Great May Reads, Beautiful Ruins, and the Audiobook of the Year Category

For various reasons, this has been a long, long week. When I twice mistook Tuesday for Wednesday before I left the house that morning it felt like Friday would never arrive. Alas it finally has and then I remembered that my daughters have a parade tomorrow. The weekend that I thought would never arrive will be busier and go by faster than I’d like. STILL today is Friday and I’m ever so grateful.

Despite all of the the things that made this week and, if I’m being honest, last week long, I’ve read several great books. In print I’ve read three books that will be published in May. I’ll review them all next month and blurbed one for Bloggers Recommend, but know that they were each wonderful reads. Pick them up if you see them at the bookstore or library. You won’t regret it:

Cover of Flora
Flora by Gail Godwin

Published by Bloomsbury on May 7, 2013

288 pages

Summary from the Publisher:

Ten-year-old Helen and her summer guardian, Flora, are isolated together in Helen’s decaying family house while her father is doing secret war work in Oak Ridge during the final months of World War II.At three Helen lost her mother and the beloved grandmother who raised her has just died.A fiercely imaginative child, Helen is desperate to keep her house intact with all its ghosts and stories.Flora, her late mother’s twenty-two-year old first cousin, who cries at the drop of a hat, is ardently determined to do her best for Helen.Their relationship and its fallout, played against a backdrop of a lost America will haunt Helen for the rest of her life.

This darkly beautiful novel about a child and a caretaker in isolation evokes shades of The Turn of the Screw and also harks back to Godwin’s memorable novel of growing up,The Finishing School. With its house on top of a mountain and a child who may be a bomb that will one day go off, Flora tells a story of love, regret, and the things we can’t undo.It will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.

Cover of Murder As a Fine Art
Murder As A Fine Art by David Morrell

Published by Mulholland Books on May 7, 2013

358 pages

Summary from the Publisher:

Thomas De Quincey, best known for his sensational memoirConfessions of an Opium Eater, is the prime suspect in a series of horrific murders that paralyze London.

The killer seems to be imitating De Quincey’s true-crime essay ”On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” Desperate to prevent more atrocities but crippled by opium addiction, De Quincey is aided by his brilliant daughter, Emily, as well as two determined Scotland Yard detectives.

MURDER AS A FINE ART recreates gaslit London as a battleground between a literary luminary and a master killer whose secrets are deeply entwined with De Quincey’s own, in a riveting thriller along the lines of Dan Simmons’ Drood, Matthew Pearl’s The Dante Club, and Caleb Carr’s The Alienist.

Cover of The First Rule of Swimming
The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Angela Brkic

Published by Little, Brown & Company on May 28, 2013

336 page

Summary from the Publisher:

When Magdalena learns that her younger sister has disappeared, she does not immediately panic. A free-spirit, Jadranka has always been prone to mysterious absences and she has never seen a future on Rosmarina, the isolated Croatian island where their family has lived for generations. But when weeks pass with no word, Magdalena leaves behind her Adriatic home and sets off to New York to find her sister.

Magdalena’s search begins to unspool the dark history of their family: from the brother and sister who fought as partisans during WWII, at a terrible price; to their children, forced to make devastating choices under the pall of the Soviet era; to theirchildren, the sisters at the center of the novel, who carry the family’s secrets in their blood.

A haunting and sure-footed debut, THE FIRST RULE OF SWIMMING explores the legacy of betrayal and persecution in a place where beauty is fused inextricably with hardship, where nonconformity – especially by women – is stifled by cultural taboo, and where the lure of leaving is countered by the summons of family and home.

Cover of Beautiful RuinsI have also listened to one of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to this year, Beautiful Ruins. I ask myself why, why haven’t I listened to that audiobook earlier? I had tentatively planned on listening to it after I finished the Audie nominees for Literary Fiction, but when Michele from A Reader’s Respite said she was interested in listening along with me, it became a done deal. Listening along with someone else is that much better than listening alone. It took me about a week and a half to finish it because I wasn’t able to squeeze in much audiobook time over the weekend. I am going to write a full review soon, but it was a treat to say the least. Edoardo Ballerini is a phenomenal audiobook narrator (his Richard Burton is sweet perfection) and Jess Walter is a new favorite (I also should have read The Financial Lives of the Poets a million moons ago!). I love authors who love and appreciate audiobooks the way that he does. Beautiful Ruins is a great package all around. Now I need to find a copy of Cleopatra to watch this weekend.

One unexpected result of listening to Beautiful Ruins was the realization that I had listened to half of the Audiobook of the Year nominees. In case you missed it, I was less than pleased by the audiobooks presented as Audiobook of the Year material. Beautiful Ruins was the one bright spot in the category before I read it. Now I’m even more certain that if Michelle Obama, Colin Firth, or Bill O’Reilly walk home on Audie night with the Audiobook of the Year award that they have stolen it from Eduardo Ballerini and deserved to be incarcerated. As much as I believe this in my gut, I don’t want to continue casting aspersions without fully experiencing each of the nominees. So, instead of easing my considerable Simon Vance withdrawal symptoms and picking up The Good Thief’s Guide to Venice as I wanted, I used my two shiny new Audible credits on American Grown and Killing Kennedy. I’m not sure I’ll survive the Killing Kennedy experience, but anything for the Armchair Audies and earning the right to protest the meaninglessness of the Audiobook of the Year Audie Award category.

Finally, I have been doing a lot of thinking about my life, my free time, and book reviewing. I hope to finalize my thoughts and maybe even write another post for Sunday. *gasp* No worries, though. I’m not going anywhere, but what I do and how I do it is going to change in a way that I hope will free me up in multiple ways to be more present here.

Have a wonderful weekend!


  • At 2013.04.26 07:06, Laurie C said:

    Incarceration seems a bit harsh, but does get your point across! I’m in the middle of Simon Vance’s reading of The Good Thief’s Guide to Las Vegas right now, and it’s definitely a good one for the Friday of a long, tiring week.

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    • At 2013.04.26 09:03, bermudaonion(Kathy) said:

      I adore the cover of The First Rule of Swimming so I’m glad to see it’s so good. I have Beautiful Ruins in print and wonder if I should look for the audio.

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      • At 2013.04.26 10:20, Karen White said:

        I love the cover of The First Rule of Swimming, too, Kathy. So sensual.
        Jen, I will be at the Audies with handcuffs just in case any arrests need to be made 🙂

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        • At 2013.04.26 10:37, Beth Hoffman said:

          I’m looking forward to reading Beautiful Ruins, and though I don’t recall hearing about Flora until your post, it’s definitely going on my list.

          Good luck with reassessing your life and how you spend your time, Jennifer! I’m currently doing that myself, too.

          • At 2013.04.26 10:39, Jen - Devourer of Books said:

            I *really* need to listen to beautiful ruins. I’ve listened to Edoardo Ballerini narrate two audiobooks and both times he was really the only bright spot in the thing, so I need to finally pair his wonderful voice with a wonderful book.

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            • At 2013.04.26 10:40, Teresa said:

              I have The First Rule of Swimming in my queue and will be listening to Beautiful Ruins next. So glad that you highly recommend both of them.

              • At 2013.04.26 12:46, Jennifer said:

                I enjoyed Beautiful Ruins so much. Lovely book. I have Flora and The First Rule of Swimming coming up and I’m looking forward to both of those. I’m glad to hear you’ve liked my upcoming picks 🙂

                • At 2013.04.26 14:49, Michele@A Reader's Respite said:

                  It was nice to listen along with someone else….keeps me motivated. I have the attention span of a month-old puppy. But loved Beautiful Ruins and will be recommending it for Mother’s Day! And so glad you are going through the pain of the Audies and not me. 😛

                  • At 2013.04.28 04:34, Melinda said:

                    I picked The First Rule of Swimming from Netgalley! Can’t wait to read it.

                    • At 2013.06.18 09:52, Beautiful Ruins | Care's Online Book Club said:

                      […] credit Literate Housewife for the recommendation – the push rather. I think I bought this when I noticed it won something and I needed an […]

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