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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. Wild Wolf by J.K. Harper
This is the forth book in the nine-book Black Mesa Wolves paranormal shifter romance series. The first one, Guardian Wolf, is also free, but the rest cost between $2.99 and $4.99 each — and are not in Kindle Unlimited. We also reviewed the second book in the series, Hunting Wolf, back in March.
From Amira Loutfi:
That cover. Does this guy ever blink?
This is the fourth book in the series. So maybe I’ll look up the first and tell you what I think. The first and fourth books are about female and male wolf shifters.
I’m a bit turned off by the first book. I read the first few pages and learned a few things about how these shifters live. Wolf shifters can be part of a pack or not, they can sense one another’s arousal, regardless of their relationship, and they have to mate in order to function. The protagonist of the first book is the pack guardian who lost her edge because she needs to mate. Her brothers stage a meet-cute for her.
The fourth book, starring he-who-must-never-blink, is another wolf-wolf romance. And I like it.
We start in a scene where Tate is working with his horses and talking to his brother, Caleb. All of Tate’s brothers had recently gotten into relationships and so now Tate’s need for a mate is really screaming at him. He has a lot of internal frustration at being mateless. The pressure and the tension are built up in a realistic manner and I am buying it. I feel sympathetic for Tate and I am not rolling my eyes.
Then he meets Claire, who grew up without a pack and will never surrender her freedom. She’s a writer, and I like her.
So there’s the plot. It’s well-written and the world-building makes sense. Tate’s mind is highly pack- and mate-oriented, which is probably the main driver of the plot.
I do wonder how the two of them will keep bumping into each other. There is a good chance I’ll be back.
Disclaimer – This genre has recently become interesting to me because I’m writing my own vampire and wolf-shifter romance right now. However, I do think that it is well-done. And the fourth book starts strong, way better than the first.
2. The Boy Who Cried Christmas by Dennis Bailey
This is a standalone book. The author’s previous book, Army of God, was described as “Noah’s Ark meets Game of Thrones,” and also had excellent reviews.
From Maria Korolov:
Logan Ailshie is nine years old and his mother is taking him to the Disney Store in New York City’s Times Square. His mother and stepfather spoil him with presents every Christmas.
He’s mostly spoiled and selfish, but on their way home, Logan does give his fries and a soda to a homeless veteran.
That night, the homeless guy comes in through Logan’s window — which is on the tenth floor of an apartment building. Logan guesses that the guy is an angel.
The angel asks Logan what he knows about the birth of Jesus, then offers to take him on a trip to find out what really happened back then. The kid says, sure.
So far, it’s a little too Christmas-miracle-y to me. And a little too sweet.
But then… in chapter two… we see FBI agent Marcus Garraway looking down the barrel of his gun, about to kill himself.
His wife had died two years ago in a car accident. His wife had been very religious, but Marcus had never really bought the whole virgin birth story. And, after his wife died on Christmas Eve, he’d really come to hate the holiday.
He’s about to pull the trigger when he gets a text message about a missing kid — Logan’s been kidnapped. He puts away the gun and goes to work.
Meanwhile, the angel convinced Logan to step out of the ten-story window. Instead of plummeting to their deaths, they’re in the middle of a desert. The angel gets them a couple of camels and they ride off.
I don’t usually mind Christmas stories with morals. Like, be kind to others, that kind of thing. But this book is a little too heavy-handed, too preachy, and not so much about the meaning of Christmas as trying to prove the literal fact of the Christmas story. Which, to me, kind of defeats the whole point of having faith.
3. A House Divided by Nicole Ciacchella
This is the first book in the five-book Astoran Asunder romantic fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
I would describe this as a medieval family drama with cozy mystery elements that takes place in a fantasy world.
The blurb makes it sound exciting. I might love this.
I don’t. I feel like I’m forcing myself to read this.
In the first scene, Cianne is accosted in her bedroom by Lach, a successful sailor her father wants her to marry. He’s very handsome, but she doesn’t like him, and it’s obvious why not. He’s very annoying and I can’t wait for him to go away.
I like the world this story takes place in. It’s sucking me in even though I’m kinda annoyed by this misleading opening scene. I usually expect that if a story starts out with a guy that the protagonist doesn’t like, he will go through a redemption arc and win her heart at the end. But I know that won’t happen. What I DO like is how there is a type of magic in this world called Adept. And the most powerful members of society possess Adept abilities. Way to go kicking the oppressed mages trope in the teeth.
I also really like how Cianne doesn’t have Adept abilities despite her parents being Adept. This explains why people would be envious of her — she’s sorta like a princess that doesn’t deserve to be one.
I’m still not sure exactly what Adept magic is. Is it elemental? Does it alter reality? Is it rational or irrational? It seems like the only relevance Adept has to the plot is its impact on socio-economic status.
4. Touched by Magic by Celine Jeanjean
This is the first of six books in Razor’s Edge Chronicles urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Apiya is from London, a human with just a little bit of magical ability and a mean hand with a cutthroat razor.
Because she’s a barber. She works in Panong’s Old Town, which, I think is in the Philippines. Magical creators called the Mayak live in the Old Town.
Apiya looks Asian, because she’s got Asian heritage, but her accent is all British, so she stands out no matter where she is, and people always ask her about where she’s “really” from.
The barber shop where she works is magical, bigger on the inside than on the outside, and comes with a talking cat.
She gets to cut the hair — or fur, or feathers — of lots of different magical creatures.
Then a pari-pari couple come in. They seem to be something like fairies, but lay eggs. They give her an egg so that her boss, the owner of the barber shop, can get it safely to London, because he’s away at business and she’s the only one there.
I really like Apiya, I love the setting. I’m going to keep reading it, even though the story is a bit slow to get going.
5. A Feast of Phantoms by Kat Ross
This is the first of three books in Lingua Magika steampunk fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The third book is due out in February and is currently available for pre-order.
From Amira Loutfi:
The first in a trilogy! And I like the blurb again. Western. Steampunk. Fantasy. Adventure and Romance.
I love this town. I love the area. I love the main character — Deputy Ruth Cortez. When the call to adventure occurs, it interrupts her from a favor she’s doing for a lonely old man. The town is tiny, called Lucky Boy, and it lies along a railway between other more important places supported by the Carnarvan family business. Lucky Boy also depends on the powerful Carnarvan family.
The sheriff’s son calls Deputy Cortez to the train depot and there they meet Sebastian.
Sebastian works for the Carnarvan family as the Chief of Special Services. His job is to escort a prisoner, Lee, one stop along the railroad. It’s eight hundred miles down the road, so it’ll take a few days. Lee can speak to ghosts and he is a wanted criminal — only 18 years old.
Oh, I really like this protagonist. She’s humble, highly capable, and a real stickler for the rules. She does her duty but doesn’t let anyone take advantage of her. I love it. Maybe westerns are my thing? Sebastian decides he needs her on the mission. They are both in their 20s.
Wow, I really love this. I will be back for sure. Just gotta move on to the other stories.
6. Apocalypse by Devon C. Ford
This is the first of six books in the Toy Soldiers series of post-apocalyptic zombie survival. The other books are $9.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
So I love the blurb again. London has been affected by a biological weapon that has turned people into zombies! One squadron has to operate independently until they are able to get back in touch with the rest of the military.
The prologue is just a guy poking zombies in the brain with the tines of an old pitchfork through a door. Gross. I understand if some people are totally into that. This book is gruesome from the get-go.
The protagonist, Peter, comes from an abusive family. He has an older sister who did what she could to protect him from their parents. His sister is taken away. He is nine years old in 1989 when he hears a news story about the zombies.
At school, he is bullied and he misses his sister. He gets violent with a bully. I always find these scenes to be a bit boring. But I like how his brow-beaten personality resurfaces as soon as an adult gets involved and blames him for fighting. The punishment is to write an apology letter during lunch. Wait what. He was sent to bed without food the night before. I won’t be surprised if this kid faints before school is out for the day.
The school is almost empty and when he gets to class he notices that none of the kids from the army bases are there.
So I can see a few plot elements. Peter will probably try to rescue his sister. He keeps thinking about her throughout the first few chapters so far. And there is a scientist who specializes in diseases and vaccinations — he works for the government. He sounds essential to the zombie apocalypse plot.
I’m not sure how Peter and his sister would be relevant to the Zombie apocalypse, though. But I do like them. And I like worrying about them.
Will I be back to finish this story? Probably not.
7. Dream Walker by Elise Hennessy
This is the first of eight books in the Blood Legacy Series of paranormal romance books. The other books are $0.99 to $4.99 each and all except for the last, a prequel, are in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
The cover is beautiful. I want that dress. And that hair. Although the mismatched arms I could do without. Recently I’ve been noticing a lot of the women on the covers of these indie books have mismatched arms. But that’s neither here nor there. Oh well.
Vampire Alex can shapeshift, and a lion is his favorite shape-shifting form. He’s been poisoned as a lion and sealed in a box by his enemies, who torture him with silver barbs and heavy metal music. He’s unable to shift back to his human form.
Violet works at Cincinnati Zoo when the lion is shipped over. His handlers have mind control powers which makes it easy for them to get away with doing extremely sketchy stuff — like arriving four hours late with a lion in the middle of the night in a tiny cage and then giving orders to the staff of the zoo. They carry the lion into the quarantine section of the zoo, and Violet helps them. Then, they murder her coworker right in front of her.
They are about to do more of this — create a scene of dead bodies in the zoo, but their mind control power stops working on Violet. She instead is ordered by the lion to set him free. She opens his cage and he jumps out — tearing his enemies apart.
The lion is Alex the vampire and his enemies were trying to frame him for a crime so that he would get euthanized. Wait, what? Since when has that been the only way to kill a vampire? What about sunlight, stakes to the heart, garlic, holy water, and religious iconography? Boy, if they’d only had me on the team!
Alex is the leader of a vampire coven and has deep enmity with another vampire coven. So he thinks that their plan must have been to kill him in the most humiliating way possible, as a beast and at the hands of humans. I guess that sort of makes sense.
I’m not particularly impressed by this one. I won’t be back.
8. Crimson Lucre by Brian H. Roberts
This is the first book in what is planned as a sci-fi series thriller, and is the author’s debut novel.
From Maria Korolov:
The story is billed as “Dean Koontz meets Andy Weir” and I love Andy Weir, and I also love books about the exploration of Mars, so I jumped on the chance to read this one.
Dallas, a pilot, is coming out of a nine-month stasis, where he’s been in something like a coma during the long trip to Mars. The rest of his crew is also in various states of reanimation — and the ship is five degrees outside of the trajectory window.
When talking about stellar distances, five degrees can add up to quite a lot, so I’m a little worried for them.
They’re on a mining ship. China has the rare earth elements market cornered on Earth, so Dallas’ company, a Canadian mining consortium, wants to mine rare earth elements on Mars and the asteroids.
Turns out, they’re off course by over a million miles. It will take them weeks to backtrack to Mars. But they’ve only got a week’s worth of food on board.
Apparently, there’s a discrepancy between the data provided by the ship’s telemetry system and its actual location. Mission control back on Earth has been getting incorrect data all along. The company gets NASA to check the ship’s location with their telescopes and confirm that the telemetry is wrong and the ship is off course.
Changing course to the degree necessary to get the ship back on track would put extreme stress on the vessel, and everyone might die. It’s a tense situation, and I’m enjoying the discussion of the orbital mechanics involved.
Also, why is the telemetry system wrong? Is it a mistake — or sabotage? Inquiring minds want to know! Meaning me. I want to know.
9. Marked By Hell by Erin Bedford
This is the first of five books in the Mary Wiles Chronicles urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The last book is scheduled to be released later this month and is currently available for pre-order.
From Maria Korolov:
Mary used to be an angel. But she’s lost her wings and now lives in Los Angeles, using her paranormal abilities to exorcise demons and track down cheating spouses. Even a former angel’s got bills to pay.
In the first chapter, she frees a Catholic priest from a demon possession.
After she gets back home and takes a dip in holy water to get rid of the taints on her aura, she gets a call from the LAPD. They have a body — her kind of body. It looks like it was torn apart by a demon. And it’s not the first body that’s been found like this.
I like her attitude. I like the world-building here. I like the action and the humor. And I just love the police procedural aspects. It’s got everything that I want in a book.
I have a feeling I’m going to be reading the rest of the books in this series even if I have to shell out my own money to do it.
10. Duel of Fire by Jordan Rivet
This is the first of five books in the Steel and Fire epic fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each and are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Dara has been training with a sword for years. She has finished her basic dueling-school education and graduated to the elite adult division six months ago.
Oh, no, it’s a YA book.
The Vertigo Cup is coming up in two months, and she wants to win. If she doesn’t, she’s going to have to work in her parent’s fire magic shop full time. But if she wins, she’ll get prize money — and a patron to support her further training. Plus, she didn’t inherit her dad’s ability to work fire magic.
Her coach doesn’t just teach at the school. He’s also got private noble clients. One of them is the prince, who’s got inflated ideas about his own skill level. Dara’s coach asks her to come spar with the prince, to show him what fighting a real athlete is like. Otherwise, the prince is just going to get himself killed one day through overconfidence and never get to be king.
Meanwhile, her parents are having business issues. The use of fire magic is regulated, and the official in charge is allowing its use more widely than before. This is reducing their income. They can’t afford to hire help, and need Dara to help out in the shop more than ever.
This isn’t my type of book, but it’s growing on me. Dara is hard working, competent, dedicated to her sport, even though her parents don’t take it seriously. I actually wouldn’t mind spending more time with her.
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Comment below or email me at [email protected].
Watch Maria and Amira discuss today’s books in the video below: