Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Surrounded by Books Reviews Closing Its Doors

It is with a great deal of sadness for me to announce that this will be the last blog post on Surrounded by Books Reviews.

I started this blog back in August 2010. Since then I have reviewed almost 200 books. I have participated in memes such as Teaser Tuesdays and Waiting on Wednesday. We have almost 200 blog followers and over 30,000 page views. It's been a great time, and I don't regret for a second for creating this blog.

However, creating material for two blogs has gotten to be too much over the years. At one point I was posting eight times a week between the two blogs. Lately, I had been posting four times a week on two blogs, and it still didn't give me as much time as I'd like to do everything. I had to make a choice, so unfortunately Surrounded by Books Reviews has to close.

But I do hope you'll follow me over at my other blog, Cherie Reich - Author. I will mainly be posting on Wednesdays there. On the fourth Wednesday of the month, I will be posting book reviews (along with my bookworm ratings) on my other blog in my segment Bookworm News, so I will still be reading and reviewing, just not here. You can also follow my reviews on Goodreads.

Thank you for reading this blog, and I hope you've found a new book or two to read during these years.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review: Dangerous Depths by Karen Amanda Hooper

Title: Dangerous Depths
Series: The Sea Monster Memoirs #2
Author: Karen Amanda Hooper
Publisher: Starry Sky Publishing (November 20, 2013)
Genre: YA Fantasy

Format Read: Ebook ARC
Length: Novel
Source: Author

Hell hath no fury like a selkie separated from his true love.

The gate to the sea creature realm is finally open. Yara wants to bask in the glow of her budding relationship with Treygan and explore Medusa’s world, but as the new leader of Rathe her powers are needed to save a sea creature she’s never met.

Rownan assumes the worst is behind him when he returns home to be reunited with his wife, Vienna, only to discover she’s gone. She traveled to the evil realm of Harte to find another gateway to Earth and was never heard from again. Rownan claimed he would go through hell to be with her, and now he must prove it.

Rownan, Yara, and Treygan will put their lives and souls at risk by traveling to the most dangerous realm of all. Love is supposed to conquer all, but no one has ever conquered Harte.

Teaser: Rowan ran his hand over his goatee. “We’re going to burn to death, aren’t we? Who would have though hell would be so predictable?” [44% Ebook ARC. I have to admit I loved the hell puns and jokes while they are in Harte (i.e. hell).]

Review: Yara thought her Triple Eighteen was hell, but she’s seen nothing yet in Karen Amanda Hooper’s Dangerous Depths.

This novel is told through three points of view: Yara (mermaid/selkie/siren/gorgon/human), Rownan (selkie/human), and Nixie (siren). Yara struggles with her new powers while exploring her love for Treygan and her new home of Rathe. In Tangled Tides, I didn’t care much for Rownan, but his motivations become so clear and his love for Vienna is so pure and powerful. He would literally go through hell for her. The character who grew the most for me was Nixie. I loved her chapters and seeing her moments with the sprites.

Hooper’s world building is amazing. I loved seeing the beauty of Rathe, cringed at the horrors of Harte, and enjoyed the additions to her sea monsters’ worlds. The fast-paced plot increased the tension, which was punctuated by moments of humor and love. The end made me cry with its heart-breaking beauty.

Dangerous Depths by Karen Amanda Hooper makes me wish I could live in Rathe too or at least have the ability to draw the exquisite world. I highly recommend this novel and the Sea Monster Memoirs series.

Five Bookworms = I loved it!

The Other Book in this Series:
Click here to read my review.

Book Review: White Fire by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Title: White Fire
Series: Pendergast #13
Authors: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (November 12, 2013)
Genre: Thriller

Format Read: Ebook ARC
Length: Novel
Source: NetGalley

Past and present collide in Preston and Child's most thrilling novel ever . . .


Special Agent Pendergast arrives at an exclusive Colorado ski resort to rescue his protégée, Corrie Swanson, from serious trouble with the law. His sudden appearance coincides with the first attack of a murderous arsonist who—with brutal precision--begins burning down multimillion-dollar mansions with the families locked inside. After springing Corrie from jail, Pendergast learns she made a discovery while examining the bones of several miners who were killed 150 years earlier by a rogue grizzly bear. Her finding is so astonishing that it, even more than the arsonist, threatens the resort's very existence.

Drawn deeper into the investigation, Pendergast uncovers a mysterious connection between the dead miners and a fabled, long-lost Sherlock Holmes story—one that might just offer the key to the modern day killings as well.

Now, with the ski resort snowed in and under savage attack—and Corrie's life suddenly in grave danger—Pendergast must solve the enigma of the past before the town of the present goes up in flames.

Teaser: “That’s a really good question. But it’s one o’clock, and I don’t know about you, but I’m so hungry I could eat a couple of miners myself.” [43% Ebook ARC. Although it’s terrible, I had to laugh.]

Review: Bones hold the answers to 150-year old murders of miners and the arsonist currently razing the homes in a Colorado ski resort town in Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s White Fire.

Although I own several Pendergast novels, this one is the first I’ve had the chance to read and works well as a standalone novel. I love Corrie Swanson’s spunkiness and her stubbornness which has a tendency to get her into a lot of trouble. Pendergast comes across as a modern-day Sherlock Holmes with his cold and calculating detective skills with a tiny dash of The Mentalist’s Patrick Jane’s flare. I enjoyed seeing Pendergast’s softer side come out.

As a Sherlock Holmes’ fan, I adored the connection to the case with Oscar Wilde’s retelling the miner’s story to Conan Dolye, who used the premise within his own work. The plot glides easily through the past and present, and I loved the addition of a Sherlock Holmes’ tale within the novel. Although I found who the arsonist was predictable, I did enjoy reading the story to see how everything would play out. The dense writing sometimes slowed the pace down, but I didn’t lose interest in the story or characters.

I would recommend Preston and Child’s White Fire and look forward to reading previous and future Pendergast novels.

Four Bookworms = I really liked it!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hook Me: Witch Way to Turn by Karen Y. Bynum

Title: Witch Way to Turn
Author: Karen Y. Bynum
Publisher: Lyrical Press (August 6, 2012)
Genre: Fantasy Romance

Book Description: Can you give one guy your heart and another your soul?

The last thing eighteen-year-old Breena Cross needs in her life is more complications. It’s all she can do to balance studying, working, trying to keep her foster-sister safe and drooling over the new guy at work. But things go from complicated to crazy when a fit of rage ignites the dark magic inside her and she finds herself fending off the supernatural underworld.

Myles, Breena’s drool-worthy coworker and vampire convict, is carrying a load of secrets--one of which is that he’s fang-over-lip in love with Breena and in danger of violating the terms of his sentence.

Orin is a soul-hungry assassin sent to kill Breena. However, he takes one look into her eyes and sees his own lost humanity. For once thinking of someone other than himself, he chooses not to end her life, even though it means risking his own.

Despite a convict and an assassin fighting over her, all Breena wants is custody of her sister. But to do this, she will need help from both Myles and Orin. And if Breena doesn’t learn to control the darkness within, she could lose her sister…forever.

WARNING: Contains strong language and some graphic content.

First line: Breena Cross glanced at her watch.
Last line read: She'd taken to Myles fast, following him around like a little lost pup, hanging on his every word.

Overall Impressions: Wow! Breena and Jenny's lives are hard to read about. The girls are foster sisters, and my heart ached for them. Breena does everything she can to keep Jenny safe and hopes one day to get her out of the horrible foster home she lives in. The dash of paranormal and fantasy from vampires to witches adds to this very realistic and gritty sample.

Would I keep reading?: Yes!

***There will be no Hook Me next Wednesday as I have a special announcement for December 18th.***

Monday, December 9, 2013

Book Review: Darkest Day by Emi Gayle

Title: Darkest Day
Series: The 19th Year #3
Author: Emi Gayle
Publisher: J. Taylor Publishing (January 6, 2014)
Genre: YA Paranormal

Format Read: Ebook ARC
Length: Novel
Source: Publisher

Mac Thorne’s time as a Changeling is coming to an end.

It may have taken eighteen years, but Mac did finally manage to do what the Council wanted: she chose a teacher and renounced the in-between.

There’s just one last step. She must say goodbye to her human. Forever.

After being challenged in every way possible, Mac leaves what she thought would be the easiest task for the last possible moment. As midnight on July fourth draws near, though, she hasn’t found a way to give up Winn Thomas.

Nor does she want to.

With time running out, Mac stands at a literal crossroads. Choose Winn, and she’ll be stripped of the only family she’s ever known — vampires, dragons, and her favorite demon. Even her own mother. Accept her position on the Council and rule as an equal to her twelve peers, and she’ll forget Winn ever existed.

Independence and freedom have never before been so limiting.

In this final chapter of the 19th Year Trilogy, it’s time for Mac to decide.

Responsibility? Or Love?
Teasers: “So what are you going to do?”

The question hung like leaden feathers, ready to drop on top of my head and crush my soul. [11% Ebook ARC. Love this description!]

“No. You can’t fall in love for real before you’re like thirty, or something.” [17% Ebook ARC. I’d say that’s about right. LOL!]

“Midnight, Cinderella, and no later,” Dad called from behind me. [78% Ebook ARC. This made me laugh.]

Review: Mac must choose between the human boy she loves and her place on a supernatural Council in Darkest Day by Emi Gayle.

The third and last installment of the 19th Year Trilogy put this reader through the emotional wringer. I didn’t know what Mac would choose to do until about 89% of the book when it dawned on me how this might work out. To keep out spoilers, certain events broke my heart. I love how strong and honest Mac is, even when people might not want to hear her honesty. Winn is smart and keeps Mac in line, which is quite the challenge. They make a perfect couple. Suze is still my favorite demon ever, and I just love him to pieces.

Gayle does an exceptional job at tying up loose ends and bringing a satisfying yet emotional end to her trilogy. The world-building keeps up pace with the previous books and brings about new twists. I love Gayle’s fast-paced writing style. I wanted to sit and read this in one sitting.

A fantastic end to a fantastic series, Emi Gayle’s Darkest Day will leave the reader satisfied and yet missing the characters because they’re awesome like that.

Five Bookworms = I loved it!

Other Books in the Series:

Click here to read my review.

Click here to read my review.

Book Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Title: Doctor Sleep
Series: The Shining #2
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner (September 24, 2013)
Genre: Horror

Format Read: Ebook
Length: Novel
Source: Purchased

Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

Teasers: There came a time when you realized that moving on was pointless. That you took yourself with you wherever you went. [10% Ebook. A bit depressing, but very true.]

Then, with no reason why, he added: “We’re all dying. The world’s just a hospice with fresh air.” [12% Ebook. As the teaser above, depressing, but a bit true.]

All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream. [15% Ebook. Love this point originally from Poe.]

We thought we had an intruder in the house, only what kind of burglar stops to play a little Beatles before grabbing the silverware? [20% Ebook. This made me laugh.]

Review: The demons from the old Overlook Hotel are child’s play compared to the ones coming in Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep.

The characters shine in this novel. Danny Torrance has grown up, but his troubled past shoves him toward rock bottom. Whether it is luck, coincidence, or a higher power, he makes his way north and toward his salvation in the form of a little girl name Abra Stone. Abra is an intelligent, hard-headed, and loveable girl. I loved how we watched her grow into her shining abilities. Dan’s friends Billy and Doctor John give him the support he needs to do what he needs to do.

Although I typically like to keep the monsters of horror novels more in the dark until it’s time to shine the light on them, King wrote the villains perfectly. The True Knot has their areas of gray. They live. They love. They torture. They murder. They are the villains we know well without really knowing them at all.

Some of the beginning seemed a bit slow and unrelated to the ongoing plot, but like a turn of a wheel, the novel had a delightful circularity to it and by a third into the book, I found there was no turning back. King creates an amazingly complex plot to go along with the complex characters. And there are revelations that made me gasp and produced goose bumps along my arms. The ending brought tears to my eyes and was just perfect.

Whether you’ve read The Shining or not, I highly recommend Doctor Sleep by Stephen King.

Five Bookworms = I loved it!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Book Review: The Ghosts of Aquinnah by Julie Flanders

Title: The Ghost of Aquinnah
Author: Julie Flanders
Publisher: Ink Smith Publishing (December 5, 2013)
Genre: Paranormal

Format Read: Ebook ARC
Length: Novel
Source: Author

A brilliant flash of light transcends through time.

Another freezes a cloaked figure within a frame of salty mist as waves crash against a rocky shore. Her harrowing expression shadows the beacon to a pinprick.

By the next blaze, she is gone. Only the lighthouse remains.

Hannah’s eyes blink in step with each heartbeat. Images of her deceased parents and Martha’s Vineyard explode like firecrackers inside her mind.

She shakes her head.

For weeks this eerie woman dressed in nineteenth century garb has been haunting my webcam, but tonight she stared into my soul.

Why? ...

Who is she? ...

Casting aside months of research on historic lighthouses, Hannah drives to the coast and boards a ferry.

What is the strange connection she has to this mysterious woman suspended in time?

Hannah finds out.

But, it’s not at all what she expects ...

Hannah unravels a century old murder.

Teaser: It was almost as if he could see her spirit dripping out from her body and collecting in a puddle at her feet. [27% Ebook ARC. Loved this imagery.]

Review: A woman on a mission, Hannah seeks the mysterious woman who haunts a lighthouse in Aquinnah in Julie Flanders’ The Ghosts of Aquinnah.

This novel jumps between current time (2013) and historical Martha’s Vineyard (1884). The mysterious woman Hannah sees upon a webcam one night pulls the reader into the tale of Christopher, a shipwrecked young Irishman, and Stella, a young woman married to a man she doesn’t love. My heart ached for Christopher and Stella and the conflict of their budding feelings of love. At times the parts with Stella reminded me of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. Josiah, Stella’s husband and the town doctor, played the perfect villain, although one a reader could sympathize with as well.

I wish we saw more of Hannah in 2013 Martha’s Vineyard and New England. The novel veered more on Christopher and Stella’s side, but I felt a connection with Hannah and had hoped to delve deeper into her life and conflicts. Her part of the story almost felt a touch anti-climactic compared to Christopher and Stella’s.

I loved the settings within this novel and how they can be beautiful with the lighthouses, greenery, and ocean waves as well as mysterious and downright creepy with the thick fog and chilly atmosphere. Flanders’ writing captured the world and the timelines of the story.

Touching and tragic, The Ghosts of Aquinnah by Julie Flanders will stick with you.

Four Bookworms = I really liked it!