The Sexy, The Sucky, and the Highly Implausible: This Week in Free E-books
As an introduction to my quest for great free e-books, this week I hit up Amazon’s list of Top 100 Free e-books to survey the landscape of Kindle-friendly reading material. (For the record, I own a Kindle* and therefore gravitate more toward purchasing books via Amazon; others who use different e-readers may prefer other stores, due to the difference in software.)
Narrowing my list down to the top 10 e-books therein, I found the following:
- A World I Never Made by James Lepore
- The Amersham Rubies by Rhys Bowen
- The Secret Holocaust Diaries by Nonna Bannister
- Cottage By the Sea by Ciji Ware
- Delivered with Love by Sherry Kyle
- The Abandoned by Amanda Stevens
- Backstage Pass by Olivia Cunning
- 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover by Linda Wisdom
- Elisha’s Bones by Don Hoesel
- Thicker Than Blood by C.J. Darlington
I wasn’t surprised to see that most of these books are genre fiction (as opposed to literary fiction), and mostly fall into the thriller/mystery or romance categories; these categories the heavy hitters of the literary world, as we should all know by the household familiarity people have with Tom Clancy and Danielle Steel.
Of course, there are no free e-books here by Tom Clancy or Danielle Steel, and perhaps that should tell us something. Like: people who pay for books are not the same as people who download free books. Or: big names don’t need to give things away, because they know their fans will pay for the privilege of reading their books.
“Okay,” you’re saying, “But what about the free e-books? Good or bad? Should I bother downloading them or not?”
Here are my initial reactions to the titles and descriptions included on Amazon:
A World I Never Made: Title is meh, plot summary seems like a mishmash of Ludlum’s Bourne books, The Da Vinci Code, and a book I’m currently reading called The Damage Done (which costs $11.99 in Kindle format), so I’m not blown away, but download it anyway. Why not? It’s free.
The Amersham Rubies: This one actually does look intriguing, but it’s currently only available for pre-order. Free to pre-order, but not actually available for reading until May 10. Bummer! (And yes, I pre-ordered it.)
The Secret Holocaust Diaries: I initially had a strong negative reaction to this book, as I tend to avoid Holocaust fiction. Not because it isn’t worth reading (see: The Diary of Anne Frank, Elie Wiesel’s Night trilogy, Maus I and II, Schindler’s List—the book, not the movie), but because I have read a number of these types of books, and as you can probably guess from the subject matter, they are terribly depressing. I’ve spent enough time being depressed by books, thanks. But, having examined my initial inclination to avoid this book, I decided to download it, because you can’t very well cast stones when you haven’t even read the book. Besides, isn’t it true that dark tales are deeper or more relevant than comic tales?
Cottage By the Sea: Oops, this one was formerly free, and now costs $8.79 in Kindle form. I was about to download this one, intrigued by its references to Daphne du Maurier and the English countryside, but then I read some of the reviews. One reviewer notes “I have to say that I really was enjoying this book — until the main character touched a picture and was transported through time. That’s when I put the book down.” Whoa, what?! Now I’m really going to have to download it, to see if it’s as bad as they say it is!
Delivered with Love: Publishers Weekly says of this novel “[Author] Kyle’s interweaving of so many characters is implausible and contrived, and she fails to connect readers emotionally with Claire and her search.” Riddle me this, my friends: Why are they using this absolutely unimpressive, and downright negative blurb to sell this book?! Is it reverse-psychology? We may never know, because I didn’t bother to download it with a glowing recommendation like that. Yikes.
The Abandoned: Supernatural, bleh. Vague references to unsettling events, yawn. Prequel? No way. This is me abandoning this e-book.
Backstage Pass: Whoops! Another one that has upped their price from free to $7.19, proving that you’ve gotta get ‘em while they’re fresh to score deals! This book has really good reviews, readers often mention they found it highly erotic, and with a Human Sexuality prof studying groupie behavior with a rockstar on tour who needs to get his groove back, this seems like it has potential. Downloaded it without hesitation.
50 Ways to Hex Your Lover: Cute title, plays on that ol’ Paul Simon song, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Okay, so it’s supernatural, and I’m pretty much sick of all the zombie/vampire/werewolf crap out there, but since this one seems to be humorous, I’ll give it a whirl. (Again, this one’s price changed later in the week, and is now selling for $4.61.)
Elisha’s Bones: At first glance, I thought this author was trying to rewrite Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones. Instead, it appears he’s attempting to write another Indiana Jones chronicle, in search of the prophet Elisha’s bones (wait, wasn’t that guy named Elijah?). I’m not really sold on this premise, since Harrison Ford is the only professor of antiquities for me, but if I get bored with some of these other books, maybe I’ll take a chance and download it, mentally pasting Harrison’s face over any descriptions of this book’s main character, Jack Hawthorne.
Thicker Than Blood: The title does nothing for me, but I’m drawn in by the plot description, which mentions a rare book dealer being framed for theft. Of a book. That seems simultaneously hilarious and just believable enough that I can roll with it. Plus, I’ve never heard of a book with an antique book dealer as the heroine. I’m a bit put off by the “Christian writer” description of the author, which seems to come up a lot more than you’d think necessary, but will overlook it to see if the book is any good.
Bonus free downloads I discovered this week:
- 13 Little Blue Envelopes, which is temporarily free and includes bonus material (an excerpt from the forthcoming sequel)
- I Miss Your Purple Hair (which was also temporarily available for free, but currently only offers an excerpt), one of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel entries by Robert Chandler. I originally found out about Chandler’s free version while reading through posts on the Facebook wall for the Writing Mafia, so you may want to bookmark that site if you’re a writer, a reader, or anyone who enjoys free e-books.
- Hilah Cooking’s The Breakfast Taco Book which is—you guessed it—all about breakfast tacos! Free to download, with sign-up for Hilah’s mailing list (you can unsubscribe at any time, but they’ll email you the link to download the book, so make sure it’s not firstname.lastname@example.org). I read this one through in about half an hour, and it’s got lots of great recipes for those outside the Breakfast Taco Capital (i.e. Austin), as well as a mighty defense of the breakfast taco vs the breakfast burrito. FIGHT!
Have you read any good e-books lately? Let us know in the comments section, or tweet us @blackheartmag!
*In viewing the Kindle store today, I noticed Amazon is now offering a “Kindle with Special Offers” edition for $114, as opposed to the regular edition for $139. The up-side is that you get special offers (i.e. $10 for $20 worth of Kindle books, etc.), but the down-side is that you have “sponsored screensavers,” which is a nice way of saying annoying ads. Ew.
Laura Roberts is the editor of Black Heart Magazine and the author of the forthcoming novel (and e-book?!), Naked Montreal.