Over the past year or so, I’ve been downloading and reading free ebooks from a number of sources – partly because I have a weakness for free, partly because I want to find greats reads for you that you don’t have to shell out a penny for!
But sometimes “you get what you pay for”. Sometimes a book is free because we wouldn’t slog through it for any other reason.
Is that the rule? Are the reading-gems the exception? I’ve dug back through my review archives to figure out which books are worth reading (and worth paying for, even if I didn’t have to).
Note: All deals are listed as of this writing. Authors naturally have the prerogative to change how they charge for their works. By that same token, some books that I loved but couldn’t list because they didn’t qualify might become free again later 😉! Continue reading →
You must pick up a fairytale with open eyes. The well-worn road to fairyland is practically paved with princesses, curses, and talking cats. Yet for those not too “grown-up” to venture into the land of fairies, ogres, and millers’ sons, Poison Kiss offers a quick, entertaining read that delivers exactly to genre.
Everyone’s heard of the “Sleeping Beauty” story, so when the king hears that his daughter is to fill the role in the next cycle of the tale, he deliberately snubs the evil fairy and prepares to ban all spinning wheels.
When the fairy responsible for the curse brings originality to the course of events and switches the cure for the curse, the horrified kingdom is left to fear “love’s first kiss” – and wonder how a spinning wheel will help reverse the whole thing. Continue reading →
Perhaps it’s a mistake to read reviews (especially critical reviews) before reading a book. I read a few reviews of Submerged, and my memory of one of them amounts to: 1) there is no coral in Alaskan waters, and 2) the female protagonist, in clinging to her past unworthiness, was making a mountain out of a molehill.
A sabotaged plane. Two dead deep-water divers.
Yancey, Alaska was a quiet town…until the truth of what was hidden in the depths off the coast began to appear.
Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey again. She has a past, and a reputation–and Yancey’s a small town. She’s returned to bury a loved one killed in the plane crash and is determined not to stay even an hour more than necessary. But then dark evidence emerges and Bailey’s own expertise becomes invaluable for the case.
Cole McKenna can handle the deep-sea dives and helping the police recover evidence. He can even handle the fact that a murderer has settled in his town and doesn’t appear to be moving on. But dealing with the reality of Bailey’s reappearance is a tougher challenge. She broke his heart, but she is not the same girl who left Yancey. He let her down, but he’s not the same guy she left behind. Can they move beyond the hurts of their pasts and find a future together?
Surfing Amazon one day for “Christian mystery” (or some similar keyword) I came across this book about a crime scene cleaner who finds evidence that the police missed – and it was free! I downloaded it, eager to start reading, and went to load it onto my e-reading device.
File is locked with DRM (digital rights management), meaning I couldn’t read it on my Nook (it’s a Kindle/.mobi file), nor on my dad’s Kindle (device registered to him, book registered to me).
Almost a year later, I did finally get to start reading (because AT&T got me a smartphone, long story short)…but needless to say it left a bad taste in my mouth.
Gabby St. Claire is a professional crime scene cleaner, and an interesting enough character. The perky go-getter type, with an interest in chemistry and forensics, she uncovers evidence in one of the houses she’s cleaning that seems to shed light on a murder investigation.
She then immediately jumps to a conclusion, and pursues that conclusion through the rest of the book. Most sleuths pursue a mystery: she pursued her conclusion…and guys. Continue reading →
Wealthy young suffragette Grace Mabry is determined to do her part for Great Britain, not only to help her nation win World War I, but also to end the fighting so her twin brother can return from the front lines.
To this end, she slips into a prestigious costume ball and hands a white feather of cowardice to Jack Benningham – well-known conscientious objector and profligate nobleman.
Unknown to her (and his family), Jack is secretly a spy-catcher for the British government, using his reputation as a devil-may-care pleasure-seeker to root out traitors to his country.
This gripping premise unwound into a TOTALLY different book than I was expecting. But once I got over my initial shock, I reconciled myself to this story as worth reading. Continue reading →
Sleeping Beauty is a set designer working for Hollywood. A Romanian gypsy casts spells of time-travel and death. An estranged royal couple mourn the loss of their only child. And the hunky love interest exhibits self-sacrificial love.
Yet, for whatever confluence of cosmic misdemeanors, all the raging richness of this story potential totally fizzled when it hit the dour surface of my consciousness. Continue reading →
In this episode of Dragnet, a military officer’s wife doesn’t see him for two years, and in her loneliness has a baby out of wedlock. To avoid hurting her husband, she decides to secretly give up the baby. It might not sound very profound explained like that, but the profound part is when her husband returns to the country, he not only forgives her, but takes the baby as his own. Now, that’s the kind of romance I can get behind!
2. Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane — Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night, Busman’s Honeymoon, Dorothy L. Sayers
While irritating to the traditional romance lovers, I admire Peter and Harriet’s slow, cautious, intellectual courtship. They have emotional baggage and a rocky meeting to overcome, same as any classic lovers, but their relationship plumbs the integrity of their characters, without focusing on superficial aspects such as appearance or kissing. It may have taken three books to get to the engagement, but they did get to an engagement – which is of course the proper way to conduct a romantic relationship.
And when’s the last time a gentleman said it was the girl’s talent for telling the truth that attracted him to her? More, please.
3. Princess Irene and Curdie — The Princess and the Goblin & The Princess and Curdie, George MacDonald
Princess Irene (the young one, not the magically allegorical one) goes through a lot – from goblins attacking her mountainous childhood home, to the nobles of her father’s court conspiring against her family. One thing she can count on, though, is her good friend Curdie the miner coming to her aid. He does have his own struggles and faults, but his devotion to his princess (plus the help of her great-grandmother) carries them through.
Sure, the prince was smitten from the first moment they met, but as he says, “She wasn’t just a pretty girl…She was so much more than that.” One more reason the recent live-action movie was a positive improvement on the original animated film, in my opinion.
5. Jo March and Professor Bhaer— Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
I admit to having a soft spot in my heart for literary people and relationships, and I for one couldn’t be happier that Laurie recovered from Jo’s rejection and married Amy, and I think this arrangement of couples suits the participants best.
I always related with Jo, given our shared love of writing, and having her marry an intelligent, scholarly gentlemen who urged her to aspire to higher things in her writing just seemed most fitting.
(Same goes for Rose and Mac in Alcott’s Rose in Bloom. Bookish guys are the best.)
6. Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan — StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty & Heart of the Swarm
It’s hard to communicate the impact of this relationship in just a few words. When Sarah is taken by the alien swarm the Zerg and transformed into a genocidal monster, Jim chases to the ends of the galaxy to rescue her. Then, in Heart of the Swarm Kerrigan believes he’s been killed and takes back the power of the Zerg Swarm to avenge him. Even after seeing her undo his work – and embrace the power her hatred gives her – Jim, while knowing their chance at a relationship is done, still covers her back…’cause that’s what a gentleman does.
Writing for “lads”, G.A. Henty’s adventure stories didn’t usually dwell on a relationship with a female. There were exceptions; but for this example I’d like to mention Cyril in When London Burned, who early in the book met his landlord’s daughter, and even had an adventure rescuing her from a villainous suitor. Near the end of the book, they tell Cyril that she’s engaged. The young lady blushes heavily. Cyril smiles and asks who the lucky man is.
Ha, ha! It’s some young man we haven’t heard of before! You didn’t think Cyril would marry her, did you? He ends up marrying a girl who was at least mentioned in passing; while her character was not really explored, he did rescue her from the Great Fire of 1666, so they at least have that…
It’s hard to call this one a romance, since he’s a human super-soldier and she’s an artificial intelligence (AKA computer program), but they do have some neat chemistry (when she’s not being annoying) and their professional relationship of mutual respect, trust, and care just sends shivers down the spine.
One of the disappointments in this book was the way it didn’t tie off its romance-string-art. The upside of this, though, is that every reader can pair off their own personal favorites with no canon to nay-say them. If I had my way, I’d marry off the tech wizard and the sniper chick.
11. Eris Morn and Cayde-6 — Destiny, Bungie
Eris herself has a tragic back-story. The sole surviver of a six-Guardian team that invaded the fortress of the evil Hive, Eris’s melancholy is matched only by her penchant for dire warnings about the Hive…and her disdain for Cayde.
In contrast, Cayde-6 is upbeat, energetic, and determined to get Eris to smile again. Of course, he did have her ship blown up – accidentally – while fighting the Hive…which led to an “awkward conversation.”
It could just be one professional – one soldier of the Light – trying to encourage another and goad her out of her despondency…or it could be Cayde teases Eris – and she loathes him – because of some other connection. Hey, a fan-girl can dream, right?
Kimia Wood has been writing stories since she was little. Join the mailing list to learn more about her upcoming cheerful post-apocalyptic series!