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!

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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 #230

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 Romance!

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Book Review: Down With This Ship

review-cover-down with this shipTitle: Down With This Ship

Author: Katie Kingman

Genre: Contemporary Young Adult

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Kole Miller does one thing really well: write fanfiction for the show The Space Game. Everything else is a struggle: like managing her anxiety, frequent crushes, and plans after high school. But when her blog, Spacer, wins a major fanfiction contest, her traffic soars.

With massive readership comes criticism Kole isn’t prepared for, including getting stuck in the heated ship wars surrounding the show. And then an invitation to speak at The Space Game’s official convention arrives in her inbox.

When the most competitive kids in her Creative Writing class discover Kole’s writing Spacer, her blog is taken hostage and she risks them hitting ctrl+A+del on Spacer. To win it back, Kole must face both her inner demons and the ones at Crystal Lake High before they make the drama not just about The Space Game, but about Kole herself.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m very tentatively giving Down With This Ship by Katie Kingman 3-stars. Here’s the thing… there’s a very specific audience for this book, and if you aren’t part of that target audience (like I’m not), you most likely aren’t going to enjoy this book. The story leans heavily into the fan-fiction culture and has a very contemporary teen feel to it… and that isn’t going to be for everyone.

If you are a teen, and you enjoy fan fiction – you’ll actually probably love this book. You’ll be able to relate to it, and you’ll get a kick out of the hijinks. If you’re an adult though… I’d pass this one up.

Personally, the writing wasn’t great. There wasn’t a lot of atmosphere or description. The main character was somewhat of a cynical brat and had very shallow relationships with those around her. As I said, if you’re a teenager, you’ll probably love every minute of drama-filled angst, but I wanted more. The teens in this book talked like they were in middle school. Despite being from a school that focuses on academics, none of the children seemed very smart or mature, and the parents were down-right awful. It was very cliché and tropey in some ways.

By the time I got to about 30% into the book, I was over it. Maybe part of that is because I don’t understand or appreciate the fan-fiction culture. Maybe not. For a teen, I’d rate this 4 stars, because I do think there’s a specific

group of people that are going to love this book to bits, although I don’t fall into that category… for the rest of us, maybe pass this one up.

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.

Free Fiction Friday #228

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 Mystery, Suspense, & Thriller!

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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!

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THE BARGAINS

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Book Review: Knight in Paper Armor

review-cover-knight in paper armorTitle: Knight in Paper Armor

Author: Nicholas Conley

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I wanted to like Knight in Paper Armor by Nicholas Conley. The synopsis was interesting, the cover was beautiful, I liked the genre, and the world-building was interesting… but I put the back down around chapter twenty-one.

Where this book lacked for me, was the writing itself. It was mediocre at best. The children characters didn’t talk like children. The Young Adult characters didn’t talk like Young Adults. There was an elaborate world and past history to the story, but at least as far as I got into the book, none of it was explained or tied into the plot in any way. Throughout the story I got this feeling that the worldbuilding and setting were arbitrary – you could have taken the characters and their histories and put it directly into a contemporary setting, and it would have made zero difference to the book. The connection between Billy and Natalia seemed tenuous and forced.

So much of the beginning of the book was filling in the backstory for the characters that I kept wondering when the story was going to actually begin. By the time I quit, at 21 chapters in, nothing significant had happened to drive the plot forward. I take that back… one thing happened. Natalia was thrown in the trunk of a car – but even that couldn’t keep me reading. I grew bored and tired of slogging through detail that didn’t matter.

There will be readers out there that enjoy this book far more than me, but in my opinion, the writing was lackluster. It didn’t feel like a well-refined and polished book. It didn’t suck me in, I didn’t care about the characters, and I didn’t feel any sort of draw that would keep me reading.