So, last time I mentioned I had a lot of free ebooks on my Kindle, and I thought it about time that I did something with them. These are books that have passed my (admittedly, somewhat low) standards for free books, having something interesting about them but probably not enough that I would have paid for them without anything else to recommend them. My plan was to devote some time to reading them like a slush pile – i.e. reading them until something made me give up, and then moving on to the next.
This is, obviously, not going to be completely fair. I imagine quite a few of the books I normally read (and enjoy, even love) would fail a process like this. Some just start slowly, some have particular peeves of mine early on, and I’ve put down more than a few only to press on later due to the twin motivations of money spent and peer pressure. From my experience, this is even more likely with self-published books, so I’m predicting quite a few of these won’t last long. I’m not really looking for a new read right now, anyway, as my TBR is enormous as it is!
That said, I have found good books and new authors this way, and I’m hoping one or two surprise me…but not incredibly optimistic. So, why am I doing this?
First, because I did “buy” the books, and feel somewhat obliged to the authors to have a look in them. Free books are used as promotions, after all, but the strategy is foiled by the tendency of readers (like me) collecting lots of free books but never having much motivation to read them. So this is my motivation.
Second, because I’m hoping to get an idea of what does catch a reader into a story, and whether this can inform my own writing. The first chapter or so of a book is vital to catch the reader’s attention, whether that’s an agent or publisher you are querying, or a potential customer checking out the Amazon sample or flipping through the first few pages while browsing in a bookstore. Sure, a lot of the time I buy a book just on reputation/recommendation, but even then those first few pages have to convince me to actually read it (which leads to me reviewing/rating it, and potentially spreading the good word and helping the author to further sales).
And thirdly, perhaps my mini-reviews of the first few pages will help the authors of these books realise what may not be working. I intend to try to be kind, and of course a lot of this will be my personal preference. I’m sure a lot of these books will find readers who absolutely love them, even if I don’t. But I’m equally sure some of them have some common problems and maybe identifying those will help.
So, without further ado (ok, one ado – I’m starting with pretty mainstream fantasy only, as it’s my taste and anything else would be at a disadvantage), here’s the list, with a few comments (disclaimer: some may no longer be free):
Glimmer Vale – Michael Kingswood
The Bite on the Line – Simon Kantan – Eye-catching but steampunk
Twisted Fate – Jeremy Laszlo (Update 1)
When Women Were Warriors Book I: The Warrior’s Path – Catherine M Wilson
The Seventh Horse: Shader Origins – D. P. Prior
Fire & Ice – Patty Jansen (Update 2)
Chronicles of Den’dra: A Land Torn – Spencer Johnson (Update 2)
The Weight of the Crown – Tavish Kaeden (also in the SPFBO)
Fell Winter – AJ Cooper (Update 1)
Shadowborn – Moira Katson (Update 1)
Stormsinger – Stephanie A Cain – not medieval but not punk, so ok.
Magic of Thieves – C Greenwood (Update 2)
The Key – Jennifer Anne Davis (Update 2)
Skip – Perrin Briar – Clockpunk? We’ll see…
The Kinshield Legacy – K C May
The Last Priestess – Elizabeth Baxter (Update 2)
Enchantment’s Reach – Martin Ash (Update 1)
City of Blaze – H O Charles (Update 1)
The Light of Theolan – Nick Marsden (Update 1)
The Dreamer and the Deceiver – Alex Villavasso (Update 2)
A Dance of Dragons – Kaitlyn Davis
Red Axe, Black Sun – Michael Karner (Update 2)
Song of the Fairy Queen – Valerie Douglas (Update 1)
The Unwilling Adventurer – Heidi Willard
The Last King’s Amulet – Chris Northern (Update 1)
New World: A Frontier Fantasy Novel – Steven W White
The Book of Deacon – Joseph Lallo – big seller, this one
Firehurler – J S Morin
City of Rogues – Ty Johnston (Update 2)
Sorcerer’s Code – Christopher Kellen
The White Tree – Edward W Robertson – another bigger indie name
Dawn of War – Tim Marquitz – and another, associated with Ragnarok Pub.
That takes us through 2014…time to stop! I’ve left off books that I’ve either read or know I’m definitely going to, a few by authors I’ve read, and quite a few sci-fi/dystopian/urban fantasies. I think there’s more than enough to get my teeth into though…now to find the time!
Update 1: In Search of the Hook – First 8 (randomly selected)
Update 2: The Hook Strikes Back – Next 8.