Friday, March 30, 2018

Book Review: Rescuing Rayne by Susan Stoker

Rescuing Rayne Cover If you enjoy military-hero romances, this is an excellent one

Rescuing Rayne (Delta Force Heroes #1) by Susan Stoker

Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: February 9, 2016
Pages: 418 pages
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

An unexpected flight cancellation leads to a life-changing, romantic adventure in London that flight attendant, Rayne Jackson, never imagined possible. After less than 24 hours spent with a handsome, enigmatic stranger, whom she is sure must be a spy or a soldier, finds Rayne falling in love. Unfortunately, the wonderful man whose tender attentiveness has captured her mind and heart has warned her, up front, that all he can offer her is that one, unforgettable day.

Keane "Ghost" Bryson is a Delta Force officer who has spent years keeping secret his identity, his job, and especially the nature of his top-secret assignments, from everyone but his team and military higher-ups. Out of long-entrenched habit, he shows Rayne one of his false identity documents, but his heart leads him to offer her his true military nickname, Ghost, and the strength of his emotional attachment to her is the most deeply authentic thing he has ever experienced. The problem is, he believes his mission of endless danger in the military would not be fair of him to offer to a wife or family, and he is determined to stay single until he retires. But destiny takes a hand in this troubled romance when, months later, fate brings the two lovers together again when Rayne finds herself the captive of violent revolutionaries, along with dozens of other hapless tourists, and all seems lost until the Delta Force Team arrives.

This is a well-written story. Ghost is a very likable, strong hero, and Rayne is an equally appealing heroine. The sex scenes are not gratuitous and are very tender. There is lots of powerful, often terrifying action-adventure. I particularly enjoyed the subcharacters. Ghost's relationships with his Delta Force team members are very compelling. I liked all these brave men, and each of them either already has or will have his own book in this series. We got a taste of the relationship between Rayne's very sympathetic best friend Mary and Delta Force team member, Truck, in this book. I am looking forward to reading their story when it is released in the near future.

If you enjoy military-hero romances, this is an excellent one. Recommended.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 4

Hero: 4

Subcharacters: 5

Romance Plot: 4

Action-Adventure Plot: 4

Writing: 4

Overall: 4

Friday, March 16, 2018

Book Review: Burn Bright by Patricia Briggs

Burn Bright Cover Review of audiobook

Burn Bright (Alpha and Omega series)

Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Length: 9 hours and 47 minutes
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

I experienced this book as an audiobook. I own a complete collection of every one of Patricia Briggs' books and I am a huge fan. I am particularly fond of Charles and Anna and the Alpha and Omega offshoot series of the Mercy Thompson Series.

The plots of all of the books in this series are essentially a combination of murder-mystery and action-adventure, which is very much an expected feature of the urban fantasy genre.

As always for the author's stories in this magical world, each book builds upon the other, with events in the Mercy series spilling over into the Alpha and Omega series, and vice versa. In that regard, it was particularly fascinating to me learning even more about Bran's love for Mercy, which builds upon the new information in that regard we learned in the most recent book in the Mercy series.

I adore the relationship between Charles and Anna, which is the centerpiece of this book and every book in this series. It is always co-equal and cooperative, with each always there for the other, rescuing each other from physical danger and supporting each other emotionally. I particularly love the way that Charles's wolf spirit within him, Brother Wolf, can communicate mentally via ESP with Anna. Charles and Anna enjoy a romantic and eternal kind of soulmate relationship.

Because this series began and has continued throughout with the two of them in partnership, as co-protagonists, versus one of them being the protagonist and the other a subcharacter as in the Mercy series, Briggs has not found it as necessary as in the Mercy series to orphan either of them from the other as Mercy is often orphaned from her husband, Alpha werewolf Adam, forcing her out on her own, having to save herself from horrendously deadly villains. I find that a fascinating uniqueness within the urban fantasy genre with its first-person point-of-view storytelling of a lone protagonist, up against a hostile world. Though, granted, a commonality in the plotting across both series is that each presents a support network for the protagonist of fascinating, compelling, and sympathetic magical characters. The difference is that Mercy accumulates her support network over time, across the whole Mercy series, and a support network is already in place for Anna and Charles that is systematically added to with each successive book.

My one disappointment with this particular book was that a subcharacter I had grown very fond of across the five books of this series is revealed as a villain. I found that quite personally painful to experience. But, since this sort of thing is not uncommon in any action-adventure plot, I am not downgrading my rating of this book because of it.

The mystery and action at the core of this book are well done and very compelling. I also enjoyed the introduction of some new and fascinating characters to this series whom I am very sure will appear in future books and add to the emotional intensity as well as fast-paced storytelling we have come to expect and greatly enjoy in this wonderful urban-fantasy series.

Finally, the narration of this entire series has been done by Holter Graham, who is phenomenal. He is capable of doing male and female voices ranging from falsetto to deep bass. He can excellently portray old people, middle-aged people, young adults and children, all with equal believability. It is pure pleasure listening to him.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Book Review: Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald

Sir Gibbie Cover Unedited, unabridged version

Sir Gibbie (Sir Gibbie #1) by George MacDonald

Reading Level: Classic Children's Book
Release Date: May 12, 2012
Length: 361 pages
Publisher: Public Domain
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Years ago I had a very hard time collecting children's books by the 19th Century Scottish author, George MacDonald, because I had to track them down as rare, hardcover editions. Yes, from time to time children's publishers, such as Dutton and Scribner's, have brought them back into print, but "Sir Gibbie," in particular, has often gone out of print. I used to own the version edited by Newberry Medal winner, Elizabeth Yates (Dutton, New York, 1963, reprinted Schocken Books, New York, 1979), but some time back, in a move, I lost it. Interestingly, I didn't realized until recently that the version that Ms. Yates edited is abridged to a considerably shorter length than this, the original version. She also removed entirely or rewrote most of the Scottish dialogue. Michael Phillips states that the Yates 1963 edition of this book served as a model and inspiration for his own edited and abridged versions of many of MacDonald’s children's novels, including "Sir Gibbie." The version of this book that Phillips edited is titled, "Wee Sir Gibbie of the Highlands, George MacDonald Classics for Young Readers," (Bethany House Publishers, October 1, 1990). Another edited and abridged version of this book is: "Sir Gibbie, Classics for Young Readers Edition," edited by Kathryn Lindskoog, (P & R Publishing, 2001).

George MacDonald (December 10, 1824 - September 18, 1905) was a Christian (Congregationalist sect) minister, poet, and most famously, the author of children's books, many of them fantasies, though not this particular children's book. In regard to MacDonald's fantasy novels, he inspired fellow fantasy authors Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, and Madeleine L'Engle. C. S. Lewis in particular stated that he regarded MacDonald as his "master."

To adult readers, Gibbie may seem to be, quite heavy-handedly, a Christ figure in this novel, and the novel may seem quite "preachy." However, taken in his own right, as the protagonist of a children's book (to the modern reader it can be read that way, though in 1879, when it was first published, it was novel read by all ages), Gibbie is one of the most sympathetic protagonists I have ever experienced. I loved reading this book as a child, again as a teenager, and multiple other times as an adult. The unabridged, unedited version of this novel may be hard to wade through for some modern readers who dislike transliteration of dialect, because this book is set in Scotland, and is filled with 19th century Scottish brogue. I personally enjoy that and can hear it in my head as I read it and am happy to finally read this book in its original form.

As for this particular edition, it was translated to digital format by a community of volunteers and, as such, is not an elaborate edition with fancy layout. But it is adequate and easily read, and certainly the price is right--it is free.

I rate this story as follows:

Overall: 5

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Book Review: Miss Tonks Turns to Crime by M.C. Beaton AKA Marion Chesney

Miss Tonks Turns to Crime Cover Book 2 of the Poor Relations Series

Miss Tonks Turns to Crime (The Poor Relation Series #2) by M.C. Beaton AKA Marion Chesney

Reading Level: Adult Historical
Release Date: January 14, 2014
Publisher: RosettaBooks
Length: 216 pages
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

This is the second book of the Poor Relation Series. It is recommended to read the books in order, as they feed into each other. Book 1 lets us know how six impoverished "poor relations" of wealthy, aristocratic families find each other and, together, attempt to alleviate the near starvation conditions under which they had been living, on their own, as they strove to keep up appearances among their social peers while living in genteel poverty. In the first book these six friends established the Poor Relation hotel, which became quite successful, but by the time that this book begins, their improvident money management has brought them to the point of being in danger of losing the hotel and being plunged back into extreme poverty.

In the first book, two members of their group, Lady Fortescue and Sir Philip, had stolen valuable items from their rich relations, which Sir Philip pawned. In this book, it is decided that someone else must take a turn filching from rich relatives, and by the drawing of straws, timid, elderly spinster, Miss Letitia Tonks, is nominated to rob her rich sister in order to replenish the depleted coffers of herself and her friends.

While visiting her selfish snob of a sister, the intrepid Miss Tonks is inspired to dress up as a highwayman and steal her sister's massive, diamond necklace and matching tiara. But as she bravely attempts the daring deed, she mistakenly holds up the carriage of handsome Lord Eston. Fortunately, he not only takes pity on her, he gallantly dons her highwayman mask, successfully pilfers the diamonds for her, and on impulse, claims a kiss from Miss Tonks's lovely, young niece, Cassandra Blessop.

Thus begins the madcap adventures of Miss Tonks and Cassandra, who opts to flee to London with her aunt to escape the callous cruelty of her grasping mother.

This Regency-era, six-book series reminds me very much of another six-book Regency series, A House for the Season, by M. C. Beaton, both of which were originally published under the pseudonym, Marion Chesney. Each book in both of these series has an overarching "comedy of errors" plot and a secondary romance plot between a young set of lovers who are not part of the main ensemble cast, who appear in each book of these series. The romance subplot in these books, including this one, is always enjoyable, but inevitably rather perfunctory and rushed, because relatively little page time is allotted to develop it. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if one enjoys Georgette Heyer's Regency romps with a similar formula, primary emphasis placed on a comedy of errors and secondary focus on a romance.

Chesney has a very unique voice in her books, which provides a slightly macabre window onto the often brutal demands of daily life in the Regency period, a coarse reality that historical romance novels normally tend to gloss over.

All in all, this book, like many other Chesney Regencies, has quite a few humorous moments, and her strong suit in achieving that goal is her quirky ensemble cast. Of all of these main characters in this particular series, in my view, Sir Philip absolutely steals the show. His incessant ability to come up with outrageously amoral plots in support of his adopted family of fellow poor relations is a frequent source of outright belly laughs. In this book in particular, the hair-raising things he does to the villain of the book, the dastardly Monsieur Bonnard, are well deserved and outright hilarious.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine Miss Tonks: 4

Ensemble Cast: 4

Romantic Subcharacters: 4

Historical Setting: 4

Comedy: 4

Writing: 4

Overall: 4