The stories of my life on a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea ... and my occasional adventures beyond these shores.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Let's talk about books

Last year I made a resolution to myself that I would read more books - and it is a resolution that I managed to keep. I read ten books last year, which may not seem like much. But I only find time to read during the weekend or before I fall asleep. So I am happy with my ten books, especially since I went on a reading sabbatical between August and October. I'm not sure why. It probably has something to do with the tiresome summer heat. Anyway, here's a look at five of the books that I read last year. Since I don't want this post to get too long we will have a look at the other five books some other time.

 

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The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

This book was a page-turner. Once I  picked it up, I couldn't put it down. It is the story of one woman's attempt to turn wrong into right. In many ways, it is a tragic and heart-breaking novel. But in the end, it is a story of redemption. This novel is well-written and researched and gives a wonderful insight into the world of lighthouse keepers. I had no idea that such a career existed and that the person manning the lighthouse would be living on a small island all by himself or accompanied by just his close family.

“It astounds him that the tiny life of the girl means more to him than all the millennia before it. He struggles to make sense of his emotions – how he can feel both tenderness and unease when she kisses him goodnight, or presents a grazed knee for him to kiss better with the magic power that only a parent has.For Isabel, too, he is torn between the desire he feels for her, the love, and the sense that he cannot breathe. The two sensations grate at one another, unresolved.”

This is the author's first novel and is a New York Times top ten bestseller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is  Gonna Hurt: Music, Life and Photography Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx  by Nikiki Sixx

What can I say about this book except that you have to  love rock music and, specifically, a band called Motley Crue to enjoy it? Motley Crue played their last concert last December. Nikki was the bassist. Back in the bad old 80s he almost died of a heroin overdose but, somehow, he's still here. He wrote about his addiction in his brutally honest book 'The Heroin Diaries'. This is the sequel to that book. This is Gonna Hurt is described as "a deeply personal look through the eyes of a real rock star at a stark, post-addiction world."

“Life can be cruel. It´s been my struggle, my personal battle, my obsession to make people see that different isn´t always bad.”

This is also a New York Times bestseller but I won't suggest that you read it unless you want to look at the dark side of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho

If I had to sum up this book in just one sentence I would say that this is the story of a prostitute in search of herself and in search of love - not passion but real love, the kind of love that sets us free. But since the author is Coelho, it is much more than that. Eleven Minutes is a journey, of sorts, a journey that starts in Rio de Janeiro and ends in Paris. It is the journey of an innocent-girl-turned-prostitute who loses her soul for a while, only to gain it back in the most beautiful way possible. This is by no means a tacky book. I would go so far as to say that this is Coelho's ode to love.

“Human beings can withstand a week without water, two weeks without food, many years of homelessness, but not loneliness. It is the worst of all tortures, the worst of all sufferings.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The  Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

A letter that was not meant to be opened. A secret that was not meant to be shared. It is a dark secret; a secret that threatens to destroy a family that, to those on the outside looking in, appears to be perfect. It is a compelling, bitter-sweet story - sometimes funny, sometimes sad but always a good read.

“None of us ever know all the possible courses our lives could have and maybe should have taken. It's probably just as well. Some secrets are meant to stay secret forever. Just ask Pandora.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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East of the Sun by Julia Gregson

It is 1928 and three young English women are on their way to India: one to get married, the other to be her bridesmaid and the third to act as their chaperone for the length of the journey. East of the Sun takes us to a world that has long faded away: colonial India and the sharp contrast between the rich socialites and the poverty that, to this day, is the fate of so many Indian people. I expected a bit more from this book. For some reason, I thought that it lacked a proper climax. I kept expecting something to happen but nothing really did until the last one third of the book. I don't want to sound like I'm saying that this is a bad book - it isn't. I just think it could have been developed better.

“She had a strange feeling in the pit of her stomach, like when you're swimming and you want to put your feet down on something solid, but the water's deeper than you think and there's nothing there.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

… to be continued.

In the meantime, I came across this reading challenge on Facebook that I thought I would shsre with you:

 

 

image via The Modern Mrs Darcy

 

So what do you all think? Are you up to the challenge? I think I'll give it a try.

Links to the books:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Random moments

I went for a walk on Sunday afternoon and decided to take a short-cut through the grounds of the  old British military hospital (that now serves as a school). As I swung my legs over the low boundary wall, something brown darted off at high speed and stopped a few metres to the left of me. At first I thought it was a rat and was about to let out a scream, until I realise that the thing had stopped to sniff the air. I turned and glanced in its direction. It was well camouflaged in the undergrowth but its big, twitching ears gave it away. It was a rabbit. I started to walk as slowly and silently as I could towards it but it ran off again, hiding under a bush. I could still see it through the foliage. So I went down on my haunches and observed it. In true bunny fashion its nose didn't stop twitching nor did its radar-like ears stop moving as it picked up every chirp and twitter with which the sparrows and robins were carelessly filling the mid-afternoon air. I wished I could get close enough to the cute little creature to catch it and take it home but I knew that as soon as I took the first step to get closer to it, it would bolt away. I wondered how it had got there and hoped it would stay safe. There is nothing in the wild that breaks my heart more than a defenceless rabbit. So, whispering a swift prayer for the rabbit's well-being, I broke into a brisk walk. I needed to walk off last night's supper.

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Last week was my birthday and on Saturday night my husband took me out to dinner. He likes to spoil me. Tarragon is one of my favourite restaurants, so that's were we went. It is situated in what used to be a pretty fishing village called St Paul's Bay. Unfortunately, the village has turned into a town choked with apartments and summer homes. During the crazy season we avoid it like the proverbial plague but on cold winter nights, well, you can almost imagine that none of the recent development  exists and walk on the deserted promenade with just the sighing, splashing and gurgling noises of a very restless sea for company. For even on this windless night it is never still, never silent. A bit like me, really.

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So here we are, on February's threshold, and with an overwhelming desire to explore alsmot burting my heart. Sometimes the longing to escape beyond the sea for a few days just takes hold of me. That's when I wish I had wings - just to go, to see, to experience. But alas, we cannot simply take flight, like the angels. We need to plan, buy plane tickets, book lodging, keep to some kind of itinerary  (only because my husband makes me because, if left to my own whims, I would just wander around, get lost and discover things which are not on any map).  So for the time being, I'll be content with dreaming, while the restlessness inside me continues to grow; until it is all-encompassing, like the sea.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

A little look back

I just realised that last week, the 12th to be exact, was my seventh blog anniversary. (Wow, seven, I cannot believe it's been that long). This is the first time in seven years that I am mentioning my blog anniversary. It's not a big deal, really, but there it is - proof that I can start something and keep going at it, even when I want to give up. My first post was without photos, frills or flounces and was simply called About Me - no prizes for guessing what I was talking about. Seven years ago I was clueless buy I've learnt a few things along the way. Taking better photos was one of them.

Today I would like to take a look back at my ten most popular posts (according to Blogger stats) during these seven years. I thought it would be fun for my newer readers to re-visit some of them.

10. Down the garden path and into mystery

This is the only entry from 2015 that made it to this list. It is a whimsical look at one of my favourite public gardens. A garden with a wonderful view and one which, in my imagination, I have made mine. That's the beauty of having an imagination - everything is possible.

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9. The words of my life

It was Jeanne, from Collage of Life, who came up with the idea to write down a list of meaningful words. The list of words that I came up with summarised my life - up until that point. It would be interesting to repeat the exercise every few years to see which words change and which remain the same. In reality, I don't think that there are many words that will change. The list will just get longer.

8. Fabulous Fridays - Friends

I usually stay away from the computer during the weekends but sometimes, on Fridays, I will choose a theme and try to write something really light and fun. Just something to make you smile before the weekend madness. After family, friends are the most precious people in our lives. And when they are friends that we have known since childhood, they are even more precious. This is what this post was all about.

7. Discoveries

This is probably one of my favourite entries. I remember that when I was writing it, the words just seemed to flow out of my fingertips and I was really happy with the end result. It was just one of those perfect winter days, when spring is in the air and anything seems possible. Add a little discovery to the mix and it just makes for a wonderful little adventure.

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6. Four things

This was a meme I was tagged in where I had to share with my readers things like: Four things on my wish list; Four things I'm looking forward to; Four places I'd like to go. You get the picture. It was an easy way of sharing some information about myself and letting my readers get to know me a bit better.

5. Adele, Amadeus, and Aerosmith … with some Apocalyptica thrown into the mix

A rather long title for a post in which I wrote about my favourite music.  Reading it again I've realised that I had over-simplified things quite a bit. Maybe  it's time to write another post about this subject.

4. Fabulous Fridays - Love

Love, the feeling that best defines our humanity. This was my take on the most talked-about sentiment of them all.

3. Fabulous Fridays - Tangerine Tango

Tangerine Tango was Pantone's Colour of the Year for 2012. I am not the type of person who follows the dictates of Pantone. I use the colours that I love when it comes to our home and to my clothes. Sometimes Pantone's colour of the year happens to be one of my favourite colours. But, more often than not, Pantone can say what they  like. I will stick to the colours that I love best. I mean, seriously, who really goes and changes all their home decor because the colour of the year is Tangerine Tango one year and Emerald the next?

Image via Pantone

2. Ruby Tuesday - All aboard

Ruby Tuesday was a photo meme in which each person had to share a photo with something red in it. All the participants would then link up and  visit each others' blogs. It was a fun and easy way of getting comments  and making new friends. It also kept me on the look-out for red things to spot, which isn't difficult because red is one of those colours that really stands out. In this particular entry I had shared some photos of the little sight-seeing train that goes around the town of Rabat and which my son, then aged three, absolutely loved to ride.

1. Ruby Tuesday - Vintage sign

Another Ruby Tuesday post; I am not sure why this is the most popular entry in all my years of blogging. It is really short and the photo is not particularly  nice. My guess is that it became popular because of the word 'vintage' in the title. I know that a lot of people search for all sorts of vintage items on the internet. Ths sign was an advert for Campari and I came across it while on holiday in Tuscany in the autumn of 2009.

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We were visiting the beautiful, walled-city of Lucca and they happened to be having an antiques fair. I absolutely adored it and there were probably about thirty things that I wished I could have brought home with me. Alas, I listened to the voice of common sense and left them all behind. But should any of you wish to take a peek at some of them, you may go here. I just wish that I had posted larger  versions of the photos.

So there you have it. I am disappointed that none of the pieces in which I wrote about my travels have made it to the list. It seems that Fabulous Fridays are quite popular - maybe because they are usually light-hearted little pieces that don't take too long to read. If any of you are visiting some of these posts and finding missing photos that I had linked to from Pinterest, I apologise. For some reason, the links are broken and I learnt a valuable lesson.  These days, I only use my own photos (except when talking about Pantone, I suppose). Your encouraging comments have helped me improve and, nowadays, I rarely need to rely on someone else's photo - even though I have always given full credit when linking to photos from Pinterest.

I hope you had fun visiting some of the pieces that I wrote when this blog was still fairly young.  Let me know what you think.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

2015 - A year of soul-searching

It’s the tenth of January. Ten days ago I opened my eyes and blinked a few times. In spite of all the hype and countdowns, the popping of champagne corks and the fireworks, a new year always takes me by surprise. In spite of the familiarity, there’s a certain novelty about it – like a new sweater from a much-loved brand. The old year is packed away, now nothing more than a stash of memories, most of which will slowly fade away like old photographs on someone’s wall. In the early morning silence I took some time to reflect on the most memorable moments of 2015.

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Without a doubt I will forever remember it as the year that terrorism came back to Europe in two events that still haunt and anger me and which have left me with many questions and not too many answers. While messages of grief and solidarity flooded the internet, I could find no words that would make sense of my chaotic thoughts. In silence, I tried to come to terms with emotions that I couldn’t quite express. Time will dull the memory but Europe’s wounds will take time to heal.

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On a more personal level, at the start of 2015, I jotted down a few resolutions in my journal: to read more, to write more, to take more photos on manual mode, to de-clutter. Some resolutions were easy to keep (like reading) but, despite my good intentions, last year was the least productive on the blog front. With only 26 posts, I only managed to average two posts per month – which is pitiful. There were several entries that I wrote and never published and I came close to quitting several times. But I’m still here so I don’t think you’ve heard the last from me yet.

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I spent many days during the past year lost in my thoughts and looking inwards. It was a year of more thinking and less talking, more reading and less writing. It was a year of soul-searching, of getting more in tune with my inner self. I hope that I found what I was looking for. So, here I am, at the start of 2016 wondering whether I still have anything relevant to say; toying with the idea of making a few changes here and there; and looking back on special moments.

As a family, we’ve continued our visits of historical places, including famous monuments in America’s capital, took a few boat trips along Malta’s coastline and hiked in some unspoilt areas of our countryside that are becoming rarer and rarer to find. As always, along the way we’ve made a few discoveries and came back richer with each new experience.

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For 2016 I hope and pray that no war clouds darken our horizons and that the world will finally fall in love with peace. As for myself, I hope that words will flow more easily and that I am surrounded by light. Not the natural light of which we have an overabundance, but an inner, more ephemeral light. So, as each one of us makes a decision about whether to walk sedately or skip gaily through the remainder of 2016, I trust that we will accomplish our dreams and cast webs of light that will drive out the darkness and connect us more closely together. Let us all do what we do best – find the extraordinary in the ordinary and beauty in the most unlikely places. I think I will make that my personal motto for 2016.

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Endings and new beginnings

As I write this, the last few hours of this year are ticking away and 2015 will be over – with all the good and bad things it brought with it. In some countries the new year has already dawned and soon it will be our turn to welcome 2016. It is a time for endings, for closing chapters, and for new beginnings. Ahead of us are  366 (yes, it's a leap year) of blank pages. What we write on each page is not always within our control because Life has a habit of throwing unexpected events at us. How we react is up to us. It may not always be easy. On the contrary, it may sometimes be overwhelmingly, gut-wrenchingly difficult but we cannot, should not,  let life bring us down. And before you all think that I am preaching to you, I will be the first to acknowledge that this peice of advice is primarily for myself. Because I do have a tendency to mope and make an earthquake out of the slighest tremor.
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Since you are all busy at this time, I will keep this short. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you that support this blog with your readership and your comments. If any of you have used Google Friend Connect to subscribe to this blog, Google has announced that it will no longer be supporting non-Google accounts so you will have to find some other way to subscribe (if you still want to, of course). I want to wish you lots of bubbly at midnight and heaps of magical memories throughout 2016.
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