In this edition of Free & Cheap Reads, we bring you magicians, alternative worlds, romance, mystery, and family drama, all for under $2. Happy reading!
The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Series, Book 1) by Charlie N. Holmberg, $1.99
Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.
Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.
An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.
From the imaginative mind of debut author Charlie N. Holmberg, The Paper Magician is an extraordinary adventure both dark and whimsical that will delight readers of all ages.
Short-Listed for the 2015 ALA Fantasy Reading List
The House We Grew Up In: A Novel by Lisa Jewell, $1.99
“Clever, intelligent…wonderful” (Jojo Moyes, New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You).
Meet the Bird family. They live in a simple brick house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching just beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together each night. Everybody in town gushes over the two girls, who share their mother’s apple cheeks and wide smiles. Of the boys, lively, adventurous Rory can stir up trouble, moving through life more easily than little Rhys, his slighter, more sensitive counterpart. Their father is a sweet gangly man, but it’s their mother, Lorelei, a beautiful free spirit with long flowing hair and eyes full of wonder, who spins at the center.
Time flies in those early years when the kids are still young. Lorelei knows that more than anyone, doing her part to freeze time by protecting the precious mementos she collects, filling the house with them day by day. Easter egg foils are her favorite. Craft supplies, too. She insists on hanging every single piece of art ever produced by any of the children, to her husband’s chagrin.
Then one Easter weekend, tragedy occurs. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass and the children have become adults, found new relationships, and, in Meg’s case, created families of their own. Lorelei has become the county’s worst hoarder. She has alienated her husband, her children, and has been living as a recluse for six years. It seems as though they’d never been The Bird Family at all, as if loyalty were never on the table. But then something happens that calls them home, back to the house they grew up in—and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.
Delving deeply into the hearts and minds of its characters, The House We Grew Up In is the gripping story of a family’s desire to restore long-forgotten peace and to unearth the many secrets hidden within the nooks and crannies of home.
InterWorld (InterWorld Trilogy Book 1) by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves, $1.99
When Newbery Medal winner Neil Gaiman and Emmy Award winner Michael Reaves teamed up, they created the bestselling YA novel InterWorld.
InterWorld tells the story of Joey Harker, a very average kid who discovers that his world is only one of a trillion alternate earths. Some of these earths are ruled by magic. Some are ruled by science. All are at war.
Joey teams up with alternate versions of himself from an array of these worlds. Together, the army of Joeys must battle evil magicians Lord Dogknife and Lady Indigo to keep the balance of power between all the earths stable. Teens—and tweens and adults—who obsessively read the His Dark Materials and Harry Potter series will be riveted by InterWorld and its sequel, The Silver Dream.
A lad discovers that he can walk between alternate Earths—and is swept up in a war between them in this fast-paced, compulsively readable tale. Joey gets lost in his own house, but when he steps into a patch of fog and finds himself in a world where he died, a trillion Earths lie open to him—arranged in a vast arc, with an empire of science-based planes at one end and a realm where magic rules at the other. Recruited into an army of anything-but-identical Joeys gathered from many of these worlds and charged with maintaining the balance of power, Joey picks up companions both human and non as he travels the multidimensional In Between that links the sprawling “Altiverse.” In this first of what could and should be many episodes, Joey finishes his basic training by doing battle with melodramatically evil magic workers Lord Dogknife and Lady Indigo. Vivid, well-imagined settings and characters compensate for weak links in the internal logic of this rousing sf/fantasy hybrid. – John Peters
Marking Time (The Immortal Descendants, Book 1) by April White, FREE
Seventeen-year-old tagger Saira Elian can handle anything … a mother who mysteriously disappears, a stranger who stalks her around London, and even the noble English grandmother who kicked Saira and her mother out of the family. But when an old graffiti tag in a Tube station transports Saira to the nineteenth century and she comes face-to-face with Jack the Ripper, she realizes she needs help after all.
Saira meets Archer, a charming student who helps her blend in as much as a tall, modern American teen can in Victorian England. He reveals the existence of the Immortals: Time, Nature, Fate, War, and Death, and explains to Saira that it is possible to move between centuries – if you are a Descendant of Time.
Saira finds unexpected friendships at a boarding school for Immortal Descendants and a complicated love with a young man from the past. But time is running out for her mother, and to save her, Saira must embrace her new identity as she hides from Archer a devastating secret about his future that may cost him his life.
A Cast of Stones (The Staff and the Sword Book #1) by Patrick W. Carr, FREE
2014 Carol Award Winner for Speculative Fiction
The Fate of the Kingdom Awaits the Cast of Stones
In the backwater village of Callowford, roustabout Errol Stone is enlisted by a church messenger arriving with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Eager for coin, Errol agrees to what he thinks will be an easy task, but soon finds himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he’s joined a quest that could change the fate of his kingdom.
Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom’s dynasty nears its end and the selection of the new king begins–but in secret and shadow. As danger mounts, Errol must leave behind the stains and griefs of the past, learn to fight, and discover who is hunting him and his companions and how far they will go to stop the reading of the stones.
“With an engaging, imaginative world that bristles with danger, characters that keep you guessing, and a story that sticks with you, A Cast of Stones will keep you devouring pages until the very end. I highly recommend it!” –John W. Otte, author of Failstate
“Carr’s debut, the first in a series, is assured and up-tempo, with much to enjoy in characterization and description–not least the homely, life-as-lived details.” –Publishers Weekly
This fast-paced fantasy debut set in a medieval world is a winner. Both main and secondary characters are fully drawn and endearing, and Errol’s transformation from drunkard to hero is well plotted. Carr is a promising CF author to watch. Fans of epic Christian fantasies will enjoy discovering a new voice.
“Like the preceding series title, Inescapable, this tale of suspense offers a colorful cast of characters, small-town drama, and a hint of romance. A sure bet for fans of Hannah Alexander.” —Library Journal
“[Good fantasy books] have to be excellent. Good storytelling and exceptional characters with circumstances that are easy enough to follow and wrap your brain around but keep you entertained and guessing… Cast of Stones has found itself firmly in that list of books. I absolutely, one hundred percent loved this book.” –Radiant Lit
Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed, $1.99
A series of tragedies brings Vivvie’s young grandchildren into her custody, and her two estranged daughters back under one roof. Jackson, Vivvie’s husband, was shot and killed thirty years ago, and the ramifications have splintered the family into their own isolated remembrances and recriminations.
Sisters Elin and Kate fought mercilessly in childhood and have avoided each other for years. Elin seems like the last person to watch her sister convalesce after an attempted suicide. But Elin has her own reasons for coming to Kate’s side and will soon discover Kate’s own staggering needs.
This deeply personal, hauntingly melancholy look at the damages families inflict on each other—and the healing that only they can provide—is filled with flinty, flawed, and complex people stumbling toward some kind of peace. Like Elizabeth Strout and Kazuo Ishiguro, Deborah Reed understands a story, and its inhabitants reveal themselves in the subtleties: the space between the thoughts, the sigh behind the smile, and the unreliable lies people tell themselves that ultimately reveal the deepest truths.
From the editor:
“It took Deborah Reed sixteen years to write Things We Set on Fire – in fact, it’s the first book she ever started. She completed and published three other bestselling books during that time, but she just couldn’t let go of this story. When I asked about the long gestation time, Deb said she felt that she needed time to grow as both a writer and a person before she fully understood these characters and their life-changing situations. She also admitted that she couldn’t quite figure out how to create something so emotionally complex while also avoiding sentimentality.
Trust me – she figured it out.
In Deb’s skilled hands, this novel about a flinty, flawed mother and her two grown, damaged daughters is as honest, heartbreaking, and even humorous as, well, real life. Like Elizabeth Strout and Kazuo Ishiguro, Deborah Reed understands that a story and its inhabitants reveal themselves in the subtleties: the space between the thoughts, the sigh behind the smile, and the lies people tell themselves that ultimately reveal the deepest truths.
‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in,’ said Robert Frost. But what if you don’t want to go there and they don’t want to take you in? Then you have the rich literary minefield that is this stunning book. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.”
– Terry Goodman, Acquiring Editor