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Chapter 14 - Spring Break

So a few weeks back I mentioned that I'd be offline to check off a few things on my life list. By the way a life list is sort of like a bucket list with a more positive spin. Dave and I took off and spent two weeks in Europe. The first week we spent on a Danube River Cruise which took us through Budapest, Esztergom, Bratislava, Vienna and Linz back to Budapest and the second week on canals and the Rhine taking us through Amsterdam, Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent and Ypres, ending with a visit to Keukenhof where we saw fields and fields of Dutch tulips among other flowers.

While the two itineraries kept us very busy at times, I did manage to read four books on the trip. I always have a problem sleeping on planes so one I read on the way over to Budapest, the others I actually read on the trip as I watched the Danube or the Rhine go by. I also read a few books in preparation for the trip as I knew we'd be going to World War I sites in Belgium and to Vienna.

Here were my picks for before and during the trip.

A Shadow in Moscow by Katherine Reay - Previous books by Katherine Reay which I have read have been more relationship based and centered around book stores or bookish people. A Shadow in Moscow was a combination of historical fiction and Cold War thriller. Ingrid Bauer has lost everyone she loves in the war and in 1954 agrees to marry an up and coming Soviet embassy worker going back with him to Russia. All is not as it seems there and Ingrid (now known as Inge) becomes an MI6 agent trying to stave off the Soviet Union's plans for Communist expansion. The story then fast forwards to the 1980's to Anya Kadinova one of the first graduates of the Foreign Studies Initiative. The initiative between the U.S. and Russia enabled the KGB to get even closer to their primary enemy. How the two pieces fit together in the end is, of course, the story.

The Beauty and the Sorrow by Peter Englund - You'll remember I told you a while ago about the nonfiction book November, 1942 by Peter Englund. The Beauty and the Sorrow was another nonfiction book where, using diaries, letters, and military logs, Englund told the stories of about 20 people through the four years of World War I. The books follows the characters as they move through the years and tells about the war from multiple viewpoints - citizen s, soldiers, officers, and even children. This definitely helped prepare me for the visit we made to Ypres and other war sites.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton - I had said that one of my goals was to read a classic each month and have failed miserably in doing so. I had a paperback of this classic by Wharton and decided to pack it for the plane read. I loved it! I had never previously been a fan of Edith Wharton as I had to push my way through The House of Mirth in college. Perhaps I'm older and wiser or maybe The Age of Innocence was just a better book but I pretty much finished it on our trip to Budapest. The story is a satirical look of what is often described as The Guilded Age in America. Engaged to demure May Welland, Newland Archer falls madly in love with Countess Olenska, an older woman with a reputation. The book teems with double standards between the sexes and is interesting not only for its story but also for its social commentary.

The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand - This was a really easy read after the heavier books I'd been enjoying. Hollis Shaw's life seems perfect. She has a beautiful house, wonderful and successful husband and creative daughter, and she has just become famous with her blog and website Hungry with Hollis. When her husband Matthew dies in a car accident after they have an argument, she finds it hard to get out of her grief. Hollis reads about a five-star weekend and plans one with four women who have been important to her at various times in her life. This might just be the thing which helps Hollis move on.

Long After We Are Gone by Terah Shelton Harris - This is a book I received as an Advance Reader Copy to review. I had read One Summer in Savannah by Harris last year and was hoping this would be as good as that. It certainly was. King Solomon has a 200 acre estate which his great-grandfather had purchased after Reconstruction. On the estate is the plantation house in which his ancestors were enslaved. When he dies, he has one request of his son, Mance. As the family comes together for the funeral, the request becomes paramount as each of King's four children are hiding big secrets and hoping that selling the estate will be their answer to all their problems. This book will be published in May.

My Favorite Terrible Thing by Madeleine Henry - As luck would have it, I ran out of books. So, since both ships had free WiFi I downloaded a freebie from Amazon and read it on my phone. Not my preferred method of book devouring but anything in a pinch. The story was about a private investigator, Nina Travers, who is asked to find out what happened to the author Claire Ross. Claire has recently published The Starlit Ballet, a romance of lovers who keep finding each other in time. As it happens Nina is one of Claire's biggest fans. But, of course, everyone has secrets and no one, not even Nina, is telling the truth.

Here are a few pictures from our time away. Hope they make you want to travel as well!


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