Saturday, July 22, 2017

Audiobook Reviews: Winter Ball/Summer Lessons by Amy Lane

Title: Winter Ball
Series: Winter Ball
Author: Amy Lane
Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Release Date: February 23, 2017
Category: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: 5 hours, 35 minutes

Dreamspinner Press  ~  Audible

Through a miserable adolescence and a lonely adulthood, Skipper Keith has dreamed of nothing but family. The closest he gets is the rec league soccer team he coaches after work—and his star player and best friend, Richie Scoggins.

One brisk night in late October, a postpractice convo in Richie’s car turns into a sexual encounter neither of them expected—nor want to forget. Soon Skip and Richie are living for the weekends and their winter league soccer games—and the games they enjoy off the field. Through broken noses, holiday decorating, and the killer flu, they learn more about each other than they ever dreamed possible. Every new discovery takes them further beyond the boundaries of the soccer field and into the infinite possibilities of the best relationship of Skipper’s life.

Skipper can’t dream of a better family than Richie—but Richie’s got real family entanglements he can’t shake off. Skipper needs to convince Richie to stay with him beyond winter ball so the relationship they started on the field might become their happy future in real life!

*Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie by Dreamspinner Press for my reading pleasure in hopes of an unbiased opinion, a review was not a requirement.*

Winter Ball is the first book in Amy Lane's Winter Ball series. Skipper is a normal, every day guy. He owns his own home; goes to work every day at a normal, boring job; coaches and plays in rec league soccer; and hangs out with his friend. Skipper longs for a family of his own, and nurtures and cares for his team members and his co-worker. Unexpectedly one night when hanging out with his best friend Richie, things change between them. Neither Skipper or Richie consider themselves gay, but they can't deny the attraction to each other or what feels good for them. They start spending their weekends together, hanging out more after games, spending holidays together and before long they have to admit to themselves that what they have is more than friendship. Richie loves Skipper, but he also has a father who he has spent his whole life trying to make happy.

I loved that even though both of these men have always considered themselves straight and have only dated women, they aren't really concerned about their attraction to each other. They are concerned with how they label themselves, and that caused them the most issues personally as they accepted that they were gay. The relationship between Skipper and Richie was easy because they just fit, but they were just two guys who liked to drink beer and play soccer so building a relationship beyond sex took a little more work. These were well developed and written characters, and by the end of the book, the author had created a great cast of supporting characters with Skipper and Richie in the center holding everyone together.

If you haven't read this series, you should do so now! If you love the friends to lovers trope, you are going to adore this one!

Audio Review:

Nick J. Russo narrated Amy Lane's Winter Ball and he did a fantastic job! There are a lot of characters in this story so the narrator had his work cut out for him! The narrator gave each character a distinct voice, portrayed the emotions of the scene, did a great job with the humor in the story, had no weird pauses, and really nice flow throughout the story. He kept me engaged in the story and really brought a book I love to life!

Overall: 4.5 stars

Performance: 4.5 stars

Story: 4.5 stars

Title: Summer Lessons
Series: Winter Ball: Book Two
Author: Amy Lane
Narrator: Nick J. Russo
Release Date: March 31, 2017
Category: Contemporary, New Adult
Length: 8 hours, 25 minutes
Mason Hayes’s love life has a long history of losers who don’t see that Mason’s heart is as deep and tender as his mouth is awkward. He wants kindness, he wants love—and he wants someone who thinks sex is as fantastic as he does. When Terry Jefferson first asks him out, Mason thinks it’s a fluke: Mason is too old, too boring, and too blurty to interest someone as young and hot as his friend’s soccer teammate.
The truth is much more painful: Mason and Terry are perfectly compatible, and they totally get each other. But Terry is still living with his toxic, suffocating parent and Mason doesn’t want to be a sugar daddy. Watching Terry struggle to find himself is a long lesson in patience, but Mason needs to trust that the end result will be worth it, because finally, he’s found a man worth sharing his heart with.

Summer Lessons is Book 2 in Amy Lane's Winter Ball series. The characters overlap in both books in the series, so even though you could read this on its own, I think it would be more enjoyable if you read both books.

Mason missed out on a relationship with Skip (Book 1), but he did gain a new group of friends. At one of Skip and Richie's parties, he meets Terry. Terry is younger than him and still lives at home with his mother. Mason is unsure if Terry is even gay and feels like he's too old and boring for Terry. Terry is interested in Mason but can't be gay because his hateful mother would never allow it. He and Mason start spending time together whenever Terry is able to get time away from his controlling mother, until Terry gathers the strength to move on with his life without his mother. Mason stands beside him and helps him and then steps back and lets Terry figure out if Mason is what he wants.

I really liked Mason in Book 1 so I was happy to see him find love in this book. From the outside, Mason seems to lead a charmed life, but in this book we see the truth. He does have a good life but he also has to fight to keep his bipolar brother moving forward with his life. Mason has done well for himself, and unlike others in his position, recognizes that he didn't get his success without the help of others. And Mason has a filterless mouth. He tends to offend others when he opens his mouth, except the group of friends he's made, who like that he speaks his mind. Honestly, the story starts out with little stories from Mason's past and totally explains his mother's fondness for kool-aid and vodka. I thought it was hilarious and gave great insight into Mason.

Terry was raised by a single mom who has spent his life telling him she owes him for giving birth to him. He's pretty beaten down. As this story is told from Mason's POV, I don't feel that I know Terry as well but when provided the support, he's able to take control of his life and do what's best for himself. And, unlike what most people would do, he doesn't completely cut off contact with his mother once he gets away from her. I sympathized with Terry's situation but I really didn't like him for part of this book. He hit the jackpot with Mason and the fact that he didn't see that and needed to explore really ticked me off. He eventually proved himself worthy, but he's still lucky that Mason is so loyal to those he loves.

This story was narrated by Nick J. Russo and he did a fantastic job! Mason is quite a character, and when I read the book I remember laughing out loud at the beginning of this story of him growing up. That laughter was nothing compared to what happened when I listened to the narrator with this story! I was in tears from laughter. The narrator absolutely perfectly portrayed Mason, and all the other characters superbly! He was able to give the characters individual voices and had great pacing. The narrator was the perfect voice for this story, and I found it increased my enjoyment of the story. Hearing these characters come to life was perfect. It's rare that I enjoy listening to an audible more than reading it myself, but I feel that way for this series.

Overall: 5 stars!

Performance: 5 stars!

Story: 5 stars!

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