Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Book #28: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon

Like all hot-blooded Americans, I am obsessed with all things "Downton Abbey." That show is magic, people. After I watch an episode, I walk around my house speaking in a British accent to my pets and I'm convinced I was meant to be English royalty. (Also, and this is a conversation for another time, but poor Lady Edith. I think she might be my favorite character. Girl can't catch a break.)

This book was written by the current Countess of Carnarvon Castle, where "Downton Abbey" is actually filmed, and is the backstory of the real-life family who lived there and on which the show is based. Much like the characters on the television drama, the real family had some out-of-the-ordinary experiences and interactions, and I dare say I liked Lady Almina much better than her counterpart, Lady Cora (because, come on. That faux accent makes me feel crazy after two or three minutes.). The descriptions of the castle were also enjoyable, because I feel like I've actually sat at that downstairs kitchen table a dozen times, so I could see it all in my mind.

What I really found fascinating was how reserved and restrained everyone appeared to be at that time, even when highly emotional events were swirling around them. I think we're all so used to the age of Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and the "I'm going to tell you about every emotion I have at the exact moment I have it" mindset that we've forgotten how much it wasn't like that not even 100 years ago. While I think I would have struggled a bit with keeping every feeling bottled up in public, I found myself a little envious of the privacy of secrecy. Like I said, I'm pretty sure I was meant to be English royalty. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Book #27: Mr. Mercedes

It's no secret that I love Stephen King, and I think some of his best works are the less popular ones (hello, Duma Key). This is the first novel I've read from him that is just a straight-up crime thriller, with no supernatural elements to further the plot. Of course, there are supernatural hallucinations, but no actual ghosts. I think.

This story is the first in a trilogy involving retired police detective Bill Hodges, a man haunted by his failure to solve the last big case of his career. Before his retirement, a masked man drove a stolen Mercedes into a crowd of people at a job fair, killing several, including a child. Hodges never found the killer, and as a result, spiraled into a suicidal depression. 

Just before he decides to end it all, he receives a letter from the killer, daring him to try and solve the case before he kills again. Fueled by rage, Hodges decides to go after the murderer, and things get tricky.

I enjoyed this book for a couple of reasons:

1. I can never figure out where King is going to go before he goes there. While he lets you know early on who the killer is, you're not sure why/how or what's about to happen with that information, and it's never as it seems.

2. King isn't afraid of killing off people you think are around for the long haul. There's always a tension with wondering who's about to get written out of the story, and it definitely keeps the pages turning.

and finally,

3. He's such a good writer, guys. There's no one out there like him, and I'll be so sad when he stops writing books. I hope he has a safe somewhere with about 80 unpublished manuscripts, so I can keep reading new releases until I'm dead. For real.