A MelanieM Audio Review:Red Dirt Heart (Red Dirt #1) by N.R. Walker and Joel Leslie (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Welcome to Sutton Station: One of the world’s largest working farms in the middle of Australia – where if the animals and heat don’t kill you first, your heart just might.

Charlie Sutton runs Sutton Station the only way he knows how; the way his father did before him. Determined to keep his head down and his heart in check, Charlie swears the red dirt that surrounds him – isolates him – runs through his veins.

American agronomy student Travis Craig arrives at Sutton Station to see how farmers make a living from one of the harshest environments on earth. But it’s not the barren, brutal and totally beautiful landscapes that capture him so completely, it’s the man with the red dirt heart.

Please note: This book is set in Australia, using Australian English and lingo.

NR Walker’s Red Dirt Heart series became an instant comfort read when I first read it when it first came out in 2014.  I adored the characters, the setting (it was one of my first Australian location stories), the differences in our cultures and, yes, the similarities, just everything!  I was wombat crazy and red dirt heart in love!

Time passed and NR Walker became an auto read, her books a must buy.  The Red Dirt Heart series always floating fondly there in her library waiting to be rec’d.  Then came the audio version of NR Walker’s  Spencer Cohen stories and Joel Leslie’s perfect narration, Aussie voice included.  What leapt to mind?  That I needed to listen to Joel Leslie narrating Red Dirt Heart in the worst way.

So back to the outback I went.  Back to the lives of all the people at the Sutton Ranch and the hot red dirt landscape that captures their hearts and souls.  And the readers too so quickly. I always had pictures of how Charlie and Trav looked fixed so firmly in my head, but now?   Oh, my, with Joel Leslie taking such a firm, absolute grasp of NR Walker’s characters and story, here every favorite person burst back into life once more.  Charlie with his distinct broad Aussie accent comes immediately into play and just listening to Charlie, his many inner monologues to his exchanges with Ma and his ranch hands, who he is as a person becomes crystal clear. You know Charlie now, more than ever before.

And its not just Charlie’s accent, but a multitude of australian accents that Leslie comes p with, all genders, as well as all ages.   Then Trav arrives.  All slow, warm, southern Texas drawl flowing out of his mouth….and boom!  It’s as though Trav has walked through our doors, lively, unable to sit still, and more Trav, more three dimensional than I can remember.  Red Dirt Heart is singing to me.  The characters are bright, lively, passionate, and so real it hurts at times.

And this story!  I remember now why I loved it so. Love it so.  There’s Matilda, Ma and George, even the horses Shelby and Texas, plus the ranch hands that become a family.  And alway, always, that red dirt soil and landscape that spreads like another major character across the novel and series that digs just as deep into your heart as everyone else.

You know what I found?  I loved these stories even more.  Joel Leslie and NR Walker are perfection, literary mates mean to be.  And now its on to the rest of the series because you just can’t stop here.

Whether it’s your first time or the upteenth, go immediately for the audio version of the amazing Red Dirt Heart series and fall in love again or all over again.  Tis the holidays.  Treat yourself or someone you love.  I can’t think of a better gift.

Cover art for this series has stayed with me so yes, love it.

Audio Sales:  Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audio Details:

5 hrs 7 mins

Audible Audio, Unabridged, 6 pages
Published July 4th 2016 by Love Lane Books (first published February 20th 2014)
ASINB01HU3WTHQ
Edition Language English
SeriesRed Dirt #1
Characters Charles Sutton, Travis Craig
setting Australia

A Lucy Audio Review: Finders Keepers by N.R. Walker and Joel Leslie (Narrator)

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Needing a change of scene, Griffin Burke moves from Brisbane to Coolum Beach to start a new job. The beautiful white sand, aqua-coloured ocean, blue skies, and summer breezes are everything he longs for. What he finds is a mud-covered dog, lost and hungry, with a nametag and a phone number.

Dane Hughes is stuck in Surfers Paradise at a week-long work conference when he gets a phone call from his distraught mother. His dog, his fur baby, Wicket, has run away. Unable to leave and feeling helpless and miserable, he gets a text from a guy. “I think I found your dog…”

Griffin and Dane start talking, and Griffin agrees to look after Wicket until Dane can collect him. With a few days left before his new job starts, Griffin takes Wicket on some coastal adventures and sends Dane photos of their fun, and so the start of something new and kind of wonderful begins.

Griffin might have moved to Coolum in search of a new life, but what he finds is so much more. What he gets to keep just might take some four-legged help.

This was just what I needed after a pretty angsty book and it’s going into my “read after a bad day” folder on my iPad.  Griffin has just moved to Coolum Beach and on a hiking trip ends up giving water to a cute dog.  When he returns the next day, it’s raining and miserable and the poor dog is still there, now wetter and dirtier.  Griffin is a nice person, so he takes the dog, Wicket, and contacts the owner from the phone number on the tag. 

Poor Dane. He’s Wicket’s owner, and he has been frantic.  He left Wicket with his parents while he went away on a work conference and the little escape artist managed to open the screen door and disappear.  Dane’s parents are so upset and Wicket is no where to be found. In swoops Griffin, to say, “Yes, I found a dog.  Can you tell me about him?”  And so begins the friendship turned more of Griffin and Dane. And Wicket the dog, who is far from the parent’s house.

Griffin offers to care for Wicket until Dane returns from his business trip and does so in style, taking him to restaurants and parks, hiking and out for doggie desserts, all the while sending pictures and updates to Dane.  It was adorable.  Dane and Griffin get to know each other via text message and phone calls and I loved that as well. Sometimes it was awkward and adorable.  “And if you were looking-“I cringed at how ridiculous this was.  “-and used dating aps, would you use Tinder? Or maybe Grindr?”  I buried my face in the sofa cushion and rolled my eyes and wanted to die.”

The story basically is the adventures of Wicket and Griffin and then adding in Dane.  Friendly, flirty and then on to more. They do move pretty fast but they admit it.  “He told me he recognized we were moving pretty fast but he liked it, and I told him I agreed.  Wholeheartedly.”   The story is told in alternating first person point of view and I appreciated that as well.  I like getting to hear both sides. 

There is no angst in this book, no conflict.  It’s just a gentle, soft, fluffy story with a meet-cute and a lovely dog.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Narration by Joel Leslie is perfect, as usual.  He gives different voices to Dane and Griffin, making it easy to differentiate between the two and his upbeat tone fits very well.

Cover art, showing Wicket with Griffin, is simple and I felt is conveyed the feel of the story well. 

Sales Links:  Amazon | Audible | Audiobooks

Audio Book Details:

Listening Length: 6 hours and 30 minutes

Audible Audio, 7 pages
Published July 30th 2019 by Tantor Audio (first published January 31st 2018)
Original Title Finders Keepers
ASINB07VHJHR1L
setting Australia

A MelanieM Recent Release Review: Galaxies and Oceans by N.R. Walker

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Seizing his one chance to escape, Ethan Hosking leaves his violent ex-boyfriend, leaves his entire life, and walks into the path of a raging bushfire. Desperate to start over, a new man named Aubrey Hobbs walks out of the fire-ravaged forest, alive and alone. With no ID and no money, nothing but his grandfather’s telescope, he goes where the Southern Cross leads him.

Patrick Carney is the resident lighthouse keeper in Hadley Cove, a small town on the remote Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia. After the tragic death of his lover four years ago, he lives a solitary life; just him, a tabby cat, the Indian and Southern Oceans, and a whole lot of loneliness. He’s content with his life until a stranger shows up in town and turns Patrick’s head.

Patrick never expected to be interested in anyone else.

Aubrey never expected to be happy.

Between Aubrey’s love of the stars and Patrick’s love of the ocean, these two fragile hearts must navigate new waters. If they can weather the storm of their pasts, they could very well have a love that eclipses everything.

Galaxies and Oceans by N.R. Walker was simply one of the most moving, heart felt romances I’ve read in a long time.  The combination of island, lighthouse, small town atmosphere, and memorable characters make this story one to carry in your heart for some time to come.

There’s also this almost intangible overlay of something magical, call it fate…call it the stars but N.R. Walker has cast a spell over her narrative so that this contemporary romance has a mystical feeling when the men need it the most.  Or perhaps when you least expect it, a touch of magic brushes over the story.

How these men need it and each other.  Walker has created two wounded souls in Patrick and Ethan.  Patrick lost his partner years ago to the sea and he has never recovered from the loss. Now he just goes about his life as the keeper of the local lighthouse at Hadley Cove, his romantic life nil. Ethan Hosking’s life has  gotten so dark, so full of despair and pain that he can’t see his way out until a fire and desperation points a way.  Using his grandfather’s telescope, it’s Aubrey Hobbs who walks out of the fire and eventually makes his way all the way to Hadley Cove and into Patrick’s life.

Walker’s ability to make us see the frailty of Ethan/Aubrey as he tries to ease his way into being a part of life at Hadley Cove is amazing.  You are there as Patrick slowly befriends the skittish new person in town, finds him a job, and in the  slow burn way, builds a trust that will allow the men to form a relationship and love.  And in turn, Ethan who now is truly becoming Aubrey teaches Patrick how to start to let go, grieve, and truly celebrate what he had with his first love.

Plus there’s all the secondary yet so important cast that is needed to shore up Aubrey’s recovery from his years of abuse into the person he’s becoming in Hadley Cove.  And the food that Patrick cooks  and serves up that’s simple but mouthwatering. The descriptions of the warmth of the hearth in the lighthouse and the cat that mourned and now accepts Aubrey.  It’s exemplary and all just means this book is beautifully written. Everything about this story will break your heart and put it back together again.

I just love it.  And it’s on my to be reread pile soon.  Yes, I highly recommend it.  I will leave you sighing and so happy for days after the book is done.

Cover art is perfect for the story. I wish I could have found the artist. Love it.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 313 pages
Published June 23rd 2018 by BlueHeart Press
Original TitleGalaxies and Oceans
ASINB07DZNX1LT
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Sammy Review: Cronin’s Key (Cronin’s Key #1) by N.R. Walker

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5:

Cronin's key coverWeird and Alec MacAidan tend to go together. From bending bullets to people suddenly turning to ash, his experience on the police force and in life haven’t necessarily been the most normal, but it’s about to get a whole lot weirder when a vampire named Cronin shows up at the station and disappears with Alec in front of a whole bunch of cops.

Alec’s full of questions, but the answers always seem to lead to more. There’s a whole other world out there Alec had no idea about, and Cronin and his coven are all part of that. Alec’s been told most of his life that he’s special, but he just never had this in mind – being fated to a vampire is one thing, but what they discover about just how special he is… well that’s a whole different ball game.

He wanted to be everything to Cronin. And he would be. Everything he needed, everything he wanted, Alec was it.

 As Cronin was to him.

N.R. Walker has always been the author I go to when I need a break from reality. her books tend to provide me with easy escapes and easy reads, and Cronin’s Key is no different. When I had time to read, I flew through the pages and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

This book, which I hope is the first in at least a three book series, provides a great introduction to both Alec and Cronin. They both have distinct personalities that Walker does a great job of highlighting. Furthermore, the way that the connection between them builds, despite there being an instant love factor due to fate, is really great, especially the bits of humor that are laced into it. I had so much fun reading their banter and it kept me smiling.

The side characters were really great too. I enjoyed getting to know them as well as how they laced into the story of Alec and Cronin. They didn’t take away from it, but they added greatly to the depth. It presented a whole new dynamic that I certainly appreciated.

But my favorite part, hands down, is the alternate history and therefore the world that Walker created. Instead of just throwing vampires into society as we know it, she took events such as the Black Plague and reimagined them. I was so giddy over this and so enamored by the past that she built. I really hope that this continues in coming books, as it was such a strong element to the book that it’s something I will remember this book for.

My only complaint would be that I wasn’t immediately drawn in at the beginning, and unfortunately some of the lines were a bit cheesy, especially toward the end in battle scenes. It was just that the villain sounded like they were from a badly scripted series, but besides that, it read very well. In general, this was a fun start to a new series that I will look forward to reading more of.

The cover art by Sara York does a nice job of accenting the story, though I am not necessarily the most pleased with it aesthetically. It fits the story, but looks-wise, it’s not that great.

 

Sales Links:    All Romance (ARe)      Amazon        Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 265 pages
Published March 13th 2015 by Self-Published (first published March 12th 2015)
original titleCronin’s Key
edition languageEnglish
seriesCronin’s Key #1