MtSnow reviews Blueberry Boys, written by Vanessa North, narrated by Tobias Silversmith. Released by Riptide Publishing on May 16, 2016. 4 hours 22 min. Original print version was published November 25th, 2015.
Why MtSnow reviewed this book – I listened to this book for RGR’s New To Me Author Week because I had never read anything by Vanessa North, and saw a book by her had just been released in Audible recently. I sampled the narration and figured I’d give it a shot. I wasn’t disappointed.
Note: a copy of this audiobook was purchased by the reviewer, and is not an ARC copy.
BLURB: Connor Graham is a city boy—a celebrated fashion photographer in New York. When his uncle’s death drags him back to the family blueberry farm, all he wants to do is sell it as quickly as he can. Until he meets his uncle’s tenant farmer.
Jed Jones, shy and stammering, devout and dedicated, has always yearned for land of his own and a man to share it with. Kept in the closet by his church, family, and disastrous first love, he longs to be accepted for who he is. But now, with his farm and his future in Connor’s careless hands, he stands to lose even the little he has.
Neither man expects the connection between them. Jed sees Connor—appreciates his art and passion like no one else in this godforsaken town ever has. Connor hears Jed—looks past his stutter to listen to the man inside. The time they share is idyllic, but with the farm sale pending, even their sanctuary is a source of tension. As work, family, and their town’s old-fashioned attitudes pull them apart, they must find a way to reconcile commitments to their careers and to each other.
At the beginning of this story we meet Connor, and realize he is struggling with this visit to his hometown. He is also figuring out how to reboot his career while combining it with a required visit back to his small hometown after the death of his uncle. You can tell it is a real struggle for him, bring back memories of being the outcast, and a chubby little kid that is openly gay. But the sad thing is, he was ‘outed’ at a young age through no choice of his own. Because of this, we get to see him deal with family with bravado, trying to embrace what’s been forced out of him at a young age. All of this while trying to figure out here and now how to get the heck out of this small-minded community as fast as possible and try to pursue some dreams of his own. In the meantime, he also realizes what emotions he’s buried and never dealt with about his uncle’s place in his life.
Meanwhile, he meets Jed, his organic farming tenant, and at first it is a clash of opposites, especially since all he wants to do is sell, and get back to New York. The way he holds Jed’s future in his hands is stressful. And both of them wanting and believing different things about family and community is even more obvious.
Jed is very much enmeshed in this small community as well as having a relationship with God and his family that he does not want to compromise on. But, meeting Connor brings up feelings he’s buried and gets him to questioning his relationship with family and church while still trying to figure out how to be true to himself.
I have to say, I very much appreciated how the author dealt with Jed’s relationship with God in this story. It brought to the reader’s attention that even churches can go through changes and that the leadership of a denomination or even just that particular pastor/preacher can help mold the congregation’s or community’s thoughts and actions. It was enlightening to see that all religious beliefs do not have to be an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality and that Jed was able to come to a compromise or some sort of happy place with his beliefs and not have to hate himself or pit himself against family and friends as tends to be the norm in many stories that deal with religion.
I appreciated the sensitive way the author dealt with Jed’s stutter and thought it was realistic that it didn’t magically disappear, but became more relaxed in different situations. It was a sign of Connor’s growth and sensitivity as he dealt with Jed’s speech patterns, and learned what was appropriate and what was rude: you don’t just finish a person’s sentence just because it’s not coming out quick enough!
Many of the secondary characters added to the depth of this story, and it was nice to see relationships with family and friends evolve as the main characters grew in their understanding that preconceptions can actually be different then they think. A community, that at first felt very small town and close-minded, seemed to grow on me as I listened to the various challenges and events that all characters were working through. The author did an excellent job of making her characters well-rounded and realistic.
Parts of this story could have been predictable, but instead were done in a refreshing way, and the ending for me was perfect. It did not go to where either of them had to give up their hopes and dreams for the other. I also liked that Jed was still able to keep his faith without feeling as if he had to convert Connor. It seems to me that love truly is about both parties finding a compromise that works so neither is the martyr. Bravo!
As for the narration, Tobias is a fairly new up and comer in mm audiobooks and I’ve heard him in only a few other stories. Much of his intonation remind me of another fan-favorite MM narrator, Jason Frazier. Sometimes, to me, he can sound a bit more over the top dramatic when he portrays his characters, but that isn’t always a bad thing. After listening to him for a bit, I’m able to get into the flow of the words, forgetting the narrator and just enjoying the story. The sign of a great storyteller.
The studio quality was good with no background noise to distract, and more and more, I’m beginning to realize great narrators are conscious of these things when they complete their audiobooks. No awkward pauses and breaks. No clearing of the throat or rushing through the words. No static, weird swallowing or mouth breathing noises or animals in the background (yes, unfortunately, I HAVE heard some with this happening). Tobias has given the listener a quality sound product. Perfect pacing here. After hearing some really bad studio quality, it makes me appreciate a good production even more. Thank you for a great narration!
I give this audiobook an 8.5 out of 10 rating. This is equivalent to 4.25 of 5 stars, or 85% out of 100% recommended.
Where to buy:
Author of over a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories, Vanessa North delights in giving happy-ever-afters to characters who don’t think they deserve them. Relentless curiosity led her to take up knitting and run a few marathons “just to see if she could.” She started writing for the same reason. Her very patient husband pretends not to notice when her hobbies take over the house. Living and writing in Northwest Georgia, she finds her attempts to keep a quiet home are frequently thwarted by twin boy-children and a very, very large dog.
Website – http://www.vanessanorth.com/