Free Fiction Friday #76

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #76! For those of you who are new to this blog, or 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 that 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 them is: Historical Romance!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: Remnants

review-cover-remnantsTitle: Remnants [Brandon Fisher FBI Series 6]

Author: Carolyn Arnold

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Crime

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When multiple body parts are recovered from the Little Ogeechee River in Savannah, Georgia, local law enforcement calls in FBI agent and profiler Brandon Fisher and his team to investigate. But with the remains pointing to three separate victims, this isn’t proving to be an open-and-shut case.

With no quick means of identifying the deceased, building a profile of this serial killer is more challenging than usual. How are these targets being selected? Why are their limbs being severed and their bodies mutilated? And what is it about them that is triggering this person to murder?

The questions compound as the body count continues to rise, and when a torso painted blue and missing its heart is found, the case takes an even darker turn. But this is only the beginning, and these new leads draw the FBI into a creepy psychological nightmare. One thing is clear, though: The killing isn’t going to stop until they figure it all out. And they are running out of time…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Remnants by Carolyn Arnold is not the type of book I would normally pick up. Although I love murder mysteries and suspense stories, I’ll admit that character-driven fiction is the main basis for my love of most books—and this book wasn’t character driven. We’ll get to that in a minute, though.

Technically speaking, Remnants was well written. It was easy to follow along, there weren’t a lot of grammatical or punctuation mistakes, and the pace of the book was steady throughout. It was effortless to sink into the story and follow along with the story—I have nothing to complain about.

The crime was interesting and thrilling, and like the characters, I had a hard time puzzling out who the perpetrator was until near the very end. My only true nitpick is that I didn’t feel like I really connected with any of the characters. I didn’t relate to them, I didn’t particularly like them, and aside from the murderer, I didn’t find them all that interesting. Maybe it’s my penchant for character-driven fiction—I don’t know—but It did drop this book down a star for me.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book though. Overall, I enjoyed the book for what it was, and if you love crime fiction, this is a solid choice. I only wish I’d been a little more drawn to the characters than I was. It would have been nice to get sucked into the personalities of the FBI agents a little more.

Book Review: Vanish

review-cover-vanishTitle: Vanish

Author: Becca J. Campbell

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Eva has two secrets. The second is that she periodically vanishes into thin air.

Usually, Eva’s spontaneous disappearances last only a few minutes, but on the day of her high school graduation, she vanished for nearly ten years. For a decade she was invisible and intangible—unable to be felt or seen or heard. She can’t imagine a worse torture than standing on the outside looking in.

Now she’s back, but it’s not enough to be tangible once again. Eva needs to find a way to stop vanishing permanently. Which is why she’s facing her ten-year class reunion—and her ex-boyfriend. The clue to stopping her disappearances must be tied to him, intertwined with their past. Unfortunately, approaching him is awkward-level five billion, considering he broke up with her ten years ago.

When Eva starts getting threatening texts from an unknown source, she realizes the reunion has just gotten even more complicated. Especially when she discovers that source has found out about her second, worse secret.

In order to find the key to stop her vanishing, Eva must battle grudge-wielding friends, relentless old crushes, and a classmate with a vendetta against her. And, in the meantime, hope she doesn’t vanish again. Because somebody wants her gone for another ten years.

Vanish is a sweet romance with a fantastical twist. It’s the perfect blend of Magical Realism and Romance. If you enjoy charmingly quirky characters, a love story that will tug on your heartstrings, and an emotionally rich storyline, download this book today.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have sort of an odd relationship with Vanish by Becca J. Campbell, in that I read it twice, and not because I loved the book so much that I wanted to read it again, but because I read two different version of the ARC, several months apart. Because of this, I have a somewhat screwed view of the story. I remember parts of the book that are no longer in the final copy—some of those bits I liked a lot, others no so much, but I’m going to try to stick mostly to the current version (as I assume, fellow reader, that this is the version you will be reading as well).

Here’s the thing: I went into this book having no knowledge about what it was about. I was given a two line teaser and signed an agreement that I’d read the book within a narrow 3-week period. I didn’t know the genre, the premise of the story… nothing. What I found, was a rather contemporary urban fantasy with some paranormal and romance thrown in. There’s quite a bit that happens in the story before the reader is introduced to the story—and I’m not a huge fan of stories that do that. Because the main character’s friendships, relationships, and initial disappearance (and subsequent 10-year absence) happened before the story started, I felt like I’d missed a huge part of the action and tension in the story. What I was left with, was a short, sweet story that spans about three days in its entirety.

Technically speaking, the book was exceedingly well edited. The narrative flowed well and pulled me into the story from the very beginning. There were no obvious typos or grammatical errors, and the actions and dialogue of most of the characters rang true. I say most, because the antagonist of the book, a former classmate, and ex-girlfriend of the male lead, was a rather lackluster character. For no real obvious reason, she was obsessed with Tait in a very stalker-ish way, even though they hadn’t seen each other in a decade. Her actions in this and other parts of the story came across as terribly contrived and unrealistic. Her motivations and the way she handled the paranormal aspect of the book just made no sense—and worse yet, fell apart easily once the characters began to stand up for themselves. She was like the evil popular girl in any teen TV show, but this wasn’t a teen book. This is an adult romance… which is probably why it sat so poorly with me.

That wasn’t the only issue, though arguably the biggest. There were mentions throughout the book of other special people like Eva, who also had super powers, but most of them were mentioned in passing and never shown. The relationship between Eva and her former boyfriend was forced upon the reader as something it wasn’t, and then immediately switched out for another romance with Tait, that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. There was no tension (sexual or otherwise) throughout the book, and the little bit of a teaser mystery that was tossed into the description turned out to be not that big of a deal.

Originally, I gave this book four stars after reading the initial copy. There were issues for me with the way the book was touted as a standalone, but obviously tied into another series (this seemed to be edited out in the second copy), but overall, I found it a sweet, enjoyable story. Maybe it’s the fact that I read it twice, maybe it was the edits that changed the story to the second version… I’m not sure, but I ended up not liking the story as much the second time around. It was entertaining, and it was sweet, but I felt that it was missing depth and a sense of tension.

I think this book is best geared towards readers who enjoy sweet, contemporary romance with a paranormal theme, and maybe the tiniest bit of drama.  It isn’t a story that’s going to draw you in and make you think, but it makes a nice afternoon read if you’re just looking for something fun and romantic to sink into for a few short hours.

Book Review: Beastly Lights

review-cover-beastly lightsTitle: Beastly Lights

Author: Theresa Jane

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Release Date: March 29, 2017 – Not yet available on Amazon at the time this review was posted.

Description/Synopsis:

Gambled away by her brother, Freya is now bound to the music world’s resident bad boy Liam Henderson as his live-in maid.

Freya Coleman is a struggling artist who can hardly get by. With a past she would rather not revisit and a future that didn’t extend past her next cup of coffee, something had to change. Freya just didn’t know how much.

Liam Henderson lives in the spotlight. His wild nights and latest conquests make every woman want him, and every man want to be him. The rockstar has a carefully constructed persona to keep everyone out. That is, until a drunken night gets out of hand and he finds himself with the winning hand in a poker game, and the prize is a feisty redhead. A prize who just might break down the walls he has been so desperately hiding behind.

Thrown together, these two are a disaster waiting to happen. A disaster the world is eager to watch and comment on until their fingers drop off. What starts off as a fake relationship to improve Liam’s image, blossoms into so much more, and Freya is swept up into the world of bright lights and illusions. Everyone has an opinion when the lights are shining on their beloved rock god Liam Henderson, and they are eagerly waiting to tear down anyone who is bathed in the famous glow.

Can happily ever after exist when the whole world is watching?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m going to give this book the benefit of the doubt. I’ll admit, when I picked up Beastly Lights by Theresa Jane, I didn’t immediately like the main characters, particularly Freya. My first impression of her was that she was jaded, pessimistic and a bit of a complainer. The way she narrated the story made it seem as if she was generally unhappy and unkind to those around her, often making negative in-head comments about her friends and relatives. It didn’t put this book off to a great start.

The main male lead,  Liam, wasn’t much better. He was constantly drunk, jaded, and pretty much treated all his friends (and Freya) like trash. In fact, a lot of the characters were not only imperfect, but downright awful people, and it was hard to get past that for the first couple of chapters.

But (and that’s a big but), the story improved. As the story continued I found myself enjoying the stubbornness of Freya and the little disputes between here and Liam. There were moments when I genuinely laughed at her strange snarky comments and the way she handled Liam’s off-putting manner. This was a character, that although heavily flawed and marked by her past, was more than willing to stand up for herself and challenge the people around her. She didn’t let this rock star walk all over her. Freya didn’t bend for anyone—and not only did she not bend, she often pushed back. Over time, I grew to really enjoy her character and the dynamic relationship between her and Liam.

Although there wasn’t actually much maid-work going on throughout the story (make no mistake, that part of the plot was quickly dropped), the overall story was very reminiscent of some Korean drama’s I’ve seen. It was an interesting mix of dark drama, light-hearted comedy, and a bit of a power war between the main couple that made it really fun and interesting.

Although the book wasn’t a straight home-run for me—there were definitely some parts of the story that I felt could have used a little more polish, or at least been a little less obvious—I do think this was a promising start from a new author, and I ended up really enjoying it overall. I only ran into a few typos (not bad for an ARC), and I think overall, I enjoyed the book.  If you’re interested in a fun contemporary read with a dynamic relationship at its core, I think you’ll probably really enjoy Beastly Lights.

Book Review: The Forgotten Girls

review-cover-the forgotten girlsTitle: The Forgotten Girls [Stevens & Windmere 6]

Author: Owen Laukkanen

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

She was a forgotten girl, a runaway found murdered on the High Line train through the northern Rocky Mountains and, with little local interest, put into a dead file. But she was not alone. When Kirk Stevens and Carla Windermere of the joint FBI-BCA violent crime force stumble upon the case, they discover a horror far greater than anyone expected—a string of murders on the High Line, all of them young women drifters whom no one would notice.

But someone has noticed now. Through the bleak midwinter and a frontier land of forbidding geography, Stevens and Windermere follow a frustratingly light trail of clues—and where it ends, even they will be shocked.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I wanted to like The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen more than I did, but honestly, I’m not sure I was the right audience. The cover was gorgeous, the description sounded interesting—the plot kept me involved with the story… but I tend to prefer character-driven fiction, and even though I do enjoy thrillers and mysteries, I had a hard time connecting to the characters in this story.

The first part of the story was built around Mila, a girl who’s best friend has gone missing, and then part way through the book, the majority of the story switches to the killer. It was a strange dynamic to get so involved with one character and then switch to another. That aside, there wasn’t a lot of time put into getting to know any of the characters deeply, and because of this, I found them rather interchangeable. I didn’t feel upset over any of the deaths, I was only mildly irritated with the killer, and by 70% into the book, I’d completely lost interest. I did finish the book, but it was a slog to get through the ending, because I just didn’t care about the characters, and the murders were so briefly touched upon that I didn’t have a macabre fascination to keep me interested in what was happening.

Was it a bad book, though? No. It was well edited and well written. I didn’t get hung up on the sentence structure, vocabulary, or any other sort of technical error. The story moved smoothly and cleanly from one event to another, and I never got confused or lost—but there was a lack of tension that I felt should have been present, and because of that and my lack of interest in the characters, I found it hard to push through the slow pace of the story.

I think if you like mystery books that aren’t too complicated and don’t have too much gore, you may enjoy this book quite a bit—like I said, it was well written, but if you’re like me and prefer character driven fiction or gripping thrillers, this may be a little bit off the mark for you. I gave this book 3 stars because it was a bit of a “meh…” read for me. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful either, it just didn’t interest me as much as I’d hoped.

Free Fiction Friday #76

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #76! For those of you who are new to this blog, or 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 that 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 them is: Science Fiction!

THE FREE

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: Cloud Cuckoo

review-cover-cloud cuckooTitle: Cloud Cuckoo [The Never Dawn 2]

Author: R.E. Palmer

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Following their shock discovery, Noah and Rebekah reluctantly return to the lower levels of The Ark. Isolated and apart once more, Noah struggles to remember what happened at the surface and suspects Mother has altered his memory.

But Noah’s attempts to unite the workers to rebel are halted when Mother begins The Purge. Her cruel, relentless trials bring Noah to breaking point as he fights to survive when faced by his worst fears. Forced to accept Mother’s terms after a month in Re-Education, Noah finally learns the truth about his people’s past that leave him determined to defeat her once and for all.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Cloud Cuckoo by R. E. Palmer was a great addition to the Never Dawn trilogy. Often after a good book, subsequent books in the series don’t always live up to the quality or the hype of the first book, but in this case, that definitely wasn’t true. My daughter and I read this book together and often found ourselves reading for several hours at a time, often into the wee hours of the morning. We were sucked into Noah’s world.

Technically speaking, much like the first book, I was given a copy that had quite a few typos/errors in it, but again, these didn’t bother me. None of the errors were jarring or subtracted from the story in any way. The writing was clean, concise, and easy to follow, and the story moved at a good pace. It was constructed in such a way that by the end of every chapter, I couldn’t keep myself from continuing on into the next chapter. I was drawn in.

Much like the previous book, the characters were a delight and the world building was expansive and well constructed. One of my favorite parts of this particular book, however, was the change in scenery for Noah. We got to see new parts of the ship. We got to spend more time with characters we hadn’t previously gotten to. There were the same old mysteries, but also a lot of new ones as Noah found out more and more about his world and the people in it.

Overall, I loved this book. I love this series, and my daughter would easily say the same. R.E. Palmer has become one of my new favorite authors. If you enjoy YA or dystopian stories, I would highly recommend you pick up this series and give it a try. You will not regret it. I am so excited to see what the third book has in store for us when it’s released!