Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey had been on my TBR list all year. In an effort to clear some items by the end of the year, I did a search for holders-on like this one in audio at my local library. Thanks to audio, I get to books I have a hard time starting in paper. The book is the biography of Lady Almina, the Countess of Carnarvon, during the late 1890s through the Great War. Very Englishy, very moneyed lifestyles, lots of name-dropping, and although I was a little bored at first, it really picked up when World War I hit, and Lady Almina turned Highclere Castle into a hospital for wounded soldiers. But what made me love this book was the huge surprise when Lord Carnarvon, who mounted many archeological excavations in Egypt, made the greatest archeological find in history when he discovered a very famous King's tomb (yes, THAT King's tomb). I was flabbergasted, because I really didn't expect much to happen plot-wise. This was fascinating to me.
I enjoyed the audio version of this book. The voice sounded very much like Isobel Crawley on Downton Abbey. Very properly English. What I was expecting was some connection between Lady Almina and her family and the Downton Abbey franchise other than the show being filmed at the castle. I expected that Julian Fellowes had created his plot based on the life of Lord Carnarvon and Lady Almina (suggested by the title of this book), but the only plot that seemed to overlap was the turning of Highclere into a hospital during the war. There seems to be no connection other than the very physical one of the castle itself. Good read (listen), especially if you're interested in English aristocracy. My rating: 3 stars.
Harry Truman's Excellent Adventures has been on my radar since it was re-released in 2011. It looked "cute" but I was never sure it was very serious. I mean, a whole book about Harry and Bess Truman driving from Missouri to New York and back in 1953? How good could that be, right? But I have developed a love of all things Truman over the years, and I finally decided to sneak it in before the year ended. Let me tell you, I adored this book. It was just such a fun read. It's full of odd trivia about Truman and history as well as the author's own retracing of the Truman road trip. I had a blast with it. I mean, a former president and first lady in a big ole Chrysler New Yorker in the middle of June with no AC, no protective service (this wouldn't be available to former presidents until later), and very little money (presidential pensions would come later, too), stopping at diners where people inevitably recognized the couple, staying at the newest thing in lodging--motels, it was all just so nostalgic and fun. I love Truman because he is very much a regular guy with Midwestern values and the usual human foibles of such a man. He was personable, witty, impatient; he could hold a political grudge; he was a spendthrift; he drove too fast and called Bess "the Boss". Plus, he kind of looks like my Grandpa Hoagenson (my other grandpa looked like Reagan). I love it when books surprise me. I had a big goofy grin on my face the whole way. My rating: 5 stars.
This week I continue with...
Still enjoying The Boys in the Boat, the young reader's edition. The team has not yet been chosen.
And still loving How to Celebrate Everything. Definitely one of my favorite books about food this year.
My new audiobook:
I bought the hardcover of Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling when it came out in January, and then it languished for months on my shelf. I finally decided audio was the way to go (even though Bryson doesn't narrate this one himself) if I was going to read it yet this year. Enjoying it so far!
Another book that had been on my list all year is Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. I've wanted to read it because everyone says it's amazing, but I kind of wanted to read it during the winter. Since it's already snowing here (Wisconsin), I guess it's time.