A MelanieM Audio Review: Family Camp (Daddy Dearest #1) by Eli Easton and Matthew Shaw (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

When Geo signs up for Family Camp, he envisions nature hikes, s’mores, and a chance to win over his recalcitrant new foster kids, Jayden and Lucy. He’s tried to become a dad for so long, and he hopes the three of them can be the family he’s always wanted. What he doesn’t anticipate is the prickly and gorgeous camp counselor who constantly comes to his rescue.

Travis spends a week every year at Camp Evermore, the camp his adoptive parents own. As a pro baseball player, his presence guarantees a full campground and excited campers. He has one rule: never, ever mess around with anyone at camp. His profession demands he stay in the closet. But one sweet and funny new dad is about to test all his resolve.

Sparks fly for Geo and Travis, and not because of the nightly campfire. Having been a foster kid himself, Travis is drawn to Geo’s sincerity and big heart and to his kids. The four of them just fit. But will this be a summer romance? Or can they find a way to be a family long after Family Camp is over?

You know how there are books that as soon as you’ve finished them, you want to start them  all over again?  Well, it turns out there are audio books you feel about that way too. Family Camp (Daddy Dearest #1) by Eli Easton and Matthew Shaw (Narrator) is most definitely one of them.  It imparts  those warm, fuzzy, wrapped up in your favorite blankie sort of feelings, boosted in part by the fabulous narration by Matthew Shaw.

It all starts when new foster dad (who wants to be their forever dad) Geo signs his small new family up for some bonding time at Family Camp in hopes he and they can start to start to move through erected barriers and begin the process of learning about each other and becoming a family.

The journey is not going well.  The car is barely holding together as is Geo’s nerves, the kids well, are being who they are, removed and or brash/outspoken, depending upon the kid. And everything about it speaks of an authenticity of desperation, the reality of a new dad trying to make things work and oh yeah, the heat of a summer’s day.  Great writing, great characters, and a great scene that also came alive with the right narration. Yep, totally hooked.

When Travis enters the picture along with his dog Max, if my heart wasn’t totally engaged before, it was now.  Because the sparks flew and I just knew this was going to be a great couple and yes family affair.  And I couldn’t wait to see how Easton would bring them all together at Camp.

Turns out it’s quite the journey as Travis isn’t out to his team or family.  Geo has foster children in need of himself and the idea they have found their forever home.  And more, so much more as Travis is the product of the foster system and the Family Camp is run by his parents who raised him and a huge number of children, much of whom came out of the system.  Trust is a big element here and not just for Jayden and Lucy but also for Travis and  Geo.

Easton carefully weaves the bonds of family and love between the men and the children, making them feel real and heartbound.  That it takes only two weeks doesn’t feel unlikely because of the established backgrounds.

The pace of the story and the resolution to the angst filled moments all felt right.  As I said I would  be listening to this story again soon, when I need a hug and a story to warm me.

The narration by Matthew Shaw is everything.  His tones have a wide range, equal to a father like Travis’ and then down to Lucy beginning to come out of her shell.  I believed them all.

Cover art just made me grin.  That’s perfect for the story and character.  Doesn’t it make you want to come to Family Camp too?

Audio Buy Links: Audible US | Audible UK | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Audio Book Details:

Audible Audio, 7 pages
Published August 14th 2019 by Pinkerton Road LLC (first published March 28th 2019)
ASINB07W62RBR6
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesDaddy Dearest #1

A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Played! (The Shamwell Tales #2) by J.L. Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

All the world’s a stage…but real-life lessons are hidden in the heart.

Tristan’s in Shamwell for one last summer of freedom before he joins the family firm in New York—no more farting around on stage, as his father puts it. But the classically trained actor can’t resist when members of the local amateur dramatics society beg him to take a role in their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Especially as he’ll also be giving private acting lessons to gorgeous local handyman, Con, who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Tristan’s determined to get Con in his bed—not only is the man delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan’s success after a bet made with his drama school chum Amanda.

Con’s never dared to act before. A late-diagnosed dyslexic who had a hard time at school, he’s always been convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines—but with Tristan helping him, he might just be in with a chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken, and with Tristan due to leave the country in a matter of months, Con’s determined not to give in and start anything that’s bound to finish badly.

Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance of happiness.

Warning: contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave.

I’m a fan of both JL Merrow and her Shamwell Tales, the series that follows the lives and romances of this small English village and it’s little group of thespians.  Not familiar you say?  Well, Played! in audiobook format is a splendid way to make its acquaintance because a terrific story is further enhanced by the outstanding narration by Mark Steadman.

I easily sunk into the drama and every day lives of Tristan and Con with Mark Steadman’s voice casting a spell over the tale.  The narrator rose quickly to being the “voice’ of  everyone in the large cast of players as well as acting the various roles the characters/actors were playing (play inside a play) from Bottom to Puck, and giving them life as well.  I never had a difficulty distinguishing between characters, and indeed, often forgot I was listening to only one person narrating the story, Mark Steadman is that good.

And with Mark Steadman narrating, you can concentrate on the story of Tris and Con and their rocky path towards romance and love. Ah, Tris with his rich imperious father and full load of familial expectations, none of which seem particularly desirable to Tristan.  The death of his Gram, a house, and a cat lead Tris to Shamwell, the Shamwell Players and Con.  All of which starts to erode the strict goals his family has laid out for him,. Under the influence of Con and the people he’s meeting,  Tristan becomes the person he’s meant to be.

Con, a handyman, ends up with a remarkable amount of revelations for himself as well.  A learning disability has Con convinced he could never act until Tristan starts coaching him. The why’s behind that action I’ll leave up to the story.  There’s is mystery in Con’s background and an investigation to launch in the village.  Really, Played! has a cornucopia of elements and it makes for a lively, hopping plot!

Merrow’s characters have depth and a believability about them that makes it a delight to care for them and the outcome of their romance. Especially, when you want to give them a shake or two as you will Tristan!  The story just flows and the listening goes quickly.  You’ll find the book is over and your visit in Shamwell done before you are ready to leave.  At least I felt that way.  Luckily there are more Shamwell tales out there.  I hope they all end up as audiobooks with Mark Steadman as the narrator.  I can’t wait to listen.

I highly recommend this audiobook and all the Shamwell stories, ebook and otherwise.

Cover by: Natasha Snow is  perfect for Tristan.  Love the cover.

Sales Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon |  Audible |  iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Listening Time: 6 hrs., 58 min.

Audiobook
Published September 15th 2017 by Riptide Publishing (first published June 30th 2015)
Original TitlePlayed!
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series The Shamwell Tales #2
setting England (United Kingdom

 

 

 

A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Shax’s War (Brimstone #3 by Angel Martinez and Vance Bastian (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The boys desperately need a vacation. With the not-quite-ill-gotten gains from the Frog incident, Shax takes the Brimstone’s crew to the exclusive resort planet, Opal, for some much needed rest and relaxation. The resort has everything a demon prince and his crew could want, but an incident on the Trauma Ball court sends Ness stalking off in anger and sends events swiftly spiraling out of control.

Shax will need every bit of his cunning and his legendary luck to save his Ness as he’s drawn into a web of criminal experiments and…pink hedgehogs?

I’ve been  following the unusual crew of the Brimstone since the first story, Potato Surprise, and have seen each tale bring more layers to each character, more additions to the Brimstone crew, and each novel becoming increasingly complex and potentially heartbreaking.  Shax’s War really is the pinnacle of the series to date.  Martinez takes a moment of downtime for the crew and escalates it into a flight of sheer terror and heartbreak as well as a ship of horrors for one.

When I read it in 2014 when it was first released (this series and author are must reads for me) this story put me through the wringer.  Angel Martinez can create characters like Shax, his fallen angel lover Ness, Verin, cowboy Corny,  the ship’s IA Ivana Cockatoo, and among the new additions Leopold.  Every single one able to grab at your heart, letting you connect deeply to their lives and situations.  And what situations and adventures they manage to get themselves into.  But nothing like what occurs here within Shax’s War.

Some of the scenes are not for the squeamish. Beings treated as organ donors while alive will do that.

Luckily a rescue will put an end to that horror.  But it’s there, so be warned.  This is a white knuckle ride all the way, fear and love for these characters will be driving you through listening to the audiobook in one clip, much as I did the story. Vance Bastian again does an outstanding job with this variety of characters from the gruff Verin to the improbable pink hedgehog Leopold and everyone inbetween.  He brings Shax to life with the fear and desperation ringing in his lines as he searches for his love, the horror of the ship and the pain as the demon begins to crack up under it all.  Such an amazing story and Vance Bastian brought  out new elements I hadn’t noticed before when I read it, highlighting new aspects of the story by his narration making me appreciate it all over again.

If you’re new to this series, start at the beginning and see how the Brimstone got it crew.  You can get it all in a collection.  Then you can look forward to new stories as they arrive.  I hope the author is not done with the crew yet and there are more galactic adventures to come.  I can hardly wait for both the books and the audio versions!  I highly recommend them both.

Cover art is a little jarring.  I really don’t think that’s Leopold.

Sales LInks:  Mischief Corner Books | Amazon

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio Edition
Listening Length: 4 hours and 30 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Version: Unabridged
Publisher: Mischief Corner Books, LLC
Audible.com Release Date: June 29, 2017
Whispersync for Voice: Ready
Language: English
ASIN: B073DGQ7DG