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Two Excellent January Releases

In a burst of reading energy at the end on the year, I was able to read two wonderful January releases: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian and The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin. I read The Guest Room in audio and The Swans of Fifth Avenue in print. That I read them concurrently was kismet. Both novels were engrossing, but Swans was a delicious relief when The Guest Room was particularly challenging. I highly recommend them both, separately or in tandem. Here are more specific thoughts on each:

Cover of The Guest RoomThe Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

This novel begins with a bachelor party held at the home of Richard Chapman and his wife, Kristin. Richard’s brother is getting married and the hope was that by hosting the party at his home, Richard could keep the celebration from getting out of hand. They both assumed there would be a stripper, but they had absolutely no idea what they were getting themselves into when the brother’s friend took it upon himself to hires not one, but two strippers. These women, who may or may not have been of age, were trafficked into the United States from Eastern Europe and were not working as strippers, as Richard and Kristin had hoped, to pay off college. When things go wrong, the lives of everyone involved are thrown into chaos. The story follows Richard and Kristin and the toll one night can take on their marriage, family, and professional lives. It also follows Alexandra, the story of how she became a sex slave, and what happens to the girls at the end of that fateful night.

While The Guest Room can be hard to read, especially as Alexandra recounts her childhood, kidnap, and journey to the United States, it’s such an important look at both our society and our world. For me personally, it opened my eyes to my own privilege and to how much I assume about the strangers I interact with or hire for specific services. The connection between the girls hired for that bachelor party and their situation in life might be easier to see or to consider, but I blanketly assume that everyone I interact with is doing so voluntarily. After all, I’m working and engaging in commerce voluntarily, right? I think of myself as an observant person, but there is so much that I don’t see because I’m not looking. This novel was very much a call to action for me.

Both Mozhan Marno and Grace Experience, the narrators of this audiobook, were new to me narrators. They both fit very well in their role. Marno told this story from the viewpoint of both Richard and Kristin and was well suited for both roles. I especially enjoyed her work on the sleazier men who attended the bachelor party. Chris Bohjalian certainly wrote some really good hate-worthy characters. Experience was outstanding as Alexandra. She fully embodied Alexandra, bringing her and her life into my car with me. I often find audiobooks more difficult than print when it comes to this kind of content, but, as with The Guest Room, it’s also more rewarding.

As an added bonus, Chris Bohjalian wrote a little about Alexandra’s life in New York City in a short story called, “Nothing Very Bad Could Happen To Your There.” You can get a copy of the PDF here. Enjoy!

Cover of The Swans of Fifth AvenueThe Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

The Swans of Fifth Avenue begins with Truman Capote, proud as a rooster over the success of In Cold Blood, entertaining the five most glamorous and sought after socialites of New York City at La Côte Basque restaurant. He calls them his swans and, while they are amused by him, they can’t agree how this funny little man became part of their inner circle. They argue over who introduced him first. He gives them each selective bits and pieces of himself or the self he’d like to portray, letting them all privately believe that she was his best swan. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Babe Paley is Truman’s favorite. The trouble the swans get into is opening up their lives to an outsider author who is becoming increasingly desperate to recreate the glory of In Cold Blood.

There is something downright fun about reading a novel full of high society and gossip. Knowing that there is going to be a terrible collision down the road makes the ride that much more exciting. I’ve previously read the novel Capote in Kansas by Kim Powers and Swans picks up where it left off. Capote found the fame he desired and delighted in each and every moment. What he hadn’t counted on was the cost of maintaining it. On the other side of the coin, Babe had the fame Capote lusted after. She was born and raised for it. Her dream was the desire to connect with another person deeply and to be understood beyond her superficial status. Truman’s charm and warmth provided her that and it set them both upon a slippery slope. While I called Truman many names throughout the novel, I empathized with them both. This didn’t stop me from enjoying their journey over the edge of the cliff.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue made my Christmas break entertaining and relaxing. I was drawn into Melanie Benjamin’s story from the very beginning and I found the ending to be wholly satisfying. This would be a great book to have by your side during a blizzard or a lazy Saturday morning.

This novel also has an added bonus. Benjamin wrote a short story prequel to The Swans of Ffth Avenue called “Reckless Hearts.” It features Swan Slim Hawks Hayward and Ernest Hemingway. I listened to this story in audio and enjoyed every second. It is narrated (as is the novel) by the lovely and talented Cassandra Campbell. Listening will be the best couple of bucks you spend all year. It doesn’t matter in which order you read them. “Reckless Hearts” takes place first chronologically, but I listened to it while reading Swans. It’s all good.

The Killing Kind by Chris Holm ~ Audiobook Review

Cover of The Killing KindThe Killing Kind by Chris Holm

Published by: Mulholland Books

Published on: September 15, 2015

Page Count: 320

Genre: Fiction

My Reading Format: Audiobook review copy provided to me for consideration by Hachette Audio

Audiobook Published by: Hachette Audio

Narrator: Will Collyer

Audiobook Length: 8 hours 24 minutes

Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook

Summary from the Publisher:

Michael Hendricks kills people for money. That aside, he’s not so bad a guy.

Once a covert operative for a false-flag unit of the US military, Hendricks was presumed dead after a mission in Afghanistan went sideways. He left behind his old life–and beloved fiancée–and set out on a path of redemption…or perhaps one of willful self-destruction.

Now Hendricks makes his living as a hitman entrepreneur of sorts–he only hits other hitmen. For ten times the price on your head, he’ll make sure whoever’s coming to kill you winds up in the ground instead. Not a bad way for a guy with his skill-set to make a living–but a great way to make himself a target.

My Review

I am not the kind of reader who gravitates toward books about the mob or hitmen. I am, however, the type of audiobook fan who is drawn to anything narrated by Will Collyer. It is for this reason that I found myself listening to The Killing Kind by Chris Holm. This novel tells the story of Michael Hendricks, a military trained sharpshooter who began working as a hitman after leaving the military. He’s not your typical hitman, though. His targets are only ever other hitmen. While he wouldn’t consider his job moral, Michael lives up to his own code for reasons deeply meaningful to him. His clients may thank him for saving their lives, Michael quickly becomes a target of the underground. Engelmann, Michael’s counterpart in this story, is an unscrupulous, sadistic man. His scenes were those that made The Killing Kind hard for me to read because torture can be difficult for me to stomach. Despite my leeriness, Holm never crossed any lines in his writing that made me reach over to turn the audiobook off.

The best part of this novel was Will Collyer’s narration. Just hearing his voice as the novel began made me happy. His work on Michael, Engelmann, and Special Agent Charlie Thompson matched the characters well. His performance of the secondary characters was what made this audiobook most memorable for me. I could tell one such character was a bottle blonde bimbo from Collyer’s performance alone. Her dialog caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting her to be funny and almost chocked to death on my Diet Coke on my way in to work. It made for one of those reading experiences I can only get from audiobooks.

While I don’t see myself reading any more books about hitmen, I enjoyed the experience of The Killing Kind. The ending was a little over the top, but I could see easily translated into a Hollywood movie. I love the way audiobooks and treasured narrators prompt me to me to become a more well-rounded reader. If you haven’t had the opportunity to pick up one of Will Collyer’s audiobooks, you’re missing out.

Literate Housewife Is…

9

As of January 17th, Literate Housewife is officially 9 years old! There’s no doubt that my years as a blogger have been an adventure. I’ve met many wonderful new friends, readers, authors, audiobook narrators, and industry people both through online communication and in person. Because of this, I discovered a much broader bookish world and […]

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First Read of 2016

Sheila First Book of the Year 2016

Happy New Year! While it’s hard to believe that 2015 is history, I’m excited to participate today in one of my new favorite reading traditions, Sheila from Book Journey’s First Book of the Year event. There are so many people participating this year. It’s amazing to check out Sheila’s post and take a look her […]

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Recent Reads, Both Great and Good ~ Part 2

Cover of The Queen of the Tearling

Yesterday I posted about four books/audiobooks I have enjoyed over the past three months. Today I’m finishing up the list. Here are four more good or great recent reads: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johanson The publicist running the Harper Perennial (@HarperPerennial) twitter account sent me a paperback review copy of this book. […]

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Recent Reads, Both Great and Good ~ Part 1

Cover of Fates and Furies

I have not been very faithful of late, dear reader. Since September 1st, I joined a boot camp program at my local gym. I can’t begin to express how much this has changed and improved my life. Since then I’ve lost over 30 pounds and have participated in my first 5k. What a way to […]

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Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford ~ Audiobook Review

Cover of Everybody Rise

Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford Published by: St. Martin’s Press Published on: August 18, 2015 Page Count: 384 Genre: Fiction My Reading Format: Audiobook provided to me by the publisher for consideration. Audiobook Published by: Macmillan Audio Narrator: Katherine Kellgren Audiobook Length: 12 hours 45 minutes Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook Summary from the […]

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Thankfully Reading Challenge – Planning Your Read

ThankfullyReading

Good morning! On this Saturday after Thanksgiving, I’m hosting a Thankfully Reading Challenge today. I hope your holiday weekend has been a bookish success thus far. I haven’t read as much as I’d thought, but I have enjoyed reading in the same room as my dad. It’s not often that I’m able to do that. […]

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Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew ~ Audiobook Review

Cover of Born With Teeth

Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew Published by: Little, Brown and Company Published on: April 14, 2015 Page Count: 320 Genre: Memoir My Reading Format: Audiobook review copy sent to me by the publisher for consideration Audiobook Published by: Hachette Audio Narrator: Kate Mulgrew Audiobook Length: 10 hours 46 minutes Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and […]

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Monday Mini ~ Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Freemantle

Cover of Sisters of Treason

Getting back into the swing of things each week is hard. So is finding the quiet time to write a review over the weekend. In order to ease out of the weekend, I’ve decided to begin my blogging week with a mini review. Back in 2013, I was so starved for Tudor related fiction that […]

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