother Gary, a mechanic.
I like the fact that the main characters who are first responders actually respond and do their jobs despite the craziness that is happening around them.
There’s Cade, Ethan’s neighbor, a retired Israeli soldier who’s babysitting her niece when her boyfriend turns into a zombie and kills the little girl and then Cade shoots him.
Okay, I hate apocalypse stories, and zombie stories. I’m not a fan of the Walking Dead. But I’ve got to say, this book is very readable, and the characters are compelling, and the story moves along quickly.
2. Faerie Fruit by Charlotte E. English
This is the first book of the four-book The Wonder Tales series. The rest of the books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Faerie Fruit is good. The story opens with a charming narrative of a new nuptial engagement between Tobias and Clarimond, two mature, wealthy members of a small town. The match is a subject of rumors.
The couple seems to be very sweet and good — this disappoints me a little since I was hoping that there would be a few more questionable little things that cause the townsfolk to be wary of their relationship …
Clarimond’s mother is dying, and she requests an apple, in any form. It doesn’t even have to be fresh.
Even though these are pretty fancy, posh folks, apples are simply impossible to find. Tobias found an apple very far away a long time ago, but he says he can’t bring it back in time for her mother to taste it.
The apple scarcity is fun and fuels my curiosity about the world this author created.
I’m interested to see how this author introduces the faeries. Supernatural stuff — some a little scary — is sure to happen soon. I’d love to see how that ties in to the narrative.
3. A Day To Fight by James Hunt
This is the last book of the four-book EMP Post Apocalyptic Survival series, a post-apocalyptic thriller. The rest of the books are $3.99 or $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
Since this is the last book in the series, I looked instead at the first book, EMP Shelter In Place.
The book starts with Ben dropping off his kids for a sleepover, then heading home to his wife. They’ve got a romantic evening planned, just the two of them. Then the power goes out. In the house, but also their phone batteries are dead. Ben checks the fuse box, then, suspecting the worst, goes out to his truck. Yup, it was an EMP. He’d been planning for just such an emergency.
Now, if my lights went out, as well as my phone and my car battery, I’d put it down to an extremely unfortunate coincidence. But Ben knows it’s an EMP, and luckily, he’s prepared. But maybe it’s not because he’s a survivalist nut, but because he’s a first responder I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Nope. Once he realizes it’s an EMP, he immediately goes to grab his to-go bag and his guns. The next step is for them to grab their younger kids from their sleepover and then meet up with their daughter at a pre-planned rendezvous point. Again, if it was me, I’d be heading back to work, to help out with the emergency, and let my spouse collect the kids. It’s probably going to be all-hands-on-deck at the firehouse.
His neighbor also works at the firehouse, in a more junior capacity, and Ben tells him to grab supplies and go back to the house. Again, instead of doing something productive. Oh, no, Ben’s been regularly getting training from ex-military folks at some survivalist thing for the past three years.
Basically, Ben thinks that the minute things go back, people are going to immediately descend into savagery. I guess he plans to get there before everyone else does.
I do not like Ben. I don’t like his self-centered, selfish approach. I do not like that his first instinct is to kill people. And that he has no faith in humanity.
He and his neighbor walk into the city to get his kids, when a sniper starts shooting people. It’s Friday night, and there were a lot of folks outside anyway, and now there were more because everyone was confused about what was going on. Ben uses his hunting skills and survivalist training to figure out where the sniper is and the two of them fight and Ben stabs the sniper to death. When he pulls off the sniper’s mask, he sees that the sniper is American, and the guy’s driver’s license is from a local town. Ben takes the sniper’s weapons. The sniper also has a working radio — it must have been protected from the blast.
Meanwhile, Liz’s wife is back home, taking inventory, helping one neighbor who’s pregnant, and another whose husband is in trouble with the local lowlifes. I like Liz better than Ben, but overall, the book is putting a very sour taste in my mouth. Especially with what’s going on in the world right now, the last think I want to do is read a book about some crazy anti-social survivalist types who turn out to be right.
4. The Flawed Legacy by E.G. Bateman and Michael Anderle
This is the first book in the five-book Legacy of the Shadow’s Blood series. The other books are $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
Lexi used to be an assassin for the global supernatural authorities but she’s quit that gig and taken her magic powers and assassin skills and went to work as a private investigator. I love this setup.
I like Lexi. She’s tough, smart, and funny. And, judging by the picture on the cover here, kinda hot.
She and her sorcerer sidekick Scott, who can teleport, are in town to help a woman being harassed for protection money by local thugs. Their client is a shapeshifter, but doesn’t want to involve her pack with the problem. They’ll be working with a local investigator, Dick Levin. Apparently, Dick isn’t the easiest guy to work with. Lexi’s killed him six times already. But he’s a vampire, and just keeps coming back.
Lexi has the blood of ancient supernaturals running through her veins but is a bit of a disappointment on that score. She’s not as fast as a vampire, or as strong as a shapeshifters.
Dick used to work for the authorities as well, but stopped taking assignments from them. Not because, like Lexi, he discovered the truth about them. But because they switched to a 90-day payment schedule.
I really like this book. I like the banter between the team members. I like the fact that Lexi is competent and takes care of problems, has powers and isn’t afraid to use them. I’m going to come back tonight or this weekend and finish this book.
5. Elfhame by Anthea Sharp
This is the first book in the four-book The Darkwood Chronicles series. The other books are $0.99 or $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
As a child, Mara went into the creepy forest outside her village and wished for an interesting life. Now, as an adult, she just started her job as a maid at the castle and finds a mysterious glass key. Something tells her to keep it, it could turn out to be interesting. But she goes to the head of housekeeping to turn it over. She doesn’t want to get fired, even if the job isn’t as much fun as she though it was going to be. Then she searches her pockets for the key and it’s not there. If she can’t find it, she’ll be in trouble.
Meanwhile, somewhere else, dark elf prince Brannon is back home from the front lines, where he’s been fighting a war to save his people. The war isn’t going well. Plus, there this pesky prophesy that he’s going to marry a human. On the other hand, the prophecy also says that the human will open a doorway into another world and bring the help that the elves need to save themselves from the attacking monsters.
I’m guessing that the key Mara found is going to have something to do with it.
The back-and-forth points of view, the fated romance — it’s not the kind of book I would like. And the fairy tale location isn’t my preferred setting. I like my stories full of action, light on the romance, and in the modern day or in the future.
But I like this book. The main characters are compelling, the stakes are high, and the writing is extremely readable.
6. Tangled Paranormal Nights by Stacy Eaton and others
This is the third box set in the Fabulous Freebie Collection series. The other two box sets are also free.
This set includes eight different book by eight authors. First, there’s My Blood Runs Blue by Stacy Eaton, the first book in the five-book My Blood Runs Blue series. Then there’s Racing the Moon by Michele Hauf which is not sold separately. Storm Shift by Calinda B. is the first book in the five-book The Charming Shifter Mysteries series. Wolf Moon by Patricia Rosemoor is the seventh book in the nine-book The McKenna Legacy series. The Gods of Dark Love by Mona Risk is not available separately. On Edge by Rebecca York is a prequel novella and the first book in the 22-book Decorah Security Series. Fear the Night by Katy Walters is the first book in the Clash of Vampires series, but it doesn’t look like any other books are out yet. Finally, Honeymoon in Coffinville by Susan Jean Ricci is the first book in The Coffinville Series but again it doesn’t look like any other books in the series are out yet.
From Amira Loutfi:
I picked Storm Shift out of the bunch and was immediately delighted by the wordsmithing. Calinda B’s writing style reminds me of Danielle Steele.
Chia is a feisty, strong-willed young woman who knows how to shoot a gun with shocking precision … Whoever it is who murdered her grandparents chose the wrong family to harm.
Aside from being delightfully written, I’m also wondering how much paranormal stuff is going on here.
I read five chapters in, but other than the opening, it’s not really vibing with me. Chia and her grandparents are loyal friends to the shape-shifting population of a small town. Turns out, in this world the townsfolk absolutely despise shape shifters and anyone who sympathizes with them.
Maybe that’s why someone killed her grandparents?
I’ve seen Chia grieve several times, but I still haven’t gotten to the part where she is wild with vengeance.
There is sexual tension between Chia and every guy in town, but I’m betting the real romance is going to take on a love triangle formation between a husky dog shape-shifter, Chia, and a cute coworker.
7. League of Vampires by Rye Brewer
This is the first three books in the nine-book League of Vampires series. The other books are $2.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
I cheated and read the description. Anissa Garnet is a vampire who kills other vampires, and she’s assigned to kill Jonah Bourke, leader of a rival vampire clan. But instead of her killing him, he winds up saving her life.
In the first couple of chapters, we learn that Anissa turned into a vampire when she was a teenager several decades ago. Two and a half years ago, she started doing her clan’s dirty work because they’ve got her sister captive. So she’s got a bit of a beef with her own clan’s leadership, but she hates the other clan even more, because they set the fire that killed her mother and stepfather fifty years go, making her and her sister orphans. If she kills the rival clan leader, her clan would be able to take over the other clan’s territories and members.
We see her interacting with the other members of her own clan, and surveilling the club where Jonah Burke likes to hang out.
Then we switch to Jonah’s point of view. Which, to me, means that he and Anissa are going to get together at some point.
Jonah sees three werewolves attacking Anissa, and rushes to help, thinking he’s defending some helpless person. The werewolves had somehow sneaked up on her without her noticing because she was too focuses on Jonah. Now both of them are taken captive. Anissa doesn’t fight back because she doesn’t want the other clan to know she was spying on them. And now she feels guilty about having to kill Jonah because he defended her. Plus, she’s attracted to him. While the wolves are busy tying up Jonah, she pulls out one of her hidden weapons and attacks, and they both escape. She has the opportunity to kill him now, but she can’t force herself to do it.
I’m not going to keep reading, because neither of the characters really grabbed me. The book is certainly very readable though, and someone more interested in romance and in stories involving vampire politics might enjoy it.
8. The Dragon of New Orleans by Genevieve Jack
This is the first book in an eight-book series, The Treasure of Paragon. The other books are $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
Gabriel Blakemore is an immortal dragon. Or, at least, he used to be immortal. A voodoo curse is making him sick.
Ravenna Tanglewood is in a hospice, dying of brain cancer. The only thing she’s happy about is that she can donate her organs. She’s half-paralyzed, on a morphine drip. She’s had the chemo, she’s had the surgeries. This is the end. And death himself shows up. Or, at least, a guy who isn’t wearing medical scrubs. And time stops Literally — the IV stops dripping, the clock stopped. This is the end. One thing that surprises her — death is a hunk. Dark, brooding, scruffy. Judging by the book cover and the Ravenna’s description, I’m picturing him to look like Tom Ellis in the TV show Lucifer. And the visitor turns out to be Gabriel.
Yup, Gabriel saw an old newspaper article where she’d had a premonition of a fire, causing her parents to buy a new fire extinguisher, and thus saving their business and their lives. Now he thinks she’s psychic.
Now we switch back to his point of view, and he’s a little shocked by how awful she looks. Nothing at all like her newspaper picture. But she did used to be an honors anthropology student with a minor in history. So he offers her a job. If she consents, he can use what little magic he’s got left to bind her. Unless the cancer has taken so much of her mind that she can no longer consent. Then it wouldn’t work. And she says yes. So he pulls out a tooth — a giant dragon tooth — out of his mouth. He turns the tooth into a pill, and tossed it down the back of her throat like I do with my cat. Then he leaves and time starts moving again.
Okay, I’m caught up in the story. I want to know why he needs her specifically. Also, the writing is really good.
9. The Enigma Factor by Charles V Breakfield and Roxanne E Burkey
This is the first book of the twelve-book The Enigma Series. The other books are all $2.99 or $3.99 each but are in Kindle Unlimited.
The book starts out with a computer programmer who’s working on some mysterious project for her father that she’s wary of having her son learn about. Then, while walking home alone at night she’s murdered in a hit-and-run.
That’s the prologue. The first chapter is several months later with the programmer’s son, Jacob, who is also a computer programmer — specifically, a white hat hacker hired by companies to test their security.
It feels very real — I cover cybersecurity for a living and it’s clear that the authors know what they’re talking about.
Since they’re also authors of a technical book about designing data storage systems, I’m betting that they’re writing from personal experience.
We spend a little it of time with Jacob at night as he works on an open source project, then helps out a friend on a coding issue he has. Then Jacob goes to work, where he’s one of the newer team members at a small penetration testing company. He’s a little isolated from his colleagues at work and in general comes off as a bit of a loner who spends all of his time behind a computer. A mysterious benefactor sends him a ticket to a major cybersecurity convention, DEFCON. The benefactor also is paying for his flight and hotel. This worries him a little because how did this anonymous benefactor know his name, address, and frequent flier information? Despite his concerns, Jacob asks for time off from work and goes to the convention.
He connects with developers he knows and meets some new ones, attends training sessions, and visits vendor booths.
We spend several chapters on all this. If you’re interested in a career in cybersecurity, this is a good primer on what the work is actually like. If you don’t know anything about it, though, then the technical jargon might start to get a little annoying. For me, it was fun, at first, to see things I cover at my day job mentioned in a book. Most sci-fi writers don’t have a good grasp on how cybersecurity actually works and I have to suspend my disbelief in order to enjoy their books. In this case, no suspension of disbelief is required.
However, six chapters in and the book still hasn’t started moving. I prefer my tech-thrillers to be a little faster-paced. I might come back to it later, but right now, I don’t expect to be finishing this book.
10. I, Angel by JC Andrijeski
This book is the first book in the four-book Angels in L.A. series. The other books are $3.99 or $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
I like books about paranormal hard-boiled private eyes, and this book has the sweet spot
Dags is funny, irreverent, good at punching and at taking a punch. Oh, and sometimes, when under a great deal of stress, his wings pop out of his back and tear his clothes.
The book starts out strong with a fight against a demon, a shocked bystander, the police showing up. The demon hints at big trouble afoot and tells Dags that it’s too late for him to stop it. I’m intrigued. And I like the character, I like the breezy style. It reminds me of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.
I had trouble putting this book down to get back to work, and plan to come back and finish it tonight or this weekend.
Do you have other free books for me to check out? Email me at [email protected].