Christmas Markets in Linz

According to Wikipedia:

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“A Christmas market, also known as Christkindlmarkt (literally: Baby Jesus Market), ChristkindlesmarktChristkindlmarketChristkindlimarkt, and Weihnachtsmarkt, is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent. These markets originated in Germany, but are now being held in many other countries.[1] The history of Christmas markets goes back to the Late Middle Ages in the German-speaking part of Europe, and in many parts of the former Holy Roman Empire that includes many eastern regions of France.[1] The Christmas markets of Bautzen were first held in 1384.[2] Dresden‘s Striezelmarkt was first held in 1434. Frankfurt was first mentioned in 1393, Munich in 1310, and Augsburg in 1498. In Austria, Vienna’s “December market” can be considered a forerunner of Christmas markets and dates back to 1298.[3]

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After Anna by Lisa Scottoline

In this edge-of-your-seat thriler by Lisa Scottoline, Dr. Noah Alderman, a pediatric allergist, is on trial for strangling his teenage stepdaughter, Anna, to death.  Maggie Alderman, his second wife, lost custody of Anna when she was an infant because Maggie suffered from post pardum psychosis and was a danger to Anna’s life.  Maggie’s ex-husband, Florian, was a spiteful jerk, who never let Maggie see her daughter, even though he was not very interested in a relationship with Anna.  He basically dropped her off at boarding school, where she was parked for most of her childhood.

After Anna

When multi-millionare Florian, his new wife and two sons die in a horrible plane crash, heiress Anna reaches out to her mother.  Maggie is thrilled, and invites Anna to move in with her, Noah, and Noah’s son Caleb.

That is when everything starts to go horribly wrong.  Anna is not the sweet girl that Maggie imagines.  She is manipulative, a spendthrift, a liar, and pits Noah against Maggie in an attempt to get Maggies all to herself.  After Anna makes some shocking allegations, Maggie and Noah’s marriage falls apart.

The story flips between the past and the present, and the facts behind the murder are revealed a little at a time, keeping the reader in suspense.  Full of twists and turns, not everything in this book is what it seems.

Will Noah be exonerated of Anna’s murder?  Read this great book to find out!

Check out this book on Goodreads: After Anna http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34964864-after-anna

Thanksgiving in Austria

One of the things that I miss about America, is celebrating Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is an American national holiday which occurs on the third Thursday of November.

According to the History website, “Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday in the United States, and Thanksgiving 2018 occurs on Thursday, November 22. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.” To learn more about Thanksgiving, click on the attached link.

Last year I hosted a Thanksgiving at my apartment, but it was super complicated. This year I decided to host a dinner at Tamu Sana, an East African restaurant in Linz. If you go with four or more people, you can order the family style meal. You can tell them whether you want vegetarian or meat.

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The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Alaska “is like no other, it is beauty, and horror, savior and destroyer.  Here, where survival is a choice that must be made over and over.  In the wildest place in America on the edge of civilization where water in all its forms can kill you, you learn who you are.  Not who you dream of being, not who you imagined you are, not who you were raised to be.  All of that will be torn away in the months of icy darkness when frost on the windows blurs your view and the world gets very small and you stumble into the truth of your existence. You learn what you will do to survive.”

the great alone

When Lenny’s father, Ernt, returns from being a POW in Vietnam, he is a changed man.  Prone to violent nightmares and easily agitated, he clearly suffers from PTSD, which he often treats by self medicating with alcohol, as there was no real understanding of PTSD at this time.  After losing yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision to move the family to Alaska, to live off the grid in the homestead that Ernt inherited from a fellow solider he befriended while in Vietnam.  He promises that everything will be different (for the better) in Alaska.  Cora, Ernt’s wife, and Lenny agree because they are desperate to get the pre-war Ernt back.

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Importing an American Cat to Austria

Two years ago I imported my cat from America.  Before I looked into it, I thought that I would have to quarantine her for 3 months.  Luckily this wasn’t the case.  Essentially, what I had to do in short (for the detailed version please see here at the Austrian Embassy’s website.

1. Get the cat microchipped.  A lot of vets have varying opinions on whether to inject a topical pain killer into the area for insertion of the microchip, since the width of the microchip needle is much thicker than normal needles.  The vet I went to in Texas told me that it was not necessary, and just prolonged the stress of the cat, so I went with his expert advice.  From the reaction of poor Katzie (eyes bugging out in surprise, and what I can only imagine was pain), I regret listening to the vet.  I should have gone with my gut and given her the painkiller.  After insertion of the microchip she was very scared (another indication that it hurt her).

In theory, the microchip is supposed to be scanned at the border control upon your first entry into the EU to verify it is the same animal as described in the paperwork, but in my case they didn’t do it.

2. Rabies shot after microchip insertion: The rabies shot had to be given after the microchip was implanted (even if only a few seconds).  I thought it was a dumb rule at the time, but what can you do?  The rabies shot has to be given more than 21 days before entry into the EU, otherwise it is not valid — unless you have proof that the animal has had routine rabies shots at regular intervals.

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner is a young adult post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction novel. I thought that I would like it, since I had read and loved the Hunger Games series, but honestly, it fell short and I was really disappointed.

The Maze Runner by James DashnerThe main character Thomas wakes up in a strange place called the Glade with no memories of who he is or how he got there. The Glade is surrounded by walls and outside the walls is a Maze. The boys living in the Glade (who by the way also have no memory of who they are) have to run this Maze every day in order to “solve” it. They also must avoid “Grievers” who are monster-things that live in the Maze.

The characters have little to no depth and the storyline is somewhat boring and predictable–there is little to no action until the end of the book, and the ending was, well, just stupid and ruined the whole book.

Maybe the movie is better.

Check out this book on Goodreads: The Maze Runner http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6186357-the-maze-runner

Paper Wife: A Novel by Laila Ibrahim

In 1923, Mei Ling’s older sister falls gravely ill a few days before her arranged marriage to a man she has never met.  Mei Ling is forced to take her’s sister place.  Leaving her family in China, Mei Ling travels to America.  In order to enter the country, Mei Ling must assume the identity of the man’s deceased wife, essentially using her immigration documents as her own (a “Paper Wife”).

the paper wife

When Mei Ling befriends a young orphan girl on the ship to America, little did she know that she was creating a bond for life.  When it is Mei Ling’s turn to leave Angel Island (the unfriendly place where immigrants were housed until their entry application was approved) she is forced to leave Siew behind.  Making good on her promise to see Siew again, Mei Ling searches for the child to ensure that she is safe, only to find that Siew’s Uncle wasn’t who he appeared to be, and that Siew herself was a paper child.  This dark revelation has a damaging impact on Mei Ling and her family, who must fight to overcome the reality of Siew’s situation.

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The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

Cassie is a lot of things, an alcoholic, party girl, and least of all, a flight attendant–but is she a murderer too?  That’s the opening question in this entertaining book about international intrigue and espionage.

Fllight attendant

Cassie wakes up in a swanky Dubai hotel, after getting black out drunk, to find that her handsome, rich, hook-up has been murdered in the bed next to her. His throat is slashed, and there is blood Ev.ery.where.  Due to the fact that she blacked out, she has absolutely no idea whether she was the one who killed him, which leads her to do many stupid and incriminating things (i.e., wipe down her finger prints, leave the hotel without notifying anyone, etc.)

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

Michelle McNamara hit a home run with this true-crime book about her obessive search to find the serial rapist and murderer who she dubbed the Golden State Killer.  This book tells the story of her search for the elusive killer.  McNamara passed away 2 years before her book could be published — and the book was finished after her death by her husband, American actor Patton Oswalt, with the help of writers.

Ill be gone

This brilliantly told story of the serial rapist and murderer, who is believed to have committed over 45 rapes and 12 murders,  is more disturbing then any slasher film — because it is real — it really happened.

If you read any true crime book this year, make sure it is this one.

Check out this book on Goodreads: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35068432-i-ll-be-gone-in-the-dark

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I really liked Little Fires Everywhere.  Opening with a fire in the Richardsons’ home, this book delves into the past to tell the story of the complicated reasons why one of the main characters and the black sheep of the family, Izzy Richardson, set her family home ablaze. “Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”

The main theme of this book is what makes a mother a mother? Blood alone or love? The author carries this theme through 3 main storylines (which I will not divulge as it would spoil the overall story).

At the center of the book are two families, the Warrens and the Richardsons, and more precisely the juxtaposition between the matriarch of each family, Mia Warren and Elena Richardson.  “One had followed the rules, and one had not. But the problem with rules… was that they implied a right way and a wrong way to do things. When, in fact, most of the time they were simply ways, none of them quite wrong or quite right, and nothing to tell you for sure what side of the line you stood on.”

Little Fires Everywhere

Mia Warren, an artist, and her daughter Pearl, decided to end their nomadic existence in Shaker Height Ohio, a planned suburban community.  They rent an apartment from the Richardsons, who have 4 children of their own.  Thinking that she will not have to move around anymore, Pearl allows herself to finally make friends, and befriends each of the Richardson children — their relationships blossom in different ways, and are fraught with all the complications of teenage relationships.

This book is centered around the relationship between the Warrens and Richardsons and is told through many interwoven and sometimes complicated threads.  The story also touches on themes of race, white privilege, motherhood, and family secrets.

I was particularly moved by the back story of the Chinese immigrant who abandoned her child in a misguided attempt to give the baby away for adoption, only to regret the choice and fight for the baby’s return. The Court case centered on whether it was in the best interests of the child to be adopted by a privileged family (mother + father with good jobs), or the biological, single, mother, who struggled to make ends meat.

As Eleanor Henderson writes for the New York Times: “The magic of this novel lies in its power to implicate all of its characters — and likely many of its readers — in that innocent delusion. Who set the little fires everywhere? We keep reading to find out, even as we suspect that it could be us with ash on our hands.”

Check out this book on Goodreads: Little Fires Everywhere http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34273236-little-fires-everywhere