Thursday, 29 December 2022

We are in that strange, often quiet week, between Christmas and the New Year, when I wake up every morning and am never sure which day it is. It is a time that is in-between celebrations, in-between one year and the next, a curious mixture of nostalgia mingled with excitement for the future. It is a week in which I reflect on where I have been and make a rough plan of where I am going. I use the time to slow down and gather my thoughts, to rest and refocus on what's coming next.

I realise that I haven't posted here for quite a few while. It wasn't intentional and I didn't meant to be away for so long. In fact, I had started a number of posts that I never finished. I won't make excuses - I just didn't feel like writing or sharing anything - a strange place to be for me and, though I hope it was just a phase, I can't promise that it won't happen again. Sometimes life and weariness gets in the way of things, even things I enjoy. But, as you've probably noticed, I've updated my blog template thanks to the always helpful and professional Berenica from Simply The Studio, and I hope this will give me the push I need to start producing content again. Only time will tell. 

Sincerely Loree: Christmas Tree

If you need help navigating my blog, just let me know but nothing much has changed and it's pretty simple to find your way around. The latest posts are in the slider on top or beneath the 'Join Our Mailing List' tab (which isn't working yet). In the top categories 'Travel' is self-explanatory and will include all posts about trips I have made; 'Lifestyle' includes posts about restaurant reviews, sustainable and green living, thoughts on life and so on; 'Discover Malta' is, of course, about Malta and will include articles about exhibitions, museum sand places of interest; 'Book Talk' will delve into the books I have read and my reviews of them. If you have difficulty with the font size, leave me a comment and I will enlarge it.

I'll keep this short and will be back next week with a roundup of 2022, followed by an overview of the books I read this year. For those that still pop by to read by thoughts, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude. Your visits mean I'm not just a lone voice trying to make some noise in the internet wilderness. May the coming year be filled with the things that money can't buy: joy, peace, good health and beautiful memories.

Wishing you a wonderful 2023.

Monday, 21 November 2022

In today's edition of Book Talk I will be reviewing Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky.

Book Review: Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, translated by Sandra Smith

From the book blurb:

In June 1940 France fell to the Nazis. The effects of this momentous event on the lives of ordinary Parisians and the inhabitants of a small rural community under occupation are brilliantly explored in Irene Nemirovsky's gripping and heartbreaking novel. Nemirovsky herself was a tragic victim of the Nazi regime but she left behind her this exceptional masterpiece. In Suite Francaise she conjures up a vivid cast of wonderful characters who find themselves thrown together in ways they never expected. Amidst the mess of defeat, and all the hypocrisy and compromise, there is hope. True nobility and love exist, but often in surprising places.

Sincerely Loree: Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

My review

Suite Francaise was meant to consist of five inter-linked vignettes but only the first two, Storm in June and Dolce, were written as a rough draft before author Irene Nemirovsky was deported to Auschwitz in July 1942. She died there just a month later. The manuscript for Suite Francaise was hastily stuffed into a suitcase by the author's daughter Denise who couldn't bear to read it until many years later.

One of the most engaging aspects of this book is that we see World War 2 from the eyes of a contemporary. It took me a while to get into the story and it wasn't one of those fast-paced reads that I felt the need to keep picking up. On the contrary, it is slow and rather sad but it did have occasional moments of gentle humour. Suite Francaise is a very atmospheric book with a marvellous sense of place and wonderfully detailed descriptions. 

Storm In June  is a prime example of stark realism. The reader is immediately immersed in a world of panic and turmoil, A world that has been turned upside down. The characters, who are all trying to leave Paris with their most precious belongings, are flawed but real and we get a whole spectrum of them: the courageous, the cowardly, the rich, the poor, the landowners, the meek, the arrogant, the collaborators, the patriots. Every type of human virtue and vice that a catastrophic event like the war brings out in people is represented in the two short stories making up this novel. It attests to the author's keen observation of human nature that she was able to depict them so truthfully.

Dolce, on the other hand, is an almost dream-like interlude that takes place in an occupied town, far away from the bombs and chaos of Paris. Here, the conquerors and the defeated are forced to live in close proximity, forging fleeting friendships and fragile relationships.  It ends with the departure of the Germans for the Russian front.

Due to its unfinished state the book leaves us wondering what could have happened to the diverse characters we were introduced to. Since we will never know we may have to imagine an ending ourselves - although I felt that, in retrospect, these two fragments mimic the abruptness with which so many lives were cut short by war. So, in a heart-breaking way, I think that this novel is close to perfect just as it is.

Genre: historical fiction (WW2)

First published: 2004

Awards: Magnesia Litera for Translation (Litera za překladovou knihu) (2012), Prix Renaudot (2004), PEN Translation Prize for Sandra Smith (2007), French-American Foundation Translation Prize for Fiction (2006), Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize Nominee (2007)

Location of story: Paris & Boussy, France

Trigger warnings: death, violence

My rating: 4.5

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

In this post I will be talking about ways to savour and make the most of November.

Last year at this time I wrote about Giving Thanks. It was a candid, heartfelt post in which I mentioned the people and things I was grateful for. If I had to rewrite it today, it wouldn't change much.  But I would add 'the possibility to celebrate Christmas with family' to the list. After the restrictions of the past two years it feels good to know we can be ourselves again and celebrate with our loved ones. 

Sincerely Loree:  Autumn in Val d'Orcia, Tuscany, Italy

What doesn't feel so good is the constant reminders, starting from September, by influencers, ads,some bloggers and so on, that 'it's never too early to start thinking about Christmas'. This is absolute rubbish and just another marketing ploy to have us running around with a 'To Do' list a mile long before we've barely bid adieu to summer. I refuse to do it and, as much as I love the Christmas season, I don't need to start thinking about it while I'm still wearing shorts and flip flops. Slow and steady will still achieve the desired results and aiming for perfection by starting 3 months early to try and have a head start is just a losing battle.

Candles & Poetry

November is regarded by many as a dreary month. The association it has, especially in southern Europe, with remembering those that have passed, makes it even more so for countless others. When I was younger I was always in a hurry for November to move on and for glitzy December, with its sparkling lights and hints of magic, to take its place. But I am older now and somewhat wiser. Now I believe that November is a gift; an interlude of sorts, a brief respite before the whirlwind that is December takes its place. We can choose to rush through this month or use these few quiet weeks to turn our thoughts inwards and practice mindfulness. It's the perfect time. The weather may be grey outside and cold, wild winds may blow, but what better time to light a candle and read some poetry? It's been so  long since I picked up a poetry book and I long to start reading it again. I find certain poems so perfect for contemplative moments. Do you have any favourite poems or poets? Please share them in the comments. I would love to know. I hear that Mary Oliver is a good place to start. I've just added her collection Dream Work to my 'to be read' (or tbr) list.

Sincerely Loree:  Autumn in Val d'Orcia, Tuscany, Italy

As for candles, I have just added  a Salted Caramel Scented candle from Zara Home to my collection. I love to change candles according to the season. They really enhance the ambiance and the golden glow of candles makes everything look so pretty and cozy. It's a perfect way to end any evening but especially when the daylight fades fast as it does during this time of the year.

Lists & Notebooks

I know we all get caught in the business of the upcoming season and I firmly believe that keeping a notebook close at hand and scribbling down some lists or simply recording some of our thoughts is a sanity-saver. Notebooks are a sore subject in our household. I can rarely resist a pretty one and generally have several on the go. There are always a couple lounging around in my handbags as I can never be sure when my inspiration is fired or I need to jot something down to make sure I don't forget it. Etsy has so many pretty ones but even our local stationeries usually have plenty to choose from.

Sincerely Loree:  Autumn in Val d'Orcia, Tuscany, Italy

Gardening & Flowers

I know I sound like a broken record but I do find gardening immensely therapeutic. Autumn is like a second Spring in the Mediterranean. Our roses are blooming again after the summer drought and yesterday I finally took my camera out of its bag and took some shots. Once January comes around we will cut them back and try to propagate new plants from cuttings. It's not an easy endeavour but the satisfaction of growing a plant from a cutting is hard to describe. If you're not into gardening just spend some time in nature: go for a walk on the beach or in a forest or park. Just take yourself off to a place where you can leave your worries and your phone behind. Somewhere away from crowds and noise and too many things going on at once. Disconnecting from everything for a few minutes each day or a couple of hours whenever you get the time is great for your well-being. We need to remember to take care of ourselves. Many of the chores we feel we have to do can wait until we're able to silence those voices in our head and just breathe in and out slowly and calmly, until a feeling of calmness and peace pervades our whole being. Everything else can wait.

Sincerely Loree:  Autumn in Val d'Orcia, Tuscany, Italy

I hope you enjoyed these few tips on how to make the most of November without feeling the need to be thinking about anything else except the present. Fear of missing out (FOMO) has become an unfortunate part of our existence and I, for one, have been guilty of giving in to the pressure to flit from one thing to the next. But I have learnt that being content in the here and now is the most rewarding way to live.

I wish I could say that these images bursting with the rich colours of autumn were taken in Malta but we don't get anything like that here. Instead I am sharing some photos taken during our trip to Tuscany last year.

Location of images

Val d'Orcia,  Tuscany, Italy

October 2021

Wednesday, 26 October 2022

As promised in my last roundup featuring the books I read between March and June 2022 I am going to start reviewing books as soon as I read them. Then, when I do the roundup posts, I will be able to link to the actual review instead of to my Goodreads page which most of you probably can't even view anyway. Some will be short, like today's review, but other's will be a bit longer. It will depend on the book, of course. I hope that  if there are any bookworms reading my blog will enjoy them.

Book Review:  The Adventures of a Curious Cat by Curious Zelda with Matt Taghioff

From the book blurb:

Curious Zelda is social media star, agony aunt, yoga teacher, cat. In The Adventures of a Curious Cat she gives insight into her view of the world and dispenses unparalleled wisdom. Zelda explains, in her unique voice, how to handle humans, how to communicate with furniture, and most importantly how to live a life curiously. It's the ultimate self-help guide for any cat, or indeed, their human.

My review:

This is an amusing book. It made me chuckle in places but didn't have that laugh-out-loud factor that I was expecting nor did I feel the need to keep reaching out for it. It does drag in places and I kept getting distracted. However, it's a pleasant foray into the mind of a cat which, I'm sure, will be appreciated by cat lovers everywhere. 

Curious Zelda has her own Instagram page and you can find her here.

Genre: contemporary fiction

First published: 2019

Awards: n/a

Location of story: Zelda's house

Trigger warnings: n/a

My rating: 3   


Tuesday, 11 October 2022

October is always a month of changes. Some years more so than others. Summer has finally bid us farewell and, although the weather is cooler, it is still pleasant enough to be outdoors.

Sincerely Loree: Pink roses

Sincerely Loree: Pink roses

Sincerely Loree: Pink roses

.I am finally doing some gardening again: planting bulbs, removing weeds, trimming anything that looks overgrown and deciding what will stay and what should go. While I was never a gardening enthusiast when I was younger, I now find a lot of joy in the simple tasks of planting seeds and seeing them grow. It would be impossible to keep anything but the hardiest plants alive here were it not for an underground reservoir beneath our yard that captures rainwater during our very short wet season. Today my prayers for rain were answered with a massive downpour and a thunderstorm. Autumn bliss.

Sincerely Loree: Rain

October brought with it another change this year. Our son, the one I used to call the Mischief maker so long ago, started Junior College (that would be senior high school in the US and sixth form in the UK) last week. He is in a very big new school with new teachers and hundreds of new faces. There's so much for him to learn, such a flurry of new activities to get used to, such an important step towards the career of his dreams. I admit to being anxious at the thought of so much newness to get used to - for him and for us. All will be well but my thoughts are in a hundreds different places and  I'm more scatter-brained than usual. This is a new phase in my life too. One during which I have to gently let go and guide from a distance. It will be a learning curve. I hope I do well.

We couldn't say good bye to summer without attending a few events that were on our radar. After a delay of  9 months (because we all came down with Covid last Christmas) the boys (my husband and son) went to the Underground Valletta guided tour. These tours, organized by Heritage Malta, provide visitors with a unique opportunity to access the tunnels running underneath our capital city. The underground tunnels were created during the construction of Valletta. Some acted as drains for water or sewage and others allowed the movement of troops. Centuries later the tunnels would serve as shelters during the second World War.  I was told that the tour ends spectacularly in an underground cistern whose massive size resembles the interior of a cathedral. More information can be found in this articles: The Secrets of Underground Valletta. I opted out of this tour as I was afraid there would be cockroaches (I hate them) in those dark, dank tunnels. However, I was told that there weren't any, so maybe I'll pluck up the courage and go some other time.

Sincerely Loree: Ceiling, National Museum of Archaeology, Valletta

In September we also had the opportunity to visit the small but highly informative Meet The Phoenicians of Malta exhibition at the National Museum of Archaeology. The Phoenicians were ancient traders from Tyre and Sidon (modern day Lebanon) who sailed to various ports in the Mediterranean and beyond. Apart from an innate fascination with the Phoenicians that I've had since childhood, this exhibition was even more interesting for us because the artifacts were excavated inside a tomb which was discovered just a mile away from the town where we live. The bones and other objects are still being analyzed and studied but I was completely bowled over by the enormous stone sarcophagus that was excavated from the site. How was it transported? Was it built in place?  And, because I'm prone to flights of fancy, could these be the bones of my ancestors? So many questions came to my mind as I traced by fingers lightly across the massive stone structure, wondering at the incredible achievements of this ancient race.

Sincerely Loree: Phoenician Sarcophagus, National Museum of Archaeology, Vallet

More than any other season, autumn is all about endings and beginnings. As I say goodbye to lazy Saturday mornings at the beach and empty our beach bags of sand and sundry small pebbles that hide in there all summer, I will welcome our treks to what is left of Malta's decimated countryside, looking forward to visit such sties as the arch at tal-Hamrija and Lippija Tower.

In Nature too the cycle of endings and beginnings continues. The swifts that throughout September filled our skies with their joyous chirping and twittering have moved on. It is strangely silent now. But, last week, at dawn, I heard a robin's call and, later, I saw that the pomegranate fruits are ripe on the trees and bursting their skins. Both are sure signs that autumn is here at last.

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Books I read between April and June 2022

Between April and June I read 11 books. Two were non-fiction and all the rest were fiction. Unlike the first three months of the year the number of books that I rated 4 or more stars was disappointingly low. Only one book out of the eleven I read had a score over 4. Below is the full list of books I read and their respective rating. I have linked each book to Goodreads so that you can have a better idea how other people rated them. However, I've found out that you probably cannot read my personal review unless you are a member of Goodreads. So, what I'm thinking of doing in the future, is sharing the same review here on the blog each time I finish a book. This means I will share a review of all books not just the ones that score 4 stars or more. Let me know whether you think you will enjoy reading them. I promise you that you should be able to read the reviews in about five minutes. Anyway, without any more blubbering on my part, here is the list of books I read last Spring.

  1. Lucrezia Borgia by Maria Bellonci 3⭐
  2. The Almond by Nedjma (translated from Arabic by C. Jane Hunter) 3.6⭐
  3. The Book Of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel 2.8⭐
  4. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes 3.5⭐
  5. Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell 4.4⭐
  6. Honour by Elif Shafak 3.7⭐
  7. The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid 2.6⭐
  8. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly 3⭐
  9. Watermark by Joseph Brodsky 3⭐
  10. The Silence of The Girls by Pat Barker 3.6⭐
  11. The Women At Hitler's Table by Rosella Postorino (translated from Italian by Leah Janeczko) 3⭐
Two books, Lucrezia Borgia and Watermark, are non-fiction. The first is a biography of one of the most infamous women of the Italian Renaissance. Watermark is a love letter to Venice. Brodsky was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1987 and appointed US poet laureate in 1991. Unfortunately, I found his writing style rather difficult but I will probably re-read this book in the future.

Now on to my reviews. Ordinarily, I only write a short review of books I've rated 4 or more stars but, since there was only one this time, I am including another book as an 'honourable mention'.

Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

This book tells the story of Agnes Hathaway, a woman with unusual gifts, who is married to a person who is known throughout the novel as  'the Bard' but whom we all recognize as William Shakespeare. Hamnet is the son they lost to the plague at the young age of eleven. This book enchanted me from the very first page. The writing was beautiful and lyrical and Agnes is a worthy, if unconventional, heroine.
A compelling and whimsical portrayal of a woman who has been consigned to the shadows by history.
Genre: historical fiction

Honourable mention:

Honour by Elif Shafak

This is the story of a young Turkish family that emigrated to London in the 1970s and their struggle to integrate into Western society while trying to keep their traditions alive. But it is also a story about internalised misogyny, about the cultural perception that still exists in some countries that there is a set of weights and measures for men and another one for women. 
A book that will make you question your preconceived notions about other cultures. 
Genre: contemporary fiction

I hope that some of these books have sparked your interest. As I always like to remind you, I am a picky reader and you might enjoy some of the books that I didn't rate so highly much more than I did. I'm one of those illogical people who cares more about the beauty of the writing than about the actual story. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments and I will be happy to answer you. Books are, after all, one of my favourite things to talk about.

Tuesday, 13 September 2022

I was doing the rounds on Instagram on Tuesday of last week when I came across a  photo of Queen Elizabeth during her first official meeting with Liz Truss, appointing her Britain's new Prime Minister. The photo moved me in a strange. 'The Queen looks so frail', I commented under the photo. I had this foreboding that the queen was fading fast but I brushed it away because it seemed like she always rallied. And yet her passing, just 48 hours later, still came as a surprise. She had been Queen throughout my life and I half expected her to live forever, like an eternal symbol of a different era.

Sincerely Loree: The gates of Buckingham Palace

Unapologetic Royalist

It was my parents, but mostly my dad, who instilled in me a love of all things British from a very young age. As I grew older, I developed an almost fanatical  interest in the current Royal Family and in the kings and queens from whom they are descended. The history of the British monarchy is turbulent, convoluted and utterly fascinating and it's  a subject I love to read about. I truly do believe that, although many more kings than queens have ruled Britain, it is during the long reign of Elizabeth I, Victoria and Elizabeth II that the most tumultuous changes and advances in the society of the time took place. Elizabeth II came to the throne a mere 7 years after the end of WW2. Rationing was still in force and Europe was not yet healed of its scars. In the intervening 70 years so much changed and yet her steadfastness, dignity and commitment to her country and to the Commonwealth were a constant reminder that the she would never break the oath she had taken at her coronation, no matter how difficult things may have been for her personally.

The Queen and I

I was never lucky enough to meet the Queen in person but i did catch a glimpse of her and Prince Philip during a visit they had made to Malta in  1992. However, I never stopped hoping that I would - which is why I would always check whether the Royal Standard was flying whenever visiting one of her official residences. Sadly, although I have visited Buckingham Palace (3 times), Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyrood House, I never saw as much as one of her beloved corgis.

The Royal Standard flies above the Keep of Windsor Castle on our visit in 2014. The Queen was in residence.

Queen Elizabeth II and Malta

It is said that he Queen had an affectionate place in her heart for Malta although, unfortunately, there aren't many people left who still care. The Queen visited Malta 6 times after she was crowned: in 1954 (as part of a grand tour of the Commonwealth), 1967, 1992, 2005, 2007 and 2015 (which was her last overseas trip). But what perhaps is not widely known is that she actually lived here in Malta for several months between 1949 and 1951 as a naval wife when Prince Philip served in the Royal Navy Mediterranean  Fleet. 

The residence of the royal couple while on the island was Villa Guardamangia, an 18-room neoclassical building with a large garden in the town of Pieta`. Princess Elizabeth (as she was then) and Prince Philip were able to live a normal life, far from the constraints and protocol of the court. The villa was privately owned and over the years if fell into a state of neglect. Unfortunately it is now in a dilapidated state but it was acquired by the Maltese government a few years ago and has now been entrusted to Heritage Malta. The plan is to restore it to its former glory and turn it into a museum. The grand opening is expected to take place in 2027.


Elizabeth II was queen of Malta from 1952 until the amendment of the Constitution of Malta on 13 December 1974, which abolished the monarchy and established the Republic of Malta and the office of President of Malta.

I'm adding some links about Malta and the Queen that I thought you'd find interesting:

This video is from the Queen and Prince Philip's visit in 1954. Also present were a very young Prince Charles and Princess Anne. It was during this visit that my dad met the Queen when he was part of the Boy Scout troop present at the inauguration of the Mater Admirabilis Training College for teachers in Tal-Virtu`.

An article in House & Garden about Villa Guardamangia.

The Queen in Malta - in pictures

The End Of An Era

As I write this, the Queen is making her way to Buckingham Palace for the last time. The rain is falling but the crowds are thick on the streets. They do not mind the rain as they stand in silence or clap as the hearse goes by. For this is a historical moment. The end of an era. The passing of a woman who symbolised so much to so many. I do not mean to sound like a sycophant. The Queen was not perfect and I am sure she made mistakes. The media pointed them out often enough. But my feeling is that she always had her fingers on the pulse of her nation. She knew when to be present and when to withdraw. In a world where the only constants are turmoil and change, she has been there, a serene and calming presence for seventy years. Now she is at rest and it is time for the tributes to pour in from all over the world. This is just my own humble one to the woman who was once, for a very few years, my Queen too.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

The title of this  post came to me one lazy Saturday afternoon in late July, between one nap and another, after a morning spent at the beach. It made me smile as I jotted it down, thinking it would make a perfect title for my memoir - that is, if I ever decided to write one.  Needless to say, we have had an endless supply of sunshine since May, although it did rain quite heavily last week. The cicadas, on the other hand, didn't make themselves heard until around mid-July. I read somewhere that the temperature has to rise to at least 35C before they start screeching. Now it seems like they will never stop. My grandparents' generation, who never used a thermometer or any other scientific means of measuring temperature, used to say that the heat peaks around the 10th of August, on the feast of Saint Laurence - and, most years, they have been  proved right.

This year though, it seems that the temperature peaked and plateaued, and it takes all my energy to drag myself upright to do the simplest of chores. Reading and wasting time on Instagram seem to be all I'm capable of at the moment but I'll believe in the old tradition that says that cooler days are ahead.n I just hope we don't have to wait too much longer.

It has been a strange sort of summer. Even though the days of the pandemic seem to be well and truly over, I still seem to prefer staying indoors. It has become a habit. Not a bad one but I need to get out and about more. Because if I don't I won't have anything interesting to write about will I? And I am sure you are all getting tired of my book reviews by now.

Operation Pedestal 80th Anniversary

Yesterday was the 80th anniversary of Operation Pedestal. On August 15th 1942, a badly damaged ship named the SS Ohio limped into Grand Harbour supported by two destroyers, Ledbury and Penn, and delivered a precious cargo of fuel, ammunition and grain to the Maltese population and the British forces. The island was on the brink of surrendering but the supplies delivered by the Ohio, and the rest of the flotilla that made up Operation Pedestal, ensured that it would continue to fight on. Embarrassingly, no official commeration was organized locally and, were it not for Heritage Malta and a local re-enactment group, this important event in our history would have been completely forgotten. 

Sincerely Loree: Saluting battery, Upper Barracca Gardens, Malta

But my son remembered and we attended the firing of a gun salute from the Saluting Battery at the Upper Barracca Gardens in Valletta. If you run and Internet search on 'Operation Pedestal' you will find hundreds of articles. I had written in more detail about Operation Pedestal here. One of our local newspapers yesterday published an interesting article about Operation Pedestal: The Heroes  That Helped Saved Malta From Starvation and my son uploaded a 30 minute presentation on YouTube in which he explains the importance of this historical event. I am, of course, very proud of him and I am sure he would feel really encouraged if you could click on this link and help him boost his views.

The SS Ohio

TV Shows

We've been enjoying the latest adaption of veterinarian James Herriot's memories in All Creatures Great And Small. It is a throwback to a different era. I always look back at the 1930s and envy the slow, sheltered life that most people lived during that time. Of course, the second World War ended all that but, in my imagination, the 30s were like a golden era of innocence, wholesomeness and good manners. Yes, I admit to being guilty of looking at the past with rose-tinted glasses. I am sure there were plenty of things which were completely awful. I should have listened more closely to what my grandmother's used to complain about instead of basing my opinion on a couple of TV series like this one and The Durrells.

Image via

Another show we're enjoying at the moment is Harrow, the story of a forensic pathologist with an  unorthodox approach to solving his cases. It is quite graphic at times so it may not be to everyone's tastes.

Image via IMDB

I'll leave it at that for today. I must plan my posts better because this one seems to be a bit all-over-the-place. As usual, I am going to blame it on the heat.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Books I read between January and  March 2022

I started the year on a reading binge totalling 15 books in three months. Out of these, ten scored 4 stars or over in my complicated rating system. Below is the full list of books I read and their respective rating. I have linked each book to Goodreads where you can compare the average book rating with my own, read more detailed reviews (including mine - look for Lorna Dykstra) and get a better idea whether you will like the book or not. As you know, I am not the easiest reader to please. So any rating over four means the book was beautifully written and definitely worth my time. 

  1. A Thousand Days In Tuscany by Marlena de Blasi 4⭐
  2. A Month In Siena by Hisham  Matar 4⭐
  3. Breakfast At Tiffany's by Truman Capote 4.1⭐
  4. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson 4⭐
  5. The Twins of Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor 4.5⭐
  6. The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain 4.8⭐
  7. Circe by Madeline Miller 4⭐
  8. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff 4.5⭐
  9. Fresh Water For Flowers by Valerie Perrin 4.2⭐
  10. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte 3.2⭐
  11. Where The Forest Meets The Stars by Glendy Vanderah 3.2⭐
  12. A Room With A View by E.M. Forster 4.1⭐
  13. The Day The Nazis Came by Stephen Matthews 3.75⭐
  14. The Last Bookshop In London by Medline Martin 3.5⭐
  15. The Postman Always Rings Twice my James M. Cain 3.3⭐
I am not going to bore you with a lengthy and wordy review of these 15 books because we'll be here till Autumn. Instead I am just going to write a few sentences about the ten that stood out for me. The text in italics is my interpretation of the essence of each book.

A Thousand Days In Tuscany by Marlena de Blasi

This memoir is a charming account of the time Marlena and her Venetian husband spent in San Casciano dei Bagni, an ancient village in the hills of Tuscany. 
"An intoxicating insight into Tuscan life, cuisine and traditions". You may read my full review here.
Genre: memoir

A Month In Siena by Hisham Matar

Pultizer  prize-winning author Hisham Matar captures the essence of Siena in this lyrical tribute to its art and culture. 
"A book that will strike a chord with all those that have visited and loved this enchanting medieval city".
Genre: memoir

Breakfast At Tiffany's by Truman Capote

This short story is very different from the famous movie starring Audrey Hepburn and I thought that the final outcome is more true to the character of Holly Golightly that Capote created. 
"A short, witty and wistful read".
Genre: modern fiction

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

This book is presented as a series of vignettes with each chapter recounting an adventure that six year old Sophia has with her Grandmother on an isolated island located in the Gulf of Finland. 
"A heartwarming and nostalgic reminder of how summers should be lived".
Genre: modern classic

The Twins of Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor

Recounted by a survivor of the atrocious experiments carried out on identical twins by Doctor Josef Mengele (the 'angel of death') in a simple and gentle style that belies the heavy subject matter. 
"A harrowing and horrifying memoir that teaches an important lesson".
Genre: memoir

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain

This is a love story for grown-ups (not because it is X-rated in any way but because the protagonists are middle-aged and don't take themselves too seriously). My full review is here and I have just one piece of advice: read it.
"An enchanting Parisian romance".
Genre: contemporary romance

Circe by Madeline Miller

This retelling of the ancient Greek myth is written in Madeline Miller's inimitable style. There was never a doubt in my mind that her Circe would be a fascinating character. 
"A compelling read about the mysterious sorceress who seduces Odysseus".
Genre: Greek mythology

84 Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff

A book that is written as a series of often-droll letters between the author and a bookshop in London represented by their senior buyer Frank    33 Doel. 
"An iconic example of a long-lasting trans-Atlantic friendship built on a mutual love of books".
Genre: modern classic

Fresh Water For Flowers by Valerie Perrin

This story about a cemetery-keeper with a heart-breaking  past is anything but morbid. 
"A novel that reminds us of the restorative power of hope. I loved it".
Genre: contemporary fiction

A Room With A View by E.M. Forster

This book may be viewed as a social commentary on Edwardian society and its rigid class system written by a contemporary. It is a coming-of-age novel in a bygone era. 
"A reminder that rules and class do not define who we are".
Genre: modern classic

I hope that you enjoy the new format and that some of the books I have featured will capture your interest. If anyone would like me to write a longer review about any of the books, let me know in the comments and I will be happy to do so. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Summer makes most people happy but I think that by now you know that I can only tolerate temperatures of 30C happily. Anything above that and I turn into the worst grump imaginable. We've already had two major heatwaves, both of them lasting well over ten days. But the temperature is tolerable right now so I'll leave it at that.

I've been away from my blog for a while again which makes me wonder where I want to go from here.

Sincerely Loree: Mdina, Malta

The future of this blog

To be honest, I no longer know whether this blog has a future. Readership keeps dwindling and I seem to have neither the time nor the inclination to do anything about it - which is sad, after all these years but, like I've said in the past, people are more inclined to read blogs that offer some advice or information rather than those that exist solely for the joy of making connections. Maybe I'm wrong but it sure feels like that right now.

Sincerely Loree: Mdina, Malta

So many people whose blogs I loved to read no longer update them any more and it has left me feeling strangely stranded. Other people's motivation and creativity helped fuel my own. I feel as parched as   Maltese field at the beginning of August after 4 or more months of drought - not a good thing.


Believe it or not I am finding it harder to write. My thoughts seem very fragmented and writing at length about a single subject is becoming harder. I've taken up micro-journaling because a couple of sentences every so often is all I can manage at the moment. I am finding it strangely liberating and it is teaching me to be concise.

Sincerely Loree: Tarxien, Malta


My reading is progressing at a steady rate. I have read 27 out of the 35 books that I pledged to read during 2022. I'm running our of books now so I see a book-shopping spree on my horizon. Once again, I have read many books inspired by WW2 but it is time for me to pick up other genres. Reading only helps one grow when we pick up books outside our comfort zone. Otherwise. like all things, it becomes a mundane activity rather than one which expands the horizon of our imagination and knowledge.

All the reading I do leaves little time for blogging, unfortunately. I haven't even done the first two quarterly posts about the books I have read. Shame on me. One more thing I need to put on my 'to do' list.

Sincerely Loree: Rabat, Malta


Photography, like writing, requires the right frame of mind and heaps of motivation, both of which I'm sorely lacking right now. I've already talked about Malta's over-development and it just keeps getting worse. Village cores have been changed beyond recognition, more of the countryside keeps being eaten up by ugly blocks of 'apartments' that look like modern slums and it seems I am constantly taking photos of the same things, the ones which haven't changed for centuries (and which I've randomly scattered throughout today's post). They're all taken with my phone so please forgive and blurred edges.

Sincerely Loree: Rabat, Malta

What next?

So, what next, dear readers? Perhaps I'll use these slow and sultry summer months to recharge my batteries and come back with bigger and better ideas. Or perhaps I'll just give up. I really don't know at this point. All I know is that all the algorithms in place on Google and Instagram and everywhere else on the internet have killed creativity and since they ensure that only the 'big fish' are found by search engines. Everyone else is forgotten. It's a sorry state of affairs indeed.

Sincerely Loree: Rabat, Malta

Monday, 30 May 2022

 Book Review: The Red  Notebook by Antoine Laurain (translated by Jane Aitken)

Plot summary

Laure Valadier gets mugged on her way home one night and suffers severe trauma to the head. The next morning, her stolen handbag is found by Laurent Letellier, a bookshop owner. There is nothing inside the bag with which to identify the owner but Laurent makes it his quest to do so because he is intrigued by the contents of the bag, especially by the random thoughts jotted down in a little red notebook.

My thoughts about The Red Notebook

This book is, essentially, a love story for grown ups since the main characters are over forty years old. I generally do not read romance but there is nothing soppy or overly saccharine about this story. Unexpectedly, or perhaps not, it is a book I enjoyed immensely. The characters were people I could identify with, normal people with a few flaws, the kind of people you can be friends with.

The Red Notebook, with its brief but succint forays into small independent bookstores and daily visits to the local cafe`, is quintessentially French and easily transports the reader to daily life in one of Paris's quieter arrondissements. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a moderately-paced story with pleasant characters and the advantage of going to Paris without actually having to fly there. Amusing, distracting and highly entertaining, this is truly a gem of a little book and is, by far, one of my favourite reads this year. It was highly recommended by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who described it as 'Parisian Perfection, on her Instagram page The Duchess of Cornwall's Reading Room. If you're an avid reader I suggest you follow HRH who not only recommends books but invites the authors to talk about their writing experience, often delving into the particular moment when the idea, or the urge, to write the book first came into their mind.

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain (in a nutshell)

Genre: contemporary romance

First published: 2014

Location of story: Paris, France

Length: 159 pages

My rating: 5

This book reminded me of a lovely five days that  my husband and I spent in Paris several years ago - thirteen, to be exact. It was the end of March and still rather cold. I would love to revisit Paris in late spring when the flowers are blooming in the Tuileries Gardens and all over the City of Light. But until that dream comes true I have to content myself with the beautiful images in Georgianna Lane's book Paris In Bloom. Georgianna's photos are out-of-this-world beautiful and you can take a look at some of the ones she shares on her Instagram page here. It is a pastel-lovers dream-come-true.

You can read more about Paris in these posts from my old blog:

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

Sincerely Loree: La Rocca di Montalcino, Montalcino, IT

We arrived in Montalcino about an hour before sunset, after a day spent visiting Asciano, the Val d'Orcia and Pienza. Montalcino is a hilltop town set within fortified walls and guarded by an imposing castle. We chose to park our car just outside the walls of this impressive fortress known as la Rocca di Montalcino. I'll talk more about the Rocca later but, of you're looking for stunning views, then make sure to visit the fortress and look out over the expanse of the Val d'Orcia and the surrounding countryside. 

From the fortress it is an easy, if steep, downhill walk to the picturesque historic centre where the most famous landmarks of this small town are located.

Montalcino's Landmarks

The Fortress of Montalcino

Sincerely Loree: La Rocca di Montalcino, Montalcino, IT

This mighty fortress with its huge walls and turrets dates back to 1361. It was built at the highest point of the town and remains relatively intact. It is shaped like a pentagon and used to be the seat of the Abbot of the nearby Abbey of Sant'Antonio. Some additions were made to the structure around 1500 by Cosimo de Medici and restoration works were carried out in the 1930s. It has a large internal garden that is open to the public (free of charge).

Palazzo dei Priori

Sincerely Loree: Palazzo dei Priori, Montalcino, IT

Palazzo dei Priori and its clock tower are located in Piazza del Popolo,  the main square of the town. Also in this square is a Gothic loggia with 6 arches and a host of pretty shops and boutiques.

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

Church of Sant'Agostino

This small church was founded by the Augustinians in 1227 and rebuilt in 1380 in the Romanesque style.

Sincerely Loree: Church of Sant'Agostino, Montalcino, IT

Church of La Madonna del Soccorso

Sincerely Loree: Church of La Madonna del Soccorso, Montalcino, IT

The church of La Madonna del Soccorso, which was built across the centuries, is made up of a number of different architectural styles. The bell tower is from 1625 and the facade was completed in the 19th century. The church is situated at the edge of the town and we spent a lovely half hour taking photos of the views (again), the leaves with their pretty autumnal colours and the gorgeous sunset, from a vantage point located in the grounds behind it. I have shared photos of the leaves which so captured by heart in a post I wrote late last year in the run-up to Thanksgiving and which was aptly titled Giving Thanks

The Duomo of San Salvatore

Sincerely Loree: Duomo of San Salvatore, Montalcino, IT

Although this church looks much older, it was built between 1818 and 1832 in a neo-classical style. It replaces a much older church from the 14th century. The current church of San Salvatore was constructed from materials that were taken from a medieval Romanesque church and reused.

Montalcino's Claim To Fame

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

Montalcino is famous for its wine. Perhaps you have already heard of, and tasted, the Brunello di Montalcino. This wine is aged for 5 years, 2 of them in oak barrels. The Rosso di Montalcino is ready after one year of ageing. We are generally not red wine drinkers as we find them a bit too full-bodied for our taste so we did not partake in any of the wine-tasting opportunities that are available at most of the enoteche (wine bars) scattered around the town.

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

What I Loved About Montalcino

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

A brief stroll around town revealed that Montalcino is a pretty place with many of its narrow streets decorated with flags of the different contrade. It has a distinctly medieval feel that is enhanced by the lack of cars in the city centre. Its history dates back to Etruscan and Roman times, which seems to be common with  many other places in Tuscany. The name of the town is derived from 'mons ilcinus' (holm-oak mountain). 

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

Montalcino was independent until the 12th century when it came under the rule of Siena. In the mid-1500s it fell under the jurisdiction of Florence and the ruling Medici family. Those infamous Medicis were associated with many towns and cities in Tuscany and it is not difficult to notice that they were both very powerful and influential. And very rich.

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

But I don't want to feel like a tour guide, rattling off dates, dropping names and trying to make sense of all the architectural styles without really showing you why Montalcino is worth visiting, apart from its churches and history. So, instead of trying, and failing, to find adequate words, because no words can quite do justice to the heart-wrenching beauty that is Tuscany, I will let my photos do the talking.

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

And if I have one enduring memory of Montalcino, it is of the sun setting behind the Tuscan hills, painting the sky in soft pastels, while the air turned slowly colder, the first lights went on in the farmhouses below and smoke curled gently out of a chimney. The silence was only broken by the twittering of birds and by a mother calling her family to supper. It was a simple, mundane moment that is frozen in time and could have easily been forgotten. But it is a moment, together with the feeling of peace that pervaded the air and which cannot be captured in a photo that, somehow, I know I will never forget.

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

Sincerely Loree: Montalcino, IT

More about Tuscany (in case you missed them):


Sincerely, Loree. Theme by STS.