Free Fiction Friday #281

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: Gone Dark

gonedarkTitle: Gone Dark

Author: Amanda Panitch

Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Science Fiction, Apocalyptic

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When seventeen-year-old Zara escaped her father’s backwoods survivalist compound five years ago, she traded crossbows and skinning hides for electricity and video games…and tried to forget the tragedy that drove her away.

Until a malware attack on the United States electrical grids cuts off the entire country’s power.

In the wake of the disaster and the chaos that ensues, Zara is forced to call upon skills she thought she’d never use again—and her best bet to survive is to go back to the home she left behind. Drawing upon a resilience she didn’t know she had, Zara leads a growing group of friends on an epic journey across a crumbling country back to her father’s compound, where their only hope for salvation lies.

But with every step she takes, Zara wonders if she truly has what it takes to face her father and the secrets of her past, or if she’d be better off hiding in the dark.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I thoroughly enjoyed Gone Dark by Amanda Panitch. Though I’ve seen similar plots, especially recently, the author did a fantastic job of making the story more Young Adult friendly, even given the sometimes gruesome but realistic content. It was easy to see that the book was well thought-out.

It was also well-written. I read an early-reader-copy, and still only ran into one or two typographical errors, and none that were immersion-breaking. The characters were interesting and flawed, and each approached the apocalypse differently.

Overall, I think the author did a fantastic job, and I’m happy to recommend the book to anyone who enjoys Young Adult Apocalyptic Fiction with a bit of a thriller thrown in for good measure.

Book Review: Wakers

wakersTitle: Wakers

Author: Orson Scott Card

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Laz is a side-stepper: a teen with the incredible power to jump his consciousness to alternate versions of himself in parallel worlds. All his life, there was no mistake that a little side-stepping couldn’t fix.

Until Laz wakes up one day in a cloning facility on a seemingly abandoned Earth.

Laz finds himself surrounded by hundreds of other clones, all dead, and quickly realizes that he too must be a clone of his original self. Laz has no idea what happened to the world he remembers as vibrant and bustling only yesterday, and he struggles to survive in the barren wasteland he’s now trapped in. But the question that haunts him isn’t why was he created, but instead, who woke him up…and why?

There’s only a single bright spot in Laz’s new life: one other clone appears to still be alive, although she remains asleep. Deep down, Laz believes that this girl holds the key to the mysteries plaguing him, but if he wakes her up, she’ll be trapped in this hellscape with him.
This is one problem that Laz can’t just side-step his way out of.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I debated for a while over how to rate this book. I’m a big fan of the author, so I was over the moon to get ahold of a review copy. I will add the caveat that the copy I read was an ARC, so there were several formatting and typographical errors that most likely will be cleaned up for the sale copies, but we’ll set that aside.

The plot of this book, the world-building, and the philosophically-0bent science of it all was fantastic. In general, I liked the characters, and the writing was clear and easy to follow.

But it wasn’t perfect. My biggest complaint about the book is the narrative voice. The narrator sounded like an author. Vocabulary was used that didn’t fit the age of the characters. Laz and Ivy barely had any personality, and their emotions didn’t ring true – it made them sound like soulless robots. If the story hadn’t been as solid, it would have ruined the book for me. I just couldn’t feel any connection to them as people.

Overall? I gave the book 4 out of 5 stars. I was entertained and I enjoyed reading it, even if it wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t feel like a Young Adult book. It felt like an adult book that just happened to have Young Adult characters – but without any of the fun things that make adult books adult.

Free Fiction Friday #277

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: Fantasy & Science Fiction!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: Searching For Refuge

searchingforrefugeTitle: Searching For Refuge [Search 1]

Author: Britney Farr

Genre: Young Adult, Post-Apocalyptic, Fantasy, Dystopian

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

They were forced into hiding to avoid persecution and death. Their only hope being the promised rescuer, but where is he?

It’s been nine years since the Great Desolation devastated the planet and ended the world as mankind knew it. Nine years since the hunted went into hiding, now desperately seeking a new sense of security and normalcy.

After nearly being caught above ground, food scavengers, and twins, Amina and Aiden are rattled to the core. Time in the tunnels is running out. It was time to stop waiting and start taking matters into their own hands. Both have lost so much already and refuse to let another loved one die at the hand of the Great Ruler.

Amina believes they must flee to the mountains in search of a new refuge. Determined to save them all, Amina sets out to the mountains. Will she find this new refuge before it’s too late? Or succumb to the deadly fate of so many others?

Aiden on the other hand, grapples with his decision to protect those he loves by fighting in the secret militia. But at what cost?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m going to give this book a tentative 4-star rating. I’ll be honest, the book wasn’t perfect. I ran across a few pretty obvious typos, and other than Amina, the rest of the characters had very little personality. Both Aiden and Paxton came across as naïve and a bit wide-eyed, despite that they were both basically in soldier programs. It was weird that Amina out of all of the characters, had the most gumption to her – even if her hot-head often got the best of her.

I think the story was solid, and the world was interesting – though I have little personal knowledge of the Hebrew/Jewish faith, I could tell that there were connections to the lore through the religion and it was just skipping over my head. The writing itself was so-so. Aside from the typographical errors, the narrative style was weak, but the story kept a good pace, and it was interesting, so I kept chugging along.

Overall, I liked the book. It had faults, and I think with a really firm editor, it could have been significantly better, but I enjoyed it. Would I read the next book in the series? Yes.

Book Review: Barbarian’s Bride

cover-barbarian's brideTitle: Barbarian’s Bride [Ice Planet Barbarians 20]

Author: Ruby Dixon

Genre: Science Fiction, Romance

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Nora says she’s happy.

Dagesh isn’t so sure. He loves his pretty human mate and wants nothing more than to bring a smile to her face…so she’ll go running into his arms. When he asks the tribe what she’s missing, someone suggests a wedding.

All right, then. He’ll throw the best barbarian wedding ever.

So how does Nora tell her determined, thoughtful mate that what she wanted wasn’t a wedding…but something a little different in bed?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m glad this series has finally ended. Although I loved the series as a whole, it was clear as it went on that the later books were little more than the author going down a list of characters and checking them off as romantic side stories. There was no plot to this, and if you haven’t read the previous books in the series, you won’t even understand this story let alone like it. Even if you have read the previous books, you could skip this one and you’ll lose nothing.

Dagesh and Nora had very little personality between the two of them and didn’t stand out as characters. I mean, sure, their romance was sweet, but they were probably the most lackluster couple of the group – even with Nora’s predilection towards rough sex.

Writing-wise, the story was fine. It was easy to read, the narrative was flawless and invisible as it should be – but that’s about the only real positive I have to say about this story. I read it, but I feel like I wasted my time doing so. Overall? Skip this one, unless you have a particular soft spot for finishing every novel in the series

Book Review: Barbarian’s Treasure

cover-barbarian's treasureTitle: Barbarian’s Treasure [Ice Planet Barbarians 19]

Author: Ruby Dixon

Genre: Science Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Everyone knows Megan and Cashol hit it off the moment they resonated… didn’t they? But when Josie goes into labor, an off-hand comment makes Megan point out to her friend that no, things weren’t always so smooth. Just because resonance is immediate doesn’t mean it’s immediately perfect.

But also…just because it’s an instant bond doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Sometimes it’s very, very right.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

There’s a lot I liked about this book; Megan and Cashol were both complex characters, and their relationship was full of tension, but also sweet, endearing moments. I found it impossible not to like them, both as individual characters and as a couple. The writing itself was clean, easy to read, and paced well. I have no complaints there – and overall, the book gave me a warm, cozy feel having read it.

It wasn’t perfect though. Like some of the previous books in the series, not much happened in this one. The book mostly contained a flashback to when Cashol and Megan first met and the ensuing couple of weeks of strain between them. There wasn’t any outside conflict really, and all of the conflict was in Megan’s mind and Cashol’s misunderstanding of how to deal with her anxiety. You could easily skip over this book and miss nothing – and if you haven’t read all the previous books, you won’t gain anything by reading this one.

In the end, this book was okay. It wasn’t fantastic, but it wasn’t awful either. I’m glad I read it, and that’s all that matters.

Book Review: Barbarian’s Seduction

cover-barbarian's seductionTitle: Barbarian’s Seduction [Ice Planet Barbarians 18]

Author: Ruby Dixon

Genre: Science Fiction, Romance

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Marlene’s not like the other humans. They weep while she smiles. They look at us with fear, while she entices me with a come-hither look.I…have no idea why such a bold female resonated to a male like me. I am the most reticent of all the sa-khui tribe, a hunter that never expected to have a family of my own. But resonance chooses, and it has chosen her for me. And Marlene is quite determined to seduce me…and who can say no to such a woman? This story explores the long-awaited romance of Marlene and Zennek. Even though it is a ‘flashback’ to the beginning of the Ice Planet Barbarians series, it can be read out of order. Enjoy!

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I never thought this day would come, but I’m giving this book 2 stars. That is an incredibly rare rating for me to hand out because it means that I read the entire book, but I still didn’t like it. Here’s the thing; writing-wise, the book is fine. The narrative flows well, it’s easy to read, there aren’t a lot of errors, and I don’t dislike the characters.

I was incredibly bored.

There was no real tension in the relationship between Marlene and Zennek. There was an ice storm that kept them separated for a week, but those are incredibly common on the planet, and certainly not something new. Nothing happened. We didn’t learn anything, and nothing in the world-building or characters was expanded upon. It was just a cozy little romance, and that’s it.

As this series gets closer and closer to the end, it’s easier and easier to tell that it’s nearing. There are flashbacks in every book now (which I am not a fan of), there’s no action, no big changes to the world of the Sa-Khui, the metlaks and other creatures barely make an appearance. The series is just… floundering. This was another one of those books where you could skip it entirely and not miss anything.

Book Review: Barbarian’s Beloved

cover-barbarian's belovedTitle: Barbarian’s Beloved [Ice Planet Barbarians 17]

Author: Ruby Dixon

Genre: Science Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

My tribesmates don’t understand her. The other humans think she’s weak. But no one knows my mate like I do. They don’t see her gentle heart or her brave spirit. I know why she struggles. I know how strong she is. And I know I’ll do anything to make her smile.

But can I convince her that she can be happy in this strange new world with me?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

There are some things about this book that I liked; I loved the characters, their sweet romance, and the author shining a spotlight on what Anxiety is like… because it is awful and debilitating. I suffer from it myself, and there were a few years where I couldn’t step outside my front door without having a panic attack. It is incredibly hard to live with, and having a character with Anxiety that can’t just go get a bottle of medication… well, was certainly a challenge. I felt deeply for Ariana and was happy that the author showed several different reactions from other characters. It was well done.

As far as the writing itself, like the rest of the series, the book was well-written. Even if this book wasn’t my favorite in the series, the author did a fantastic job of sucking me into the story. The narrative flowed easily, was well-paced, and there weren’t a lot of obtrusive errors. The only thing I didn’t like, was the flashback-like sequence of events – but that was more of a personal issue for me. I like timelines to be linear.

All of that being said, the book wasn’t perfect. There wasn’t a lot of action, and what little there was, was done off-screen. There wasn’t a lot of tension between the characters, or anything else to push the story forward except Ariana’s anxiety – and I don’t know that it was enough. I also was a little miffed that the characters previously barely introduced in the last book were shoved along in the timeline because their stories took place outside the series. It felt like a little of their story got spoiled.

Overall, the book was okay. It wasn’t the end-all-be-all book in the series, but I don’t regret reading it. Again, this is one of those books that you could probably skip and not miss much.

Book Review: Barbarian’s Tease

cover-barbarian's teaseTitle: Barbarian’s Tease [Ice Planet Barbarians 16]

Author: Ruby Dixon

Genre: Science Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

It should have been a one-night stand.

I never intended to seduce Taushen, but things happened. I don’t dwell on the past and while it was great, I’m not looking for a relationship. Of course, try telling that to Taushen. The big blue alien’s in love after one night, and it’s making things darn awkward. We’ve got bigger problems than whether or not I’m his woman, like the ‘cargo’ of the space ship that landed here.

But Taushen’s not giving up. He thinks I’m his mate.

And he’ll do anything to keep me.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ll be honest, this wasn’t my favorite book out of the series, but it also wasn’t the worst. The thing is, this book didn’t present anything new. There are a lot of misunderstandings, more “kidnapping” of a potential mate, more people being added for the sake of continuing the story. The intrigue of the new colonists was held off-screen or in other stories, so most of the story was just Brooke and Taushen together in a cave.

Again. It felt as if this book was written as an obligatory ticking off of a pair on the long list of characters, but for the most part, it was all done before.

Like the other books in the series, this one was well written. The narrative flowed well, there weren’t a lot of errors, and the characters were easy to empathize with (well, Taushen was… I didn’t really care for Brooke). This is one of those books in the series that didn’t have a lot of action to it.

Overall, it was okay, but it’s one of those books you could probably skip over and not miss anything.