A MelanieM Audio Review: Red Dirt Heart 2 by NR Walker and Joel Leslie Narrator

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Up until Travis arrived on his doorstep, Charlie had lived a very solitary life. He had surrounded himself with isolation; a couple million acres of red dirt, scorching sun and loneliness.

Six months on, winter has settled over the desert, and Charlie has the life he never dreamed possible. But living and working together, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, for six months straight starts to take its toll.

Charlie is a stubborn, stubborn man, who tends to have more conversations in his head than what comes out his mouth, whereas Travis has no problem saying what’s on his mind. And even as they both struggle to communicate, struggle to make sense of need versus want, Charlie can see that he’s pushing Travis away – yet seems helpless to stop it.

When it all boils down to whether Travis should stay or go, maybe the decision won’t be theirs to make.

Listening to the amazing repertoire of voices that emerge from Joel Leslie, the narrator of NR Walker’s Red Dirt Heart series, it has come vividly back to me why I loved this book and series so in the first place.

Here once again I feel all the insecurities that have Charlie Sutton pushing Travis away, fearing that he will leave him sonner or later after all, getting tired of Charlie or the harsh landscape that is the outback of the Sutton Ranch.  Also the deep fear and pain instilled by Charlie’s father about his sexuality that continues to influence his behavior, all in negative ways. It’s a daily battle for Travis to fight, against Charlie’s inner demons and monologues and the verbal fights  that seems to be getting more frequent.

Along with all the personal relationship dynamics, we get the wonderful “found family” on display at the ranch too.  There’s Ma and George, Billy, Bacom, among the core that’s being gathered together here.  There’s watching Charlie stretching forward through his interactions outside the station as well as his tentatively accepting a future outside his fears with Travis at his side.

And always there’s the growing love and deepening relationship between them both that I just love, that encompasses both mens past history, family, respect and love for the land and each other.

This is what it’s all about, right here. Open desert, flat to the horizon, blue sky, red dirt and you.

 

All Red Dirt Heart stories flow naturally, one right into the next, so reading or listening to them without interruption now that the series is finished is a true joy this time around.  It just highlights how well constructed the stories and series is as well as how well developed and multidimensional all the characters are.  Stomtimes a series doesn’t age well with time.  Not so with the Red Dirt Heart series.  In fact, I may even love them a little bit more.  Joel Leslie’s voices have now become those people for me in my head, Trav’s slow southern Texas drawn and Charlie’s broad Aussie tones forever set as theirs.

Nut how I love this love affair.  Of the heart and of the land.

“He had this way of making me love him just a little bit more by doing the simplest of things. The littlest of things.”

I’m heading into RDH 3 audio next, then all the way to the end.  I’m smiling and picturing the station, the people, and yes, even the animals, especially Nugget.  I can’t imagine that as a reader you haven’t found this series already, but if you haven’t the audio version is such a marvelous way to make it’s introduction, via the superb narration of Joel Leslie  who inhabitants these characters as if he was made to do it.  I highly recommend  every aspect from author to narrator.  Just listen in the order they were written and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

Cover art:  While all the covers have a certain similarity, this is one of my favorites with the red dirt front and center.  Love it.

Sales Links:  Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Book Details:

Listening Length: 7 hours and 10 minutes

Audible Audio, Unabridged, 8 pages
Published January 18th 2017 by NR Walker (first published August 17th 2014)
Original TitleRed Dirt Heart 2
ASINB01N9RLT2B
Edition Language English
Series Red Dirt #2
setting Australia

A MelanieM Review: Upside Down by NR Walker

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Jordan O’Neill isn’t a fan of labels, considering he has a few. Gay, geek, a librarian, socially awkward, a nervous rambler, an introvert, an outsider. The last thing he needs is one more. But when he realizes adding the label ‘asexual’ might explain a lot, it turns his world upside down.

Hennessy Lang moved to Surry Hills after splitting with his boyfriend. His being asexual had seen the end of a lot of his romances, but he’s determined to stay true to himself. Leaving his North Shore support group behind, he starts his own in Surry Hills, where he meets first-time-attendee Jordan.

A little bewildered and scared, but completely adorable, Hennessy is struck by this guy who’s trying to find where he belongs. Maybe Hennessy can convince Jordan that his world hasn’t been turned upside down at all, but maybe it’s now—for the first time in his life—the right way up.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this story. Upside Down by NR Walker is a joyful melody of complex, endearing characters on a journey of self exploration, revelation, and love. That their path is a 5 minute bus ride and a daily bus route, their cheering and support squad a small group of best friends and strangers on the bus that becomes the Soup Crew?  Well, that’s just some f the magnificent and quirky elements that give the main couple and this story it’s staying power.

I have always treasured NR Walker’s stories because of her ability to build these incredible characters that feel so real to me.  Whether it’s a botanist with a passion for butterflies or an American geologist transplant in the outback in red dirt country, their search for fulfillment and love has stayed with me long after I finished their stories.  Their series remain favorites to this day.  I struggled with them, and celebrated in their HEA’s.

With Jordan O’Neill and  Hennessy Lang it’s exactly the same.  For Jordan, an intelligent, quirky (his words), gay librarian, he already is in possession of too many labels.  But he’s been so unhappy when it has come to romance, he just doesn’t want a sexual relationship.  So when his best friend and fellow librarian, Merry, suggests he may be asexual, he’s not sure he wants another label or what exactly that means.

What follows here is a gentle, revelatory exploration of what it means to be asexual through two characters, one, Hennessy, who has long accepted the fact that he’s asexual and knows what that means to him in every aspect of his life, mentally, emotionally, and, yes, physically.  And the other in the person of Jordan who has been foundering in his relationships, not knowing the reason why until he steps into that meeting and hears himself pouring out in words.  This entire portion of their story feels so powerful and yet so intimate and affirming.  Walker is able to give out so much information you realize later but in the moment?  It’s all heart and feelings and pent up emotions coming out that have never been verbalized before by Jordan and others.

And oh, the humor!  From the total group of strangers on the bus that start listening in on the conversations between “headphone guy” and Jordan that slowly coelesses into the wonderful advice giving Soup Crew, and the magnificent Merry, or Jordan’s roommate Angus, or any of the other superlative characters that inhabit this story and circle of friends or the library, this is a gift that never stops giving narratively speaking.

I smiled and laughed the whole story til my face hurt!  Then read it again.  My heart needed it that much.  Motherfucker! lol

The writing is top notch, the characterizations outstanding and the plot incredible but still the combination soars still further into something memorable that exceeds a 5 star rating.  It’s definitely in my top five Best of for 2019.  So grab it up and get reading.  Yes, I highly recommend it.

Cover art is adorable.  Love it.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 251 pages
Published March 19th 2019
Original Title Upside Down
ASIN B07PVDGQV8