Free Fiction Friday #233

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays—every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre, and on sale for less than $5.

I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: The Infinity Courts

reviewcover-theinfinitycourtsTitle: The Infinity Courts [The Infinity Courts 1]

Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.

The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.

When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.

As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I adored The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman. The worldbuilding and characters had depth, and the writing itself was clear and flowed effortlessly. The romance and tension between Nami, Gil, and Caelan was magnificent – my soul hurts at having the story end.

Speaking of the end… I loved every minute of this book until the last page. The last page? Lame and sort of cheesy. I honestly wish the book would have ended in the palace – and if you haven’t finished the book yet, trust me… put it down there.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. I still have a small tortured hope in my heart that Nami and a certain Prince will find a happily ever after. If you like YA Fantasy, I would highly recommend this book. It’s one of the best ones I’ve read so far this year.

Free Fiction Friday #229

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays—every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre, and on sale for less than $5.

I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: Science Fiction & Fantasy!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: A Dragonbird in the Fern

review-cover-a dragonbird in the fernTitle: A Dragonbird in the Fern

Author: Laura Rueckert

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When an assassin kills Princess Jiara’s older sister Scilla, her vengeful ghost is doomed to walk their city of glittering canals, tormenting loved ones until the murderer is brought to justice. While the entire kingdom mourns, Scilla’s betrothed arrives and requests that seventeen-year-old Jiara take her sister’s place as his bride to confirm the alliance between their countries.

Marrying the young king intended for her sister and traveling to his distant home is distressing enough, but with dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, Jiara abandoned any hope of learning other languages long ago. She’s terrified of life in a foreign land where she’ll be unable to communicate.

Then Jiara discovers evidence that her sister’s assassin comes from the king’s own country. If she marries the king, Jiara can hunt the murderer and release her family from Scilla’s ghost, whose thirst for blood mounts every day. To save her family, Jiara must find her sister’s killer . . . before he murders her too.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I adored A Dragonbird in the Fern by Laura Rueckert, though I’ll admit, I had some misgivings from the cover. The cryptic title and the cover of the book did little to persuade me to read the book – it didn’t look like any of the books I normally read, but the synopsis was intriguing, so when I picked up this book, I wasn’t quite sure what I was about to be getting myself into. I couldn’t have been more surprised or thrilled to discover this little gem of YA Fantasy.

Not only was the book exceedingly well written, but I fell in love with the characters and the rich worldbuilding. The contrast between the countries and the lore of their people was fascinating and just familiar enough in some ways to make it easy to digest. I liked that the main character was a fallible younger princess with dyslexia that gets thrust into a new role in life she neither expected nor wanted, but she still tried her best, despite how difficult things often were for her.

The story contains a lot of intrigues, ghosts, mystery, awkward political hazards, magic, mythology, romance, and personal struggle, and I think it’d be a great read for anyone who enjoys fantasy or the YA genres. I know I’ll certainly be looking forward to more from this author.

Book Review: Neon Gods

review-cover-neon godsTitle: Neon Gods [Dark Olympus 1]

Author: Katee Robert

Genre: Romance, Fantasy (Mythology retelling)

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Society darling Persephone Dimitriou wants nothing to do with her mother’s ambitions. She’s biding her time until she’s able to leave the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start her doctorate degree. The one thing she never planned on? Her mother ambushing her with an engagement to Zeus—a man with more than a few dead wives in his past. Persephone will do anything to escape that fate…even flee the sparkling upper city and make a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed was a myth.

Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. Not even for the woman who flees into his territory as if the very hounds of hell are on her heels. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent his entire life craving? It’s all the excuse he needs to agree to help her—for a price. She’ll be his for the summer, and then he’ll see her safely out of Olympus and away from her mother and Zeus.

Hades and Persephone’s deal might seem simple enough, but they both quickly realize it’s anything but. With every breathless night spent with Hades, Persephone wonders at her ability to leave him behind. And Hades? Now that he has a taste for Persephone, he’s willing to go to war with Olympus itself to keep her…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I loved Neon Gods by Katee Robert – it was everything I was looking for in a retelling of the Hades/Persephone myth. The book was incredibly well written, and I thought the more urban and modern environment of the worldbuilding suited the story well.

I found no noticeable spelling or grammatical errors throughout the book, and the narrative style was fast-paced and clear. It was easy to sink into the story and get drawn in by the characters. The romance between Hades and Persephone was both sweet and incredibly sultry – though I will warn you that it isn’t going to be for everyone. There are some themes of voyeurism and mild BDSM themes, though these are only mildly explored, so even those who don’t particularly care for kinks will find this relatively easy to look over and enjoy.

The plot was interesting and fresh given the context of the mythos behind the story, and I liked the little bits of historical accuracy thrown in behind the names and relationships of the characters. If you like the Hades/Persephone mythos and want a book that explores it in a more modern context, I would highly recommend you pick this book up.

Book Review: The Petrified Flesh

review-cover-the petrified fleshTitle: The Petrified Flesh [Reckless 1]

Author: Cornelia Funke

Genre: Juvenile Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Ever since Jacob Reckless was a child, he has been escaping to a hidden world through a portal in his father’s abandoned study. Over the years, he has made a name for himself as a finder of enchanted items and buried secrets. He’s also made many enemies and allies — most important, Fox, a beautiful shape-shifting vixen whom Jacob cares for more than he lets on.

But life in this other world is about to change. Tragedy strikes when Jacob’s younger brother, Will, follows him through the portal. Brutally attacked, Will is infected with a curse that is quickly transforming him into a Goyl — a ruthless killing machine, with skin made of stone.

Jacob is prepared to fight to save his brother, but in a land built on trickery and lies, Jacob will need all the wit, courage, and reckless spirit he can summon to reverse the dark spell — before it’s too late.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I had such high hopes for The Petrified Flesh by Cornelia Funke, so much so that I picked up all three books in the series at once before publication. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed. As a caveat, if you’re a juvenile reader, you might really enjoy this book – because the plot and the fantasy worldbuilding were captivating. However, as an older reader, and someone who works as a copy editor and reviewer, I could not get into this book.

The major problem I had with the book was the writing itself. There were a lot of repeated words, redundant thoughts, Bad grammar, and missing punctuation – which, okay, some of that can be explained away as I was reading an early review copy that may or may not have been unedited… so take this particular opinion with a grain of salt. That being said, at this stage in a book’s release, where dates are set and it’s being sent out to reviewers, I don’t expect the book to be perfect, but I do expect a certain level of editing that I think this book lacked.

On top of this, the narrative voice kept using words that didn’t seem age-appropriate to the main character. I get it, big words are great for adults, but a 12-year-old isn’t going to say “desiccated” instead of “dried up”. There were other issues with the way the narrative was written, such as the big moments lacking impact, and the author’s aversion to writing in any sort of description or atmosphere. The book ended up feeling muddled and contorted. Five chapters in, I knew nothing about the characters, their lives, or the worldbuilding other than a bunch of unfamiliar names. I didn’t feel drawn in. I began to skim, and eventually, put the book down.

In the end, the book is okay for younger readers, but it’s not something I’d add to my shelf, and I can’t bring myself to push through it. This book just wasn’t for me.

Book Review: Curses

review-cover-cursesTitle: Curses

Author: Lish McBride

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Fairytale

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Merit Cravan refused to fulfill her obligation to marry a prince, leading to a fairy godling’s curse. She will be forced to live as a beast forever, unless she agrees to marry a man of her mother’s choosing before her eighteenth birthday.

Tevin Dumont has always been a pawn in his family’s cons. The prettiest boy in a big family, his job is to tempt naïve rich girls to abandon their engagements, unless their parents agree to pay him off. But after his mother runs afoul of the beast, she decides to trade Tevin for her own freedom.

Now, Tevin and Merit have agreed that he can pay off his mother’s debt by using his con-artist skills to help Merit find the best match . . . but what if the best match is Tevin himself?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ll be honest, I very nearly gave Curses by Lish McBride, 3 stars rather than 4. Part of that was my own preference – I’m not into comedy and silly hijinks. The other part, is because I feel this book just wasn’t categorized right… or to be more precise, it didn’t fit into any given category just right.

Although the book is labeled Young Adult, it doesn’t quite fit what you’d expect to find in a young adult novel. Yes, the characters are about that age range, but because of the historical-leaning context of the society they live in, they aren’t really teens as we know them. Tevin is the eldest son in his family and carries the weight of the safety of his siblings on his shoulders. Merit is entrenched in trying to find a husband. Combined with some of the darker themes in the book, you could easily place this book squarely into the New Adult, or Adult category, and no one would blink an eye.

All of that, however, is belied by the writing style. Despite the more adult themes and the young adult characters themselves, the book is written more like a children’s book. Part of that is the humor and hijinks, some of it is the over-the-top comedic world-building, and a lot of it rests squarely on how the narrative itself is written. Don’t get me wrong – it isn’t badly written: the pace is quick, the writing is clear, and it’s easy to sink into the story – it just doesn’t sound like a Young Adult book. When I first started reading, this really threw me. I nearly set the book down.

The characters’ actions, the way they spoke at times, and the events of the plot were overdramatic and fantastical like you’d find in a children’s book or a middle-grade story. I mean, one of the characters gets turned into an ostrich for three months. These aren’t bad things per se, but they weren’t what I was expecting, and they certainly weren’t hinted at in the synopsis or cover.

In the end, I actually did end up liking the book even if it wasn’t what I thought I was getting into, or even what I was looking to read. I liked the characters, I liked the plot, and the world-building – although I’ll admit, I almost docked it a point for the curses support group – because that was giving me some serious Cursed Princess Club comic vibes, and it felt icky to see it being used in so similar a way. If you like fairy tale retellings that don’t take themselves too seriously, you might really like this book… just know what you’re getting into. Don’t expect a serious YA Fantasy Romance. Expect a middle-grade fantasy with fairy nobility, ostrich’s crashing weddings, and beasts that wear sundresses and smash teacups, and you’ll be all right.

Book Review: Red Wolf

review-cover-red wolfTitle: Red Wolf

Author: Rachel Vincent

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

For as long as sixteen-year-old Adele can remember the village of Oakvale has been surrounding by the dark woods—a forest filled with terrible monsters that light cannot penetrate. Like every person who grows up in Oakvale she has been told to steer clear of the woods unless absolutely necessary.

But unlike her neighbors in Oakvale, Adele has a very good reason for going into the woods. Adele is one of a long line of guardians, women who are able to change into wolves and who are tasked with the job of protecting their village while never letting any of the villagers know of their existence.

But when following her calling means abandoning the person she loves, the future she imagined for herself, and her values she must decide how far she is willing to go to keep her neighbors safe.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I found Red Wolf by Rachel Vincent to be a fantastic retelling of the little red riding hood fairy tale. The book combined the familiar aspects of the original story (the woodcutter, little red riding hood, the wolf, and the little old grandmother in the woods), with a more modern and morally ambiguous plot.

The book was well-written and paced nicely. I only found one typo that stood out in the text, and I loved the characters. It was interesting to see the world-building behind the fairy-tale turned on its head and then turned over again by the main character’s choices.

If you like Young Adult Fantasy stories or fairy-tale retellings, I would highly recommend you pick up this book and give it a try. This book was fantastic.

Free Fiction Friday #225

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays—every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre, and on sale for less than $5.

I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is:  Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: A Tracker’s Tale

review-cover-a tracker's taleTitle: A Tracker’s Tale [Trackers 1]

Author: Karen Avizur

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

In Katherine’s world, werewolves, vampires, púcas, and other parasapien species – forced for centuries by human fear and prejudice to live at the fringes of society – have finally come out of hiding to demand their rightful place alongside us. It’s a fragile co-existence, fraught with mutual distrust: a new social contract for which the rules are still evolving. And when those rules break down – usually when a parasapien begins preying on humans – that’s when the Trackers step in. It’s their job to hunt them down and stop them by any means necessary.

Within this elite unit, Katherine Colebrook is one of the best. Her psychic abilities made her a natural for the Trackers Division, allowing her to move between the parasapien and human worlds in ways that no other agent could. But Katherine’s calling hasn’t come without struggle and losses along the way. As a single mother, she must contend with her teenage daughter, Alexandra, who not only shares Katherine’s psychic abilities, but seems determined to follow the same dangerous path as her mother.

And so, when Katherine’s latest assignment threatens to bring that danger too close home, she finds herself faced with the toughest challenge of her career: Can she protect her daughter’s life, while battling a ruthless adversary who’ll stop at nothing to destroy her?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I had a difficult time getting into A Tracker’s Tale by Karen Avizur. Although the plot was interesting and the characters likable, the more technical aspects of the writing left something to be desired.

The narrative was incredibly wordy. Descriptions were over-done and bogged down the pace of the story with irrelevant details. I think a strict editor could have brought the story back from the brink of a one-star rating, but as it is, I quickly grew bored.

For me, the story lacked the draw of good writing. It started with court proceedings and moved on to inane phone calls between professionals, in-head description, and minimal dialogue. There was little to no actions, personality, or soul.

Do I think the book was awful? No. There are definitely people out there that will find this an interesting read… but I didn’t feel drawn in or the need to continue past the first 10% of the book.