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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 and publishers 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 Free Friday videos — email me at [email protected].
5. Lost Christmas by A. A. Albright
This is a standalone magical mystery book but the author has several magical mystery series on Amazon — and all of them are in Kindle Unlimited. And she’s even been on our list before. We reviewed Dead Like Ned, the first of three books in The Infernal Artefacts Trilogy of cozy magical mystery books, in September of 2022.
From the very beginning of the story, the author delivers a fun and fast-paced story about a witch named Ariadne Albright, who gave up using magic to make her every-day-life easy in order to settle down in the human world. She now uses human electricity for her everyday needs and even drives an old truck around town in order to get things done. What’s interesting about Ariadne is the fact that she’s not only a witch but also a writer that likes to write cozy books about witches living their best lives.
Ever since her cheating money-hungry husband left her she’s been enjoying her life to the fullest alone with her animal companion named Tigger.
Together, on the eve of the winter solstice, they go on a car ride to spend the holiday with some friends at the Wayfair Coven until they mysteriously find themselves trapped in a snowstorm that lifts their car and transports them to a place known as Eastlantis.
The main problem? Ariadne’s magic doesn’t work in this place, her cellphone has no signal and it looks like she was transported back in time to the Medieval Era. After the First Guard of the Royal Guard known as Mance Pye forces her to wear a bracelet that would keep her powers at bay, she is escorted back to the castle where she runs into two other people that were also trapped in a snowstorm: a Chef named Molly and a wizard named Chris.
They’re all confused and lost as to why they’re in a castle in a world that seems to be so behind theirs. And it’s not until they meet Clara, the Queen of Eastlantis, that they realize that they were all brought there for a reason. She has a job for each one of them and they won’t be able to leave her kingdom until they do so. I am very interested in continuing this story to learn more about the jobs and how they’ll manage to do them after being cut off from their magic and the technology of the human world they’re so used to.
I really enjoyed the fast pace of the story and how fun the characters are and how much Tigger–Ariadne’s familiar–reminds me of Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch! Overall, if you’re looking for a fun, cozy read for the upcoming holiday season I definitely recommend checking this one out!
4. Desa Kincaid: Bounty Hunter by R.S. Penney
This is the first of three books in Desa Kincaid dystopian sci-fi series. The other books are $2.99 each, and the series is not in Kindle Unlimited. The author has been on our Free Friday list before. In April of 2022, we reviewed Symbiosis, the first of 12 books in Justice Keepers Saga space opera series.
From Alex Mueller:
Interesting is how I would choose to describe this story.
We have a mix of classic western and low fantasy that work surprisingly well together.
The story begins like any western does, with our heroine riding into town on a black horse and ordering whiskey at the local saloon, and then we get thrown a curveball when she tries to pay for her drink and information with enchanted items.
There is a very interesting magic system worked into the story. It’s not big and flashy like what we see in Harry Potter. It’s more subtle like what they use in Lord of the Rings.
It’s an interesting mix to know that magic is there, but that it’s not so be-all end-all game changer.
That means we get to enjoy magic, and the classic western shenanigans like shootouts.
And believe me, there are plenty of shootouts. And pummelings. And just plenty of action in general.
If you like action, magic, and adventure, then there’s a good chance you’re going to like this story. I personally look forward to seeing where it goes next.
3. Skyscraper Cinderella by K. Webster
This is a standalone fairy tale fantasy romance book, but the USA Today-bestselling author has many, many other books up on Amazon., some of which are in Kindle Unlimited. This is the author’s first time on our Free Friday list.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not a romance reader, though I am an occasional romcom fan. So I’m not the target audience for this book. If you are a romance reader, and want to help us with our Free Friday reviews, we’d love to have you! Email me at [email protected]!
But the romance part isn’t the only thing that concerns me. The cover and description make it sound like a regular old modern-day romance, not a magical fantasy one.
We start in Winston’s point of view. He runs a Fortune 500 company and believes in all work, no play. He has an office in a New York City skyscrapers, which, of course, his company owns. He’s crude and would love to sexually harass his employees except he’s got a rule against it. Still, he thinks it. He comes off as a total jerk. I hate it, and hope he gets stabbed soon. But he’s a point of view character, so this isn’t likely — still, a girl can dream.
Then he finds a candy wrapper in his office. Someone has been in there. That was bad. Also, the cleaning crew didn’t clean it up. Also bad. People are going to get fired.
Then he looks through the security footage and sees a woman in a uniform with a cleaning cart come into his office, spin in his chair a few times, eat a piece of candy, and drop the wrapper. He can barely see because he’s so angry. He wants the woman fired immediately. He decides to do it himself, because he enjoys destroying people.
Then we switch to the point of view of Ash herself. Seems that her father has just spent her entire college fund on his new wife. That’s half a million dollars he just blew on the woman. She also has three step-brothers now. Also evil.
Ash hates her new stepmother. Hates the fact that she had to get an awful job. Hates her new step-brothers. Hates the fact that she’s going to have to ask her step-mother for college tuition money. She’s just bitters and mad at everything.
Worst yet, she has to work on her birthday.
She finally gets to the top office. The big boss. Winston. She turns on the light, and finds him there, waiting for her. Like a total creep. And, of course, she finds him attractive. Nooooooo!
Then we switch to Winston’s point of view. And his thoughts are totally abhorrent. He immediately decides to have sex with her, and orders her to let down her hair. Rudely. She’s rude to him back and calls him names. He’s old enough to be her father. And he offers her a job — he wants to hire her in order to humiliate her. Some weird kink thing. She needs the money so she agrees.
And it gets progressively more explicit from there.
I have a feeling this is more of a Fifty Shades of Grey book than fantasy or sci-fi. I’m not going to stick with it. I don’t like either of the two main characters and hate the dynamic between them. But I can see why this book would be popular and why the author would have lots of fans.
2. Alpha Female by L.J. Breedlove
This is the first of 13 books in the Wolf Harbor paranormal romance series. The other books are $5.99 each, and are not in Kindle Unlimited. This is the author’s first time on our Free Friday list.
From Maria Korolov:
I have no problem with people turning into wolves. But I do have a problem with wolves that have alphas and betas — that idea has long been debunked. Wolves don’t have alphas.
But, on the other hand, I do women who can kick ass.
The book starts with Abby getting an email about an all-expenses-paid summer at a fitness resort, if she is willing to be part of a research study on improving the fitness of post-menopausal women. She was the right age, and the right level of fitness — none. She had the summer off from university teaching. She was a tenured full professor of anthropology and the chair of the department.
So she sent off her dogs to the nice kennel she used while she was on her research trips and got the physical and made all the other preparations she needed for three months so she could just focus on getting into shape.
Then we switch to the point of view of Jake, who’s piloting the resort’s cabin cruiser. He’s picking up yet another group of clients. He’s a retired marine, and in addition to operating the boat, he’s also going to manage their training.
Then we switch back to Abby, who’s getting to know the other women in the group. Oh, and she thinks that Jake is hot. Young, but hot. As they get to the resort and start settling in, she starts to feel that something is off. It’s beautiful, but everybody is acting a little off.
Then we switch back to Jake. Apparently, this group of women is the last research group, because they’ve almost finished perfecting the serum.
I’m six chapters in by now, and nothing has happened. It’s a very slow-moving start. It’s peaceful, and we get to know everyone involved. But it’s a very, very slow start. If you’re patient, and you like character-driven stories, then book has very appealing characters and a slowly building sense of menace behind everything. It reminds me of, say, an episode of Murder, She Wrote — except it’s an extra-long episode, and the murder still hasn’t happened yet.
1. Violet Is Nowhere by Faith Gardner
This book is a standalone technothriller, but is part of the six-book psychological suspense series The Jolvix Episodes. The other books in the series are $.99 each, to $5.99 but they are all in in Kindle Unlimited. This is the author’s first time on our Free Friday list.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m not the target reader for this book. I don’t like psychological suspense because it’s scary and suspenseful. I don’t like waiting for the other shoe to drop. I want both shoes to drop all at once, so you can kill them and move on with your life.
All that aside, the book begins with Violet, who wakes up a strange bed after playing a show the night before. She’s hung over and worries that someone slipped something in her drink. Maybe even her bandmates, jealous of all the publicity and attention she’s been getting.
She can barely stand, but eventually pulls herself to her feet and explores the place. She’s in a rustic cabin. The door is locked, and there are bars on the windows. Outside — nothing but grassy fields. No people, no other houses. She starts to think she might be in one of those reality TV prank shows.
Then she finds a note and an old-fashioned phone call. She can call one other person and figure out what’s going on. She’s not allowed to call the police. If she can solve the puzzle within a week, she and the other person might deserve to stay alive.
The kitchen is full of food. There’s running water. And she’s cut bruises on her face and hands — she’s been in a fight. More than that, she’s been kidnapped.
She opens the phone. A single number has been programmed in. Instead of calling 911, she calls the number.
Then we switch to Bud’s point of view. He’s at work, finishing a deck in Oakland. One of the neighbors stops by, compliments him on his work, and gives him a beer.
After the day’s work is done, he pulls out his phone to check the time, and finds 36 missed calls, all from an unknown number. Spam.
Then he sleeps with the neighbor and is pretty rude to her when he leaves in the morning. But he feels guilty about it, so he gives the money he made the day before to a homeless guy.
When he finally gets home and checks his phone again, he’s got over a hundred missed calls a sixteen voice messages. And the phone rings again. She tells him what happened, that she’s been kidnapped, that his is the only number she can call, and they have less than a week left to figure out how they’re connected. That’s the puzzle. To figure out how they’re connected. And she can’t call the police.
Then the kidnapper shows up at her cabin.
Okay, so I’m not seeing any fantasy or science fiction elements so far, and I’m a fifth of the way into the book. I’ve never read a book like this before, because, like I said, I don’t like suspense.
I don’t understand why she doesn’t call the cops. I mean, yes, the kidnappers told her not to, but everyone knows not to trust kidnappers. And they said they know everything she does, but she’s in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. I also don’t understand why Bud didn’t immediately block her number. Her story makes zero sense. It’s much more likely that it’s all a prank or a scam.
This reminds me a little of the movie where Colin Farrell is trapped in a phonebooth. Or the one with Ryan Reynolds buried alive in a coffin with a mobile phone. I didn’t watch either of those movies, but I saw the trailers, and said, “nope!”
So I’m not going to stick with this book, either. But I can see how people who like these kinds of suspenseful stories might enjoy it. It’s certainly very readable.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
And watch Maria and Alex discuss all five books in the video below: