Free Fiction Friday #205

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: Before The Dawn

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00037]Title: Before The Dawn [The Ending 4]

Author: Lindsey Fairleigh & Lindsey Pogue

Genre: Post Apocalyptic, New Adult, Science Fiction, Romance, Dystopian

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

A year ago, the Virus killed off most people in the world.

A year ago, strange things started happening to those who survived. Some of them transformed into something dark and sinister, while others evolved, becoming something more, something beyond human.

A year ago, Dani and Zoe were lost. They traversed the country to find one another, losing some of the people dearest to them along the way. They fought for their right to simply live, uncovered long-buried secrets, and discovered irreversible truths. And after everything Dani and Zoe have been through—even with the battle wounds that they bear—they’re still not safe.

It’s time for the struggling to end, for survivors to take back their lives, their families, their safety. It’s time to really begin to live, and to do that, they must wait for the first rays of dawn.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I can honestly say that I was somewhat surprised by this book. I’ll admit, the third book in the series was probably my least favorite, and reading the third and fourth book in the span of just a few days had me a little burned out. I went into the fourth book full of trepidation that it was going to be yet another long drag through a narrative where very little happened. Luckily, that wasn’t so.

Let me first say that the writing in Before The Dawn was pretty damn flawless. I didn’t notice any obvious typos, awkward sentences, or grammatical errors. Not a single one—which is pretty amazing. The narrative flowed smoothly at a nice pace throughout, and other than a few short moments at the beginning of the book (Anna’s sections of the book weren’t my favorite), I didn’t feel the need to skim.

The characters were unique and complex, and though I sometimes had difficulty throughout the series telling Dani/Zoe and their respective J-named boyfriends apart by tone, I enjoyed their company. Their world was rich, fraught with danger and uncertainty, and unlike the previous book, had some pretty great action oriented moments. This was probably one of my favorite books in the series thus far—it may even be my favorite. The story felt wrapped up by the end, and though it had it’s stab at an HEA ending, it wasn’t perfect—which kept it from falling into the familiar romance genre trope that often ends with everyone pregnant, married, and all the bad guys defeated. Okay, so maybe there’s a smidgen of trope involved, but it was pulled off really well.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and I think it was a fantastic ending to the series. I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s been following the series thus far—including those who, like me, may not have enjoyed the third book quite as much.

Book Review: Out of the Ashes

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00037]Title: Out of the Ashes [The Ending 3]

Author: Lindsey Fairleigh, Lindsey Pogue

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Adventure

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Hope brought them together, but it’s now fear that drives them…and threatens to tear them apart.
Zoe and her companions succeeded in rescuing Dani from the Colony. But not without sacrifice. Beaten and broken, they head west, determined to leave behind the torment and horrors they experienced in Colorado.

As Dani and Zoe make the perilous trek home to Bodega Bay, they learn that danger can take many forms–other survivors, their friends, even themselves–and that things are rarely what they seem. Zoe is desperate to become the woman she sees in others’ memories, while Dani struggles to conceal damaging secrets, risking losing herself–her humanity–completely. Together, they must rediscover the true meaning of friendship, love, and trust, and learn just how hard they’re willing to fight for what remains of their shattered world.

As relationships are put to the test, second chances are given, and new life emerges, death lurks in the most unlikely of places. To survive, Dani and Zoe must accept that sometimes hope alone isn’t enough.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Let me preface this review by saying that I adore this series as a whole–I’ve been following it from the moment I was sent the ARC of the first book–but this installment to the series wasn’t my favorite. It’s been more than a year since I read the second book in The Ending series, so going into Out of the Ashes by Lindsey Fairleigh and Lindsey Pogue, I had a bit of a hard time sinking in. Like Zoe, one of the main characters of the series, I felt like I had a form of amnesia. I couldn’t remember what had happened previously in the series, particularly near the ending of the second book, and so being dropped into the fast-paced and somewhat alarming beginning of the third book, I was rightfully confused. It took me a while to sort out what was happening and to remind myself of previous plot points… and in that way, I felt very close to Zoe in her struggle with trying to remember her past. It was an unexpected and strange sisterhood between us throughout the book.

Technically speaking, the book was exceedingly well written. I didn’t run into any grammatical errors, typos, or punctuation problems. The characters were all distinct, easy to love or hate respectively, and the story moved along at a steady pace. The setting was rich with detail but not so much as to bog down the narrative, and overall, I enjoyed the book as a whole.

There was only one problem.

I slogged through the book. It was odd how slowly I moved through the story–and it took me till nearly the end of the book to figure out why. There were no big battles or dramatic plot points. The majority of the book was spent delving into the character’s emotional states and the relationships between the members of their group… but very little was spent in any sort of action scene or on any sort of big battle with a nemesis. It was all very interesting–don’t get me wrong.. but by the end of the book, I was left feeling that nothing had happened. As much as I enjoyed spending time with the characters, by the end I was glad to finally be done and to set the book aside and move on. I’m even a little hesitant now to pick up the fourth book, though I will be doing so shortly… this installment just wasn’t as tension filled as I’d come to expect–although, thank goodness, there was a lot more of the romance present that had been missing from the second book in the series.

If you like post-apocalyptic stories filled with special abilities and great characters, I highly recommend this series, even if this wasn’t my favorite out of the bunch.

Book Review: Jubilee Year

review-cover-jubilee yearTitle: Jubilee Year [Erelong 1]

Author: Gerard O’Neill

Genre: Science Fiction, Apocalyptic

Rating: 1 Star

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Description/Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old Storm lives in a small New South Wales country town beside one of the most famous telescopes in the world. When he falls for Penny, the daughter of the chief scientist and director on Mount Woorat, he is sucked into the center of a global conspiracy.

He must keep himself and those around him alive using his wits, tenacity, and a special ability he tries to hide. He cannot do it alone, and yet others are not always who they seem. Of even more consequence, neither is the reality of a world he once thought he knew.

Set in Australia, Jubilee Year is Book One of the Erelong Trilogy, a dystopian science fiction thriller series. Book Two will be released early in 2016.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I had such a hard time qualifying this book when it was time to sit down and give it a review. I guess I should start off by saying that I didn’t finish the book. Going in, the premise sounded interesting and right up my alley as far as genres go. I was excited to delve into it—but at the same time, my end of the TBR list has been looming and with only half of December left to finish a 10-book list, I was looking forward to reading through this book quickly and getting it out of my way along with a handful of others.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened.

Technically speaking, the book was fairly well written. There were only a few typos that I ran across—and I was reading a copy that hadn’t yet been fully edited—so that was understandable. The errors weren’t distracting, and overall, it felt like the narrative was well put together. The characters and the settings were interesting, and I had no trouble following the story… but by the time I hit the 5th chapter, I was ready to set the book aside.

The pacing was slow in the first five chapters, and scenes that felt as if they should have been engaging and filled with active tension didn’t quite hit the mark. Characters described items and actions that weren’t important in the current moment and drama, and by the time each scene had played out, I found myself skimming. Honestly, I was bored. It wasn’t any one thing that I can point out and say “this is bad” because the narrative was well written… it just didn’t capture my interest as quickly as I wanted it to.

If I didn’t have a book deadline looming, I’d probably have set this aside, given it a week or two to rest, and then picked it back up to try again… but at the same time, I have a belief that books should capture your interest from the first page and not let up until the end.. and however well written this book was, it just didn’t do that for me. Overall, Jubilee Year just wasn’t my cup of tea—but if you’re a sci-fi apocalyptic story fan, I’d recommend that you pick this up and give it a try. I have no doubt that there are going to be a lot of people out there that enjoy the book much more than I.. I just don’t have the time to dally with it right now if it isn’t going to hold my interest, and it didn’t.

Book Review: Sparked

review-cover-sparked

Title: Sparked

Author: Lily Cahill

Genre: Romance, Science Fiction, New Adult

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Independence Falls, Colorado. 1954. It was the start of a perfect summer—until the fog rolled in and changed everything.

Clayton Briggs has always had it easy. The pampered second son of the prestigious Briggs clan, Clayton’s poised to take over the family business. His playboy days aren’t quite over, but his mother is on a campaign to match him with a woman suitable to his station. When he meets a beautiful girl at the Firelight Festival, he’s instantly attracted—until he realizes she’s a member of the notorious Murphy family. The Murphys and Briggs have been feuding for decades, but Clayton can’t control his feelings for Cora. Will passion trump family responsibility?

Cora Murphy has always had it hard. When she isn’t scraping together pennies by baking for the town’s wealthy families, she’s all but a slave to her father and brother, who drink and gamble away most of her profits. She could run, but Cora won’t leave her sister behind. All she needs a bit of luck, but luck has never sided with the Murphys. Then her entire life changes in one moment. When Cora is caught in a mysterious purple fog, she suddenly discovers powers beyond anything she’s ever imagined. And it seems Clayton might be the only man who understands … because he has powers of his own.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Going into Sparked by Lily Cahill, I wasn’t sure how much I was actually going to like it. The synopsis was interesting, but a little odd. I’d never heard of the author previously, and it’s one of those books that came across my inbox with a deadline date that was still a month or so away. I thought, “Well, I’ll give it a chance.” and half an hour later, I was completely engrossed.

I’ll admit, my first impression wasn’t great. The sentence structures at the beginning of the book were choppy and ill-punctuated. I’m one of those people who can’t stand a misused conjunction, and when the sentences become uniform and bite-size because of a misused conjunction? Forget it. It’s a particular pet peeve of mine. I didn’t give up, however. I am happy to say, that other than two minor typos, the rest of the book was free of any large grammatical or punctuation mistakes. The text was easy to follow and well executed.

I love the main characters, Clayton, and Cora. As a couple, the two were an appealing mix of steamy, romantic, and determined. They had their share of misunderstandings through the book, but they never came across as overly dramatic, whiny, or unreasonably moronic. I loved them together, and I loved them equally as much as characters independent of one another. They were a good combination, and I wanted to cheer them on from the very beginning.

Overall, I really liked the book as a whole—but there were a few things that stood out that made me question a five-star rating.

The secondary characters of the book were pretty 2-D. They were all a little overwhelmingly stereotyped. The abusive dad and equally as abusive and cruel son, the father and mother that were all about social class, and quick to blame their son for not having his head on straight… the ex-girlfriend that tried to tear them apart, even the doctor who chose to keep their secrets despite having no logical reason to do so. It made for a very interesting story—don’t get me wrong—but I wish there had been a little more depth and unpredictability to the secondary characters.

Another thing that I couldn’t quite get a grasp on was the world-building. The story was set in the 1950’s, which though quirky and interesting, didn’t seem to have any impact on the story. There didn’t seem to be a particular reason that the story was set in the decade it was—the plot would have been the same had it been set in a more modern time period. I expected there to be some reason, some identifiable point where I could say “That! That is why this was set in the 50’s! They couldn’t have written this event otherwise.” but it never happened. Maybe it will happen in a subsequent book in the series, but frankly, I have no idea.

It was also never explained where the purple fog—the arbiter of the super-powers that brought the main couple together—came from. Other than a few wild guesses by the characters, we never learn its origins, what it does exactly, or where it went. The book was labeled as “sci-fi” (though I didn’t see any sci-fi elements, just fantasy/paranormal), so I can only assume that in a subsequent book we’ll see the sci-fi origins of the purple fog… but at least for now, the question remains unanswered.

In the end, the problems I found with the narrative weren’t big ones. I can live without knowing the origin of the purple fog, and I can live with the stereotyped side characters. The punctuation and minor typos didn’t break the book for me—but all these things added up did knock it down a star. It wasn’t the greatest book I’ve ever read. That being said, it was still a very good book. I was drawn in by the writing, and I loved the romance aspect of the story. The super powers were fantastic and well-executed. Despite it’s flaws, I really enjoyed it, and I’d be happy to continue on into the series. If you’re looking for a good, steamy New Adult book with a bit of a sci-fi/supernatural mystery to it, I recommend you give this a try. I can’t wait to delve further into this series.

Book Review: Across The Universe

cover-acrosstheuniverseTitle: Across the Universe

Author: Beth Revis

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn’t do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed’s hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there’s only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have to admit, posting a 3-star review for this book, I feel a bit like I’m going against the grain. Everywhere I look I see rave reviews for Across the Universe, even from my fellow bloggers… but I stand by 3 stars. The book was okay, but it wasn’t anything special. From the very beginning the plot (teenager wakes up from cryo-sleep early, on board a spaceship overrun by the managerial crew who’ve taken over) was a familiar one. In fact, one of my favorite science fiction books from when I was still in grade-school started off the same way (wayyy back in the 80’s)… kid wakes up from cryo-sleep early.  I wasn’t surprised or enthralled.

For the most part, the story kept me reading, partly due to the fun of reminiscing over a familiar plot from my childhood, but despite the many assurances I had from other reviewers… the book wasn’t thrilling or suspenseful. I had the bad-guy picked out the first time they mentioned him. This wasn’t a great mystery. The characters had an inkling of depth, but I feel as though more could have been done with them. It almost felt as if something were missing. I’d have liked to hear more about Kaleigh and what happened to her, or even the full story behind why the Eldest tried to have Orion killed, but neither were fully explained. The author spent more time on The Season than the back-stories of the characters, which was a shame. I inwardly cringed when the season came up.  Now, understand that I’m not some great prude.  I read a LOT of romance novels and erotica–it’s somewhat my forte–but in a book labeled as YA, I couldn’t help but think “and how old do these YA need to be?” while the characters proceeded to join ship-wide orgies, and the main character nearly being raped.

I honestly don’t think the season had any direct relationship to the plot in any way… other than being a moment were the author tried to say “look here! i’m so clever! look at my world building!” Some of the world building was interesting. I really liked the beginning when Amy was being put into cryo-sleep. It was nice to see a book where the realities of how embarrassing and uncomfortable the whole situation was wasn’t glossed over. I also liked the (cliche) idea of how the crew took over the ship… but that’s where the fun ends. It’s all been done before, and in some cases, better. Even the romance was lack-luster… if you can even call it a romance. Elder had a teenage crush on Amy even before he met her, but Amy never seemed to respond to his affections (or anyone else’s) and then it just… faded away. The author stopped talking about the romance at some point, and it became background noise.

In the end, I did enjoy the book, but I wish the author had spent more time developing the story. It’s a fun read, but it lacks depth… to the characters, the plot, the romance… everything.

Book Review: Visions of Heat

cover-visionsofheatTitle: Visions of Heat [Psy-Changeling 2]

Author: Nalini Singh

Genre: Paranormal, Dystopian, Romance

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Used to cold silence, Faith NightStar is suddenly being tormented by dark visions of blood and murder. A bad sign for anyone, but worse for Faith, an F-Psy with the highly sought after ability to predict the future. Then the visions show her something even more dangerous – aching need… exquisite pleasure. But so powerful is her sight, so fragile the state of her mind, that the very emotions she yearns to embrace could be the end of her.

Changeling Vaughn D’Angelo can take either man or jaguar form, but it is his animal side that is overwhelmingly drawn to Faith. The jaguar’s instinct is to claim this woman it finds so utterly fascinating, and the man has no argument. But while Vaughn craves sensation and hungers to pleasure Faith in every way, desire is a danger that could snap the last threads of her sanity. And there are Psy who need Faith’s sight for their own purposes. They must keep her silenced – and keep her from Vaughn…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Go buy it. Now. Honestly, if you love Paranormal or Dystopian Romance, you’re going to love this. Hands down. I was completely blown away by this book. The writing was exceptional. It was clear, perfectly paced, and never lost my interest. I ended up reading it cover to cover in a few hours and didn’t even take the time to stop and eat a meal. The world building in this story was so intriguing: A society of people with phsycic-related powers (telepathy, seers, empaths, etc) who live every day connected to massive NetMind, and have been stripped of human emotion. They were basically brainwashed into believing whatever the “council” of their society chose to tell them, and all of it was lies.

The characters were unique and felt like they were real people, not 2D concepts. Faith NightStar and Vaughn D’Angelo may have been the cutest, and most challenging couple ever, but the way the author portrayed their strange dynamic…. absolutely amazing! Faith is an F-Psy, she sees the future, and her society isolated her at the young age of 3, keeping her from all physical contact for her entire life. She’s been taught to have no emotions, and spends her days making business predictions. That is, until one day, she has a question… and the only way to answer it, is to leave her secluded compound and tromp off into the middle of changeling territory in search of the only person who’s ever left the NetMind.

What happens next is a journey fraught with discovery, betrayal, murder, passion, and Faith’s only chance for freedom. I really enjoyed the way the author put together the romance in this story. The characters began the story in such a way that it wasn’t even a possibility for Vaughn or Faith to ever be in a relationship…. the thought didn’t even cross their minds… but as the story slowly goes on, they really push each other’s boundaries until inevitably, there’s no other logical way for them to survive. They needed each other. It was sizzling and endearing, and possibly one of the most entertaining and convincing romances I’ve come across in one of these types of books. Well done Ms. Singh, well done.

I’m a fan from this point on, and will buy every single book in this series. I’m hooked. So, if you like dystopian stories with complicated world building, sizzling romances, or stories about shape-shifters and Psy’s… go grab this book and give it a try. You’ll love it.

In The Mail #10

ImageImageToday in the mail (okay well maybe one of these came today and one of them came a week or so ago but I was too lazy to post about it.. ahem). I received a copy of Riley’s Rogues [2]: Darkstorm by Raymond Fiore. (Science Fiction)

Description/Synopsis: “This is why I joined up in the first place! To be on some dung heap planet in the armpit of the galaxy trying to keep a damn giant robot from ruining my day!”

Former Imperial Marine Corps officer Logan Riley is back. This time, it’s on his own terms. Reunited with his former teammates, The Rogues, he sets out to find an Imperium Security Agency operative who has disappeared while investigating an assassination attempt on the emperor. Riley’s Rogues discover that the Kyryns are undertaking a secret project that could upset the galactic balance of power. To stop the Kyryns, the Rogues have to fight their way past Darkstorm Troopers – the Uberfraggers!

*****

And the other book is Waiting for Morning [The Brides of Last Chance Ranch] by Margaret Brownley. (Historical Romance)

Description/Synopsis: Molly Hatfield comes to Arizona Territory seeking stability and security. But living in Cactus Patch provides her with more than she ever dreamed of.

There is nothing Molly wouldn’t do for her teenaged brother, Donny. Blaming herself for the accident that left him wheel-chair bound, Molly has dedicated her life to his care. But in 1896, gainful employment for a woman is hard to come by. So when Molly learns that an eccentric rancher in Cactus Patch, Arizona, is looking for an heiress–someone to take over management of the ranch in exchange for future ownership–she jumps at the chance to provide a real home for her brother.

If she proves to have a knack for ranching and agrees to remain single for life, the ranch can be hers. Neither stipulation worries Molly. She’s resourceful and hardworking. And she gave up dreams of marriage long ago when she dedicated her life to her brother’s well-being.

However, Molly didn’t bank on meeting Dr. Caleb Fairbanks, the town’s handsome and charismatic young doctor. Caleb has a way with Molly that makes her nervous. But it’s how he is with her brother that really alarms her. Caleb sees past the wheelchair and genuinely likes Donny, but Molly fears he’s putting unrealistic ideas into her brother’s head. Falling in love with Caleb would threaten everything she’s worked for, even her brother’s future happiness.

But it could be the very reason God brought her to Last Chance Ranch.

*****

Both books came to me via  Goodreads Giveaway :3