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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. Seeking Shelter by Clay Wise
From Maria Korolov:
I found it awful and couldn’t understand why it was on the bestseller list. At the time, that book had no reviews and a cover that looked as ridiculous and home-made as the one on this book. As here, the cover didn’t even have the author’s name on it.
But since then, that book’s gotten a couple of hundred five-star reviews. And, as I discovered in doing this Free Friday series, there’s a huge appetite for EMP survival.
EMP stands for electromagnetic pulse. It’s a kind of attack that takes out electronics but leaves people and animals unharmed. It can also be caused by natural events, like lightning or solar flares.
Many of these books have a sense of self-satisfaction about them. The crazy survivalists and conspiracy theorists are proved right, and now everyone else has to bow down to them or be killed by crazed hordes suffering from smartphone withdrawal.
I’m going to give this book one page to prove me wrong.
Okay, the first page isn’t horrible. The protagonist is a family man who’s kind to his daughter. I guess that’s supposed to make up for the fact that, later in the book, he slaughters everyone else to defend them. But I’m guessing here, because while the first page isn’t horrible, it’s also nothing that would actually make me want to read the book.
But, in theory, at least, I can understand the appeal. I love stories about kick-ass protagonists who kill without a second thought — James Bond and his ilk. Yes, in real life, they’d all be total psychopaths that I wouldn’t want anywhere near me. But they’re fun to read about.
So I can kind of see how people might like these kinds of books.
It’s just that with everything in the news today, with the pandemic, and climate change, and war, this is the last kind of thing I’d want to have in my escapist reading.
2. Season of the Witch by Jessica Lynch
This is the second of six books in the Claws Clause paranormal romance series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. The fifth book is scheduled to be released later this month, and the sixth and final book is scheduled for release next April.
From Maria Korolov:
I know I’m probably not going to read the other books in this series, so I’m not going to bother to start with book one, even though it’s in Kindle Unlimited and won’t cost me anything.
Instead I’m jumping right in.
Colton Wolfe is an alpha wolf and has a crush on a witch. He’s trying to avoid her because he hates witches, but his pesky brother is trying to set the two of them up. Plus, Colt doesn’t want to take a mate just because it’s his fate. Meanwhile, his best friend is a ghost who’s in danger of fading away.
And Colt’s pack is in danger. Vampires are attacking humans and leaving the dead bodies lying around near pack territory, an obvious open threat or possible invitation to war.
There’s a lot of pack politics and family drama here, but the writing is compulsively readable.
Okay, I might go back and read the first one, Hungry Like a Wolf. Not saying that I will, but I might, if I have some free time this weekend.
3. Cold as a Witch’s Toffee by Sara Bourgeois
This is the first of three books in An Allegra Darling Cozy Mystery paranormal mystery romance series. The other books are $3.99 to $4.49 each but are both in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
I’m a huge fan of cozy mysteries with fun cartoon covers and punny titles.
Allegra Darling is trying to build a fitness empire and is a bit of a diva. She goes through assistants so fast that she doesn’t even bother to learn their names. Her wedding to a successful stockbroker is coming up.
Then her uncle dies and leaves her an ice cream shop. Allegra doesn’t eat ice cream unless it’s low-fat, sugar-free, green and organic. But the business is supposed to be profitable, so she thinks she can sell it off.
But there’s a twist. Her uncle expected her to want to sell the shop. So he added a clause that says she has to keep the shop for at least five years, or she’ll lose the $2 million cash inheritance that goes with it. Oh, and she also has to work at the shop. Of course she does!
She has to find a way to get the money and sell the shop before the public finds out she’s in the ice cream business. And then her fiancé dumps her — by email — puts all her stuff into storage, cuts off her credit cards, and leaves her with no money and no place to live. She’s invested all her money into videos and promotions for her fitness lifestyle business. She’s given up all her private fitness clients to focus on building her brand as a fitness influencer.
I’d say the fiancé was being a jerk, except that Allegra has been acting a little spoiled and self-centered. Plus, his email was actually kind of reasonable. What makes Allegra a sympathetic character is that she suspects that she’s the one who’s been acting like a jerk.
Then her agent drops her due to an embarrassing viral video. And she finds the real reason her fiancé dumped her — he’s fallen in love with someone else, and she’s a plus-sized model.
So she goes to the ice cream shop. It’s closed, but she kicks in the back door. Leg day paid off. And she eats a whole tub of toffee ice cream. She falls asleep right there.
When she wakes up the next day, there’s a dead body in the shop. He’s the lawyer she had a public fight with the day before about her uncle’s will. Now everyone in town thinks she killed him.
So, it looks like she’s staying. In addition to the shop, her uncle left her his house, his car, a little cash in a bank account for living expenses. Oh, and a talking dog.
Yup, this is definitely my kind of book.
4. Untamed Magic by Eva Ashwood
This is a box set of all three books in the Magic Blessed Academy paranormal romance series.
From Maria Korolov:
The fact that the book is set in a magic academy and features a young adult protagonist means that I’m probably not the target market for these books. I do read them sometimes, but they have to be extra special to overcome my automatic resistance.
Aria is profane, snarky, and likes beating people up. She grew up in the foster system and is scrappy. I love her. I take back everything I just said about young adult protagonists.
She’s sick and tired of having to take odd jobs from creepy dark magic users to pay the rent. Well, who wouldn’t be? She hates magic users.
Then, one night, walking home, she’s jumped by some attackers, and her own magic powers suddenly kick in. Powers she didn’t know she had. Maybe it’s just a temporary curse, right? Nope. She’s got magic now. Late-onset magic, apparently. And unlike people who grew up with it, she doesn’t know how to use it. So the local magical authorities track her down and ship her off to magic school.
I hate the premise. I dislike stories like this. But I love the writing and I love Aria. I can’t put the book down. I have to see how she does at school!
5. Fated Magic by Callie Rose
This is the first of four books in the Claimed by Wolves paranormal romance series. The other books are $4.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Sable’s uncle beats her up on a regular basis. Normally, he takes her to a friendly doctor to get fixed up, but the guy is out, and they wind up seeing someone new. Someone who notices all her bruises. She’s 18. She can see the doctor by herself. But she won’t tell her uncle to leave and instead tells the doctor that she hurt her arm because she fell down the stairs. She’d like to tell the doctor that her uncle beats her and keeps her locked up in the house like an animal, but can’t.
On the drive home, her uncle swerves to avoid hitting a deer. And she finally decides to make her move. She jumps out of her uncle’s truck and runs into the woods.
Why didn’t she ask the doctor for help? He was ready to call security for her. She could have gotten some protection.
So she’s running through the woods with a twisted ankle and a sprained wrist. Smart.
She’s running for her life. She runs through the patch of forest, and onto another road. There’s a car coming straight at her, and she freezes in panic. It narrowly avoids running her down. As the gorgeous driver starts to get out of the car to see if she’s okay, she starts running again, continuing across the road the way she was going. She’s now back in the woods again, crossing streams, climbing into the foothills. It’s getting dark, and she’s getting tired, and falls into a ravine. She regains consciousness briefly and sees a wolf standing over her, then passes out again.
The writing is extremely compelling. Sable makes some bad decisions, but then, she’s been locked up and beaten by an evil uncle for years. I couldn’t put the book down for the first two chapters.
Then chapter three starts out with Ridge. He was patrolling pack land in his wolf form when he came across Sable. He switched back to human form, and is carrying her home. Yes, he’s naked as he’s carrying her.
There’s dark witch activity out there, which is why he was patrolling. He’s an alpha, and he worries about protecting his pack. But he can’t just leave her there in the ravine to die.
He takes her back to his cabin, which is nestled in a little out-of-the-way werewolf village. He puts on some clothes, undresses her and sees all her scars. He puts a t-shirt on her, then covers her with a blanket.
When Aria finally wakes up, it’s afternoon. She panics, thinking that her uncle found her and locked her up in an isolated cabin somewhere in the woods. She escapes out through a window and starts running again.
This is a very compelling beginning. I have to stop reading now so that I can post this article, but I want to keep going.
6. Still Heat by Leigh Wyndfield
This is the seventh of eight books in The Heat Chronicles, a sci-fi romance with slavery themes and explicit sex scenes. The other books are $2.99 to $3.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
This one is good. If you want to read something well-written, with good tension, and interesting characters, go for this one. It’s actually romantic. And I think I am pretty picky about romance.
All this despite the fact that the opening line has one of my most hated words — plop. Here it is —
“A drop of sweat cut through the thin sheen of dust on Osborn Welty’s face, tracking lazily down his cheek to hang for an annoying moment, before plopping onto his gatgun…”
So Oz is a military leader on the planet Triad, with his troopers. His secCom — I assume second in command — is Morgann. She’s blonde. She’s unpredictable. Sometimes she’s brilliant and sometimes just catastrophic. So far I like her and Oz. Morgann seems like she might have some sort of mood disorder. It’s always fascinating to me when a person with a serious mental illness is also extremely talented — in fiction and real life.
Oz, Morgann, and the troops are in the midst of a battle against the rebels on Triad. The rebels have this new chemical weapon that can render a person immobile — called stasis. And team good has run out of antidote. That means that anyone who inhales the gas from these chemical attacks will have all their muscles locked, like a stiff corpse. But alive. Only able to breathe and blink. And a few other things which I’ll … er … suggest later, I guess.
One of the troops breaks his rebreather helmet, which is designed to protect against the chemical attack. Morgann gives him hers. Oz sees this and instead gives the trooper HIS, so Morgann can keep hers. So Oz breaks protocol, which is super out of the ordinary for him.
The health care services are understaffed, so Morgann decides to take care of Oz herself in her private room. Ah, now do you see where it’s going?
My predictions after reading the first two pages were hilariously wrong. Here they are — Oz and Morgan hate each other, but also need each other’s help to fulfil their mission of defeating the rebels. They become really close in a buddy-cop kind of way, after solving a drug lord mystery and engaging in a space-ship chase. Or whatever that would be called. I am assuming this book will take the structure of a buddy-cop movie. But how do they resist falling for each other, both being so cool and attractive? Morgan is gay! Also, Oz is gay, so he has no fantasy of converting her to straight-ism.
So I would classify this as a good, meaningful romance. And there are plenty of graphic scenes in this book, but it’s well-done.
7. Chaos Awakens by Megg Jensen
This is the first of three books in Dragons of the Nether epic fantasy series. The other books are $2.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
Tace is a deeply religious blue Orc, who belongs to an assassin’s guild and has been tasked with killing a priest and making it look like a suicide. Oh, and she has tusks — orc tusks coming out of her mouth!
She is in the middle of assassinating a priest, and then he starts speaking orcish. And his assistant Ademar is there. Continuing in Orcish, the priest starts giving Tace a prophecy that sounds like he’s expecting her to team up with Ademar.
I’m sensing another buddy-cop plot structure here!! The orc and the priest’s assistant have to work together to get through the dangerous underworld and defeat the Orc Lord together — becoming thick as thieves by the end!
This first chapter seems to be setting up a redemption plot too, I think? I am genuinely confused this time at what the plot might be. Either Tace has to work together with Ademar to find a new way of life, or she will continue to pursue redemption through her bizarre orc religion. So far I am skeptical of the orc religion playing such a strong role in the plot. Tace is, in the first chapter at least, very concerned about her afterlife salvation for two reasons — her parents passed their sins down to her and she is unable to redeem them alone, and second, the last assassination attempt she pulled failed. Instead of killing the priest, he killed himself. And her Orc Lord would be angry about that.
So the issue is that the Orc religion here doesn’t entirely make sense. It’s hard for me to care. If I don’t care about the main motivation here for Tace, then why would I care about anything else that Tace does?
She lies to her guild leader about the priest’s assassination. The guild leader was about the kill her, which he thought would send her to heaven. Tace knows that because she didn’t really accomplish the mission, she’d actually wind up in hell. She tells the guild master she’d love to die, but she should stay alive because she is now the guild’s best assassin. Damn. I can imagine how that would make her feel guilty. And she’s driven by this? Not sure if I’m super into it. I think that as a side character, she would be awesome. Especially if she eventually joined the good guys, like Zuko in Avatar.
The writing is good. The setting is cool. The fact that the protagonist is an orc is awesome.
Ok, so now I’m pretty sure we have a dark fantasy buddy cop book right here. I probably won’t come back to it.
8. Claiming His Need by Ellis Leigh
This is the second of seven books in the Feral Breed Motorcycle Club sexy shifter romance series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited but the first book, Claiming His Fate, is currently free as well.
From Amira Loutfi:
Woah — this one is alarming. It’s got crass language all over the dialogue and narration. I’m personally not into it and don’t want to spend any more time on it. Here’s a very quick rundown —
Magnus is a 400-year-old, degenerate, VP of the wolf-shifter motorcycle club. He’s a jerk and not at all like a leader. He’s also gross. I don’t think he deserved such a prominent role in the first chapter.
The president is on sabbatical with his new mate, leaving the obnoxious Magnus in charge. Gates, our point of view character, is the Seargent at Arms — a rule-enforcer. I don’t like him much either.
Since Magnus has been in charge one of the dens in lower Detroit is open to local prostitutes — the den they work at.
9. The Four Horsemen Series by LJ Swallow
This is the first three of nine books in the of nine books in The Four Horsemen Series paranormal romance series. The other books are $2.99 to $3.99 each but are all in Kindle Unlimited. Except for the last book, which is $3.99 and not in Kindle Unlimited and contains two Halloween episodes.
From Amira Loutfi:
This smacks of high school drama. Verity is a frumpy girl like one Anne Hathaway would play in the early 2000s. “Verity” is literally incapable of lying. Does she have female Aspergers? I’m cool with it, but the stream-of-consciousness narration seems a bit judgy, which is always a turn-off to me.
Verity works at a telecommunications company and they can wear whatever they want, and yet she calls the other women “clones.” So what if they want to look nice? Why so judgy?
There’s a new guy that everyone is attracted to. Verity and her colleagues are getting ready to go to a party and they wonder if he will be there.
Let me guess — there will be a bunch of drama between the characters, but they will all be thick as thieves by the end! Oh, I hope this is actually a buddy-cop story, where the entire group becomes close friends, as in Stranger Things. But it really does not seem to be going in that direction.
It’s raining very hard and Verity is driving home. Wait, what? Verity and her colleagues were just getting ready for a party, weren’t they? She hits into a tall dark man. It’s the hottie from work. She checks her car and it’s dented. They talk a bit out there in the pouring rain. He insists he’s fine. Another strange figure appears and the coworker holds her close. And then lets her go when it’s gone. He insists he’ll see her at work the next day and they can get coffee together. It’ll be fine.
So now I’m curious about this coffee date. That’s pretty good. I wasn’t really feeling too curious about any other books so far today. He’s probably going to tell her he’s a vampire or … maybe one of the Four Horsemen referred to in the series title? I imagine that the story will go downhill quickly after this mystery is resolved at the coffee date.
The coffee date doesn’t happen. They go to a pub instead. It’s not for me, but I can see why others like it.
10. Wolf’s Lady by Jessica Marting
This is the first of three books in the Magic & Mechanicals steampunk shifter romance series. The other books are $3.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited. The third book is due out later this month.
From Amira Loutfi:
So this one is about a forced marriage and a disgraced young woman. Hmm … I like how it’s got some social status stuff going on. And a forced marriage. Let’s see how that goes.
Lady Weatherstone writes to Lord MacAulay that she and her husband and daughter all accept the marriage is necessary. Her daughter, Lady Adelle Thornber, is “bright but too strong-willed and stubborn for her own good.”So Adelle is traveling over to Scotland for this forced relationship. The forced-marriage is a form of exile, which is a concept I like.
Along the route to her new home, she is very angry but holds it in. Her chaperone, Wexfield, then offers to marry her so she can produce for him heirs. His mistresses are always bruised, so Adelle says no.
He threatens to make her regret it. He also calls her a “whore.” Woah. Things got real.
When she finally arrives at the Lord’s house, the MacAuley has a nice twinkle in his eye. And his servants are a bit outspoken. He seems a gentleman. Seems like the story is over? Maybe in the next chapter, he’ll have to duel with Wexfield? That would make sense.
I would like to see a bit more of how this forced marriage was arranged. How could anyone manage to subdue Adelle, a supposedly “bright” and “stubborn” girl, into the carriage? How would this situation affect her relationship with her parents? And does she have any goals now that she’s in this isolated part of Great Britain?
I might come back to this one. Who knows, it might actually turn out to have strong buddy-cop vibes! I can see Adelle and MacAuley engaging in a carriage-chase with bandits hired by Wexfield!
Do you have other free books for us to check out? Email me at [email protected].