Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, what's really got my pages in a twist is...

Three Dark Crowns
(Untitled #1)
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Hardcover, 416 pages, HarperTeen
Genres: YA, Fantasy

Fans of acclaimed author Kendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood will devour her latest novel, a dark and inventive fantasy about three sisters who must fight to the death to become queen.

In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose...it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

My Thoughts

I read Blake’s Anna duology, and I enjoyed it. I’m hoping this series brings her work to a new level, though. Fantasy books have become ridiculously popular, and I don’t think I’ve read a bad one yet. Hopefully, this one keeps up with my good luck.

What book are you waiting for this Wednesday?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Guest Post: How to Choose an Ebook Subscription Service

I have something very special and completely new today. I actually have a guest post for you. Cassie, whose author info is down towards the end of the post, is from Culture Coverage, and she’s written a short piece all about how to choose an ebook subscription service. 


Yeah, I didn’t even know such things existed until I read this article. Guess what I’ll be checking out and mulling over my options for in the very near future. (It’s not a very hard guess, is it?)

Anywho, I’ll let Cassie, and her very informative article tell you more about what I obviously know very little about.

Take it away, Cassie!

***

How to Choose an Ebook Subscription Service


Ebooks have made it easier than ever before to get your fill of your favorite authors. The instant-access format means you can grab a book no matter where you are and never be left without a good bit of reading.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen many of the biggest name eBook retailers try their hand at subscription services. Described as “the Netflix of Books,” the offer lets you pay monthly for unlimited access to all the stories in their library. While this is a massive benefit for enthusiastic readers, the services do have some serious drawbacks, so here are some points to consider before you sign-up!

Benefits of Subscribing

There are several reasons why choosing to subscribe, rather than making individual purchases, is a great option. First, if you’re someone who goes through a lot of books per month then you’re highly likely to save some money by using one of these services.

However, a more unconsidered benefit comes from one of the security flaws that have arisen from most e-reader services. The problem is that, when using a product like the Kindle, which allows you to make direct purchases from Amazon, it’s very easy for hackers to access your credit card details. Before now, using a Virtual Private Network was probably the only way to overcome this problem. Using a subscription format instead, however, means that you don’t have to be constantly inputting your credit card information and putting yourself at risk!

The Situation

Right now, ebook subscription services are in their infancy. There is no major player with a monopoly on the market and the companies who have invested in the pursuit are seemingly not in a great position. Scribd has long been one of the biggest names in the eBook subscription market and sits as one of the cheapest options available, coming in at just $8.99 per month. However, recent changes have meant a cull to the amount of literature available on the service.

On the other hand, Kindle Unlimited is now posing serious competition as, for just $9.99 a month, users can access a wide range of Amazon-based content for no charge. This includes a fantastic range of young adult books, with over 400 webpages of novels eligible for the subscription alongside classics from nearly every other genre imaginable.

Fears of Closure

Very recently, another leading contender in the world of eBook subscription shut down for good. Oyster has been around since 2013, and coined the “Netflix of books” phrase long before anyone else considered the concept. So it was with great surprise that the company announced its complete closure in 2015. It has long been discussed whether the longevity of this kind of service was feasible. It’s alarming closures such as this that give weight to critic’s arguments.

Alongside this, with the previously mentioned changes put in place by Scribd, it looks as if the industry as a whole is having to cut back. Whether this is the case or not, the best recommendation we can give is to stick to options whose parent companies have enough resources that they’re not at risk of going under any time soon.

Moving Forward

However, there are other ways to interpret Oyster’s closure. Reports have surfaced that the sudden decision may have been instigated by Google offering jobs to many of Oyster’s innovation employees. Rumors have been sparked of a complete acquisition of the company, and the brand re-launching under Google’s name.

Whilst there have been no confirmed reports of this, it’s clear that Google is looking for the brain power to expand eBook services. What we might actually be seeing is the eBook subscription concept finally finding the commercial backing it’s been looking for.

Alternative Options

If you’re not ready to commit to a subscription yet, there are still plenty of great options available. Goodreads is a fantastic resource, that gives you in-depth reviews and ranking, as well as links to purchase, so you can easily find and get your hands on awesome new reads. Their YA section is huge, and there are lots of fantastic sub-categories to help you narrow down your search.

Similarly, Powell’s is another great bookstore that has whole sections for young adult, romance, fantasy – and almost anything else you can think of. Of course, there’s always still the regular Kindle store, which doesn’t require you to subscribe to purchase books. It also has many free ebooks available to download for your enjoyment!

Choosing a subscription service is not an easy task, but it could save you money. With so much turbulence in the industry at the moment, however, it’s important to choose wisely. If you have any more tips or advice for which to pick, be sure to leave a comment below. We’d love to hear your opinions!


About The Author: Cassie is an entertainment and technology blogger and an avid reader. She loves how to advent of the internet has transformed the way we read and hopes she can share the tips she’s learned with fellow bookworms.

Note: The article's contents were not written or provided by Shell's Stories.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Review: The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The Problem with Forever
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Hardcover, 480 pages, Harlequin Teen
Genres: YA, Contemporary, Romance

For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.

Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.

It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.

My Review

Jennifer L. Armentrout is one of my all-time favorite authors. Her romances are hawt! Her heroines are relatable. And her heroes are so very sexy. Despite my love of JLA’s books, I’ve got to say that The Problem with Forever wasn’t one of my favorite stories of hers. It did spark a massive JLA binge-reading session, though.

This story starts out with Mallory, our main character, going to a public high school years after experiencing a traumatic event at her foster home. Because of this bad experience, Mallory keeps very quiet and rarely talks. Now, this was one of my main issues with the story. While I understand that this dilemma is something that can happen, I feel like it’s become a big thing in YA to make the heroine suffer in her own silence. I’m just not a fan of this trope, especially since, even though Mallory is trying to break free from this silence, it always seemed like everyone was patronizing her. (She shouldn’t have to talk if she doesn’t want to, gosh darnnit!)

This brings me to the love interest of the story. Rider is a fine specimen of young man, and he was with Mallory those many years ago. Although Rider experienced the same, if not worse, traumatizing situation, he seems to have kept a somewhat level head. This bothered me. Why is it that the YA heroine has to be the damsel in distress? It’s discussed a wee bit in the book about how Rider had some issues because of his background, but not nearly enough. The story is all about how Mallory is a wounded animal who needs help, even though both kids grew up in a toxic situation. 
I’ll end that rant there because, while I had those character development problems with the story, I did enjoy it. The writing was good, and the other aspects of the characters were fun and/or realistic. I liked the artistic sides of Mallory and Rider, and I also enjoyed how hands-on the parents were. Oh! I’m also very impressed by the friendship that Mallory has with Ainsley in this book. I hope this friendship just continues to grow stronger in Ainsley’s story.

As for the plot of the book, it was a typical finding-yourself-through-young-love scenario. Sometimes this idea can get a little cliché in YA storylines, but I feel like JLA managed to make it work, especially since Rider and Mallory had lived and grown up together. It was natural for them to get close and mend their wounds through each other. Unfortunately—or fortunately depending upon how you look at it—because of this mending, I did shed a tear or two towards the end of the book, so be prepared for waterworks.

All in all, if you love Abbi Glines or Katie McGarry’s tales of problematic teenage romance, then you’ll adore The Problem with Forever. You’ll also be extremely irked to have to wait another year for the spinoff book to release.


*Note: I was gifted a copy of this book. This in no way affected my opinion/review.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Stacking the Shelves: The Not All Young Adult Edition


"Stacking the Shelves" is a weekly haul meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It allows book buyers to share their accumulation of books with the online book-loving community.

I didn’t buy any books this week. Mwahahaha!

Okay, that was weird of me. Instead of buying books though, I borrowed them. Yay! (Even though I’ll probably just end up buying them at some point because 4/5 of them were all soooo good!)

Riders by Veronica Rossi
Remembrance by Meg Cabot

I’ve finished all of the JLA books. While there were some minor issues I had with them, all of the stories put me in a major NA hangover. I need more JLA new adult books, ASAP.

I also finished Remembrance and was taken back to my junior high days. I loved the Mediator books back in eighth and ninth grade, and this book brought back the nostalgia. Thanks, Meg!

As for the Riders, I haven’t gotten to it yet, but we shall see what its pages hold.

What books have you bought/received lately?

Friday, July 1, 2016

Dean Winchester Friday

Dean Winchester (or sometimes Jensen Ackles) Fridays make me a very happy fangirl. You'll see why when you look at the pic.
https://twitter.com/mishacollins/status/748210790004514816

Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, and Misha Collins at Comic-Con. I seriously wish I could go to just one Comic-Con. Just one. Please, Universe? Please?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Review: The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

The Heart of Betrayal
(The Remnant Chronicles #2)
Publication Date: July 7, 2015
Hardcover, 470 pages, Henry Holt and Co.
Genres: YA, Fantasy

Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save Lia's life, her erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar's interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: There's Rafe, who lied to Lia but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be savages. Now that she lives among them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country... and her own destiny.

My Review

It took me over a year and a half to read The Kiss of Deception after its release date. In fact, I don’t think I even bought a copy of it until almost a year after it came out. While I am happy about my procrastination, simply because I now get to read the entire trilogy in a year-span of time, I can’t believe I waited so long to read both the first book and The Heart of Betrayal. As you can see, though, I failed to wait just one short month until The Beauty of Darkness releases to finally read book two.

The Heart of Betrayal starts out right where KoD left off. There’s a huge amount of anticipation as to what’s going to come next for our main character, Lia, who, as a runaway and now kidnapped princess, is a hostage in a foreign country. Despite Lia’s situation, she was just as strong-willed and strong-hearted when it came to making decisions and staying alive in this book as she was in the first one. I love her compassion and how it’s shown in a way that doesn’t involve bloodshed for the opposing side. I think too many YA fantasy and dystopian book characters are too quick to solve problems with violence, and thankfully, Lia isn’t always one of them.

As for the rest of the characters, they’re still in the same boat we left them in as well. Kaden is being an ass and acting all me-tortured-alpha-male, while Rafe is, like Lia, a hostage for reasons I won’t get into for fear of spoilage. I’ve heard that a lot of people switch ships in HoB, though. That was not me. I’m still firmly a Rafe girl. He’s much more faithful and steadfast. As for new characters, there’s one in particular that is very integral to the storyline, but whose actions and demeanor were quite predictable. Again, no spoilage from me. ;)

 Because one character’s story arc was a wee bit expected, I can’t say that the entire plot of the book was amazingly fantastic. I can say that it was pretty amazing though. The parts that I didn’t know were going to happen were epic! It’s just the smaller parts that had me like, “Oh, this trope is kinda familiar.” That’s not to say that Pearson didn’t put her own spin on the trope, however. But, despite all of this, I’m very excited to read the third book because of the huge cliffhanger this one left off on.

All in all, The Heart of Betrayal is a great second book in an awesome fantasy trilogy. There’s a dedicated heroine, a broody assassin, a loyal prince, and a corrupt empire. What more could a reader ask for?


*Note: I purchased a copy of this book for myself. This in no way affected my opinion/review.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Witch's Pyre by Josephine Angelini


"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, what's really got my pages in a twist is...

Witch’s Pyre
(The Worldwalker Trilogy #3)
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Hardcover, 384 pages, Feiwel & Friends
Genres: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal

Lily Proctor has come a long way from the weak, sickly girl she used to be. She has gained power as a witch and a leader, found her way home, chosen to face battle again, and (after losing her first love and being betrayed by her new love) she has learned more about loss and grief than she ever wanted to know.

Thrust once again into a society different from anything they have ever seen, Lily and her coven are determined to find answers―to find a new path to victory, a way to defeat the monstrous Woven without resorting to nuclear weapons or becoming a tyrannical mass murderer like her alternate self, Lillian. But sometimes winning requires sacrifices . . . and when the only clear path to victory lies at Lillian's side, what price will Lily be willing to pay?

Internationally bestselling author Josephine Angelini takes us on another emotionally wrenching thrill ride in the stunning conclusion to her Worldwalker Trilogy.

My Thoughts

I still haven’t read the second book, Fire Walker, yet, but I really enjoyed Trial by Fire. For some reason, it just took me a long time to buy the sequel. I think it had to do with the cover redesign. Let’s hope the same thing doesn’t happen with the third book so I can binge-read the series and even reread book one (because I don’t remember a lot about it other than my enjoyment factor).

What book are you waiting for this Wednesday?

Monday, June 27, 2016

My Top 5 Favorite YA Contemporary Books

It’s summer time. Traditionally summer means reading contemporaries, and while that hasn’t exactly been the case for me so far this summer (it’s only been four a few days, though), I expect that in August, the contemporaries will all be read. Or at least some of them.

Because of this summery topics, I decided to list my top five favorite young adult contemporary reads. Now, not all of these are summery; they’re simply my overall faves.

Now, onto the Top 5!

***

Top 5 Favorite

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

Okay, so I have to be honest; Elkeles’s books often have the cliché bad boy meets sweet girl-next-door storyline. However, I just don’t care. The Fuentes brothers are dangerous and fascinating, and I want one.

I still need to read Elkeles’s new releases, but I also enjoyed her Leaving Paradise duology as well.


Top 4 Favorite


Jenny Han has a track record of writing the most amazing and perfect first books in a duology and second books in the case of trilogies. I love the innocent and fluffy settings and the unique and quirky female narrators. Despite my love of her first books, her lasts books tend to leave me upset, but we’ll ignore those for now, shall we?

Top 3 Favorite

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

I had to put a Katie McGarry title on this list. McGarry is practically the queen of YA contemporary romance. I’ve enjoyed every McGarry book that I’ve read (which is actually all of them except one), and I can’t wait for the third Thunder Road book. Now, the reason I put this one on my list was because it was the first book of hers I read, and I cried so very much reading this book because of Noah. So. Very. Much.

Top 2 Favorite


I actually have a review up of this book here. I practically gushed over this standalone, and I’m ridiculously excited for Albertalli’s new contemporary release. As for this one, Simon is just such a fun character, and everything about it was adorkable in the most fantastic way.

Top 1 Favorite

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Here it is. This is the book that basically was written about my life, minus the adorable Levi and writing popular fanfiction. I was that awkward and scared college kid, so this book just spoke to me on so many levels.

***

Well, there you have it. Those are some of my favorite YA contemporaries. I’m sure I’ve forgotten about some, and I’m also 100% sure that I need to read more contemporary books in my life, but I think this is a good start.

What are some of your favorite contemporary reads? Let me know in the comments.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Review: Ruined by Amy Tintera

Ruined
(Ruined #1)
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Hardcover, 368 pages, HarperTeen
Genres: YA, Fantasy

A revenge that will consume her. A love that will ruin her.

Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.

But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.

In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.

Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

My Review

Epic Reads pitched this video as a mix of Red Queen and The Selection, and while I agree with that statement, I think there’s more to this book than just being similar to those titles. Honestly, this book was a love story, a revenge story, a family-love story, a magic story, a fantasy story, and a betrayal story all wrapped up into one beautiful package. (Seriously, that cover is gorgeous.)

Okay, so I have to admit that when I first started reading Ruined, I was skeptical about how awesome it was going to be. Why? Well, after watching the Epic Reads Explains video for it, I was so excited to get my hands on this book, that I had set my expectations very high. Unfortunately, the first fifty or so pages of the book were a little “eh,” but we’ll get to that later.

I want to talk about the characters first. Em is definitely a unique character. She’s not all-powerful as it seems like Calaena Sardothien is, nor is she as magically capable as Hermione Granger. And she most definitely is not as kind-hearted as Katniss (and that’s saying something ‘cause Katniss isn’t the most kind character on the planet). However, she is loyal to her people and her family, and even an unsuspected romance can’t really change that.

Speaking of unsuspecting romances, we have Prince Casimir. I love him. While I’m not a huge fan of dual POVs (I like my female main characters love interests to be mysterious), I thought Cas’s thoughts were necessary to the story. He was so oblivious and naïve, but that just brought out his overall charm. Also, the way his storyline played out was insane. I just wanted to kiss him better 95% of the time.

As for the plot of the story, as I mentioned earlier, the first fifty-ish pages were not the greatest. Mostly because it seemed like nothing was fully explored. I wanted Tintera to take her time exploring the characters and their actions, as well as the setting and stakes, but that didn’t happen at first. However, once I got used to this more light style (not saying the book’s plot is light because there is a lot of killing after all), I flew through this book. There was non-stop action and intrigue, and the romance kept me on the edge of my seat.

All in all, Ruined is a book any fan of the current popular YA fantasy books will not only love but obsess over. I can’t wait for book two, and I’m sure there are plenty of others who are in the same boat as me—anxiously waiting for yet another sequel.


*Note: I was gifted a copy of this book. This in no way affected my opinion/review.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Stacking the Shelves: The Traded, Gifted, and Subscribed Edition

"Stacking the Shelves" is a weekly haul meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. It allows book buyers to share their accumulation of books with the online book-loving community.

Lots of books this week. Lots. I only bought one of them, but it was a very expensive book. You’ll see why in a bit.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

I went to my local used bookstore and used up some of my trade credit to get these two books. I’ve heard mixed things about both of them, but I thought I’d give them a try.

Firstlife by Gena Showalter
The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

These were part three of my graduation gift from my sister and her husband. Many thanks to them. (I’ve actually already read all of the books they bought me except two.)

My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows

I decided to test out the Owlcrate subscription box because I liked the Royalty theme. I also had a very strong feeling that MLJ was the book that would be in the box. I love Hand and Ashton’s other books, so I thought, “Why not give it a try?”

Unfortunately, I was unimpressed with some of the box’s contents for the price I paid. Some was good (the book, cute bookmarks, Disney figure), some was eh (Red Queen card, Lunar Chronicles bracelet). I was really excited about a particular item that was supposed to be based off a book I LOVE, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. For that reason, and because I know what next month’s Good vs. Evil book will be, I cancelled my subscription.

What books have you bought/received lately?