Author Archives: clairebonello

Things I Love Thursday

At one of my favourite restaurants in Paris: Benoit’s.

  • My Dad visiting Luxembourg and having lunch and dinner together
  • Prinjolata
  • Red wine
  • Lamb
  • George Orwell
  • French royalty
  • Really, really nice Parisian restaurants: La Bête Noire, Les Papilles, L’Express, Benoit.
  • Damask
  • (Good) steak tartare
  • The aviation museum outside Paris
  • Concordes(!!)
  • Air France posters
  • English bookshops in Paris
  • Aggie, the cat
  • Friends
  • Cute stationery
  • Sunshine

THE TOP 11 BOOKS I READ IN 2017

It’s probably evident that I tried to write a “TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2017” post, but failed miserably and had to settle for the top 11 books I read in 2017, because I just couldn’t narrow it down sufficiently.

2017 was an excellent reading year for me, and I’m already fully set on having 2018 be an equally good (or better) reading year. For now, however, here are my favourite 11 books from all the ones I read in 2017.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – this was a Christmas present from my bestie and I absolutely adored it. I soaked it all up in a few days, and just loved the little stories and illustrations. Can’t wait for the next instalment, coming out later this year.

Ir-Rota Daret Dawra (Kważi) Sħiħa – I also read this late in December, in bed while sick in Catania, but it completely mesmerised me. What a masterpiece. It’s a story about a mother of two girls. If you understand Maltese, please read this book.

Turtles All The Way Down – it was so exciting to get the latest John Green book, and I think this is my favourite one. A story about mental illness, with a crushing (yet perfect) ending.

Kindred – this was a book-club book and I’m now very enamoured with Octavia Butler. Weird time-travel and slavery.

Autumn – I finally read an Ali Smith book and I understand the hype. Now I need to get going with some of her other books, pronto.

Names for the Sea – I read this while roadtripping in Iceland and it was the perfect book for that. You really get a feel for that mesmerising country.

The Midwich Cuckoos – an odd story but I loved it. Science fiction is great, especially when every woman in a town mysteriously gets pregnant.

A Room of One’s Own – OH MY GOD. What a book. Or should it be described as a long essay? It was so brilliant. So feminist and so relevant. All hail Virginia Woolf.

All the Light We Cannot See – I read this at the very beginning of 2017, and it’s such a special story about a blind girl during the Second World War in France.

Hot Milk – while reading this book, and even now by just thinking about it, you get transported to a hot, sticky seaside. A really brilliant book.

When Breath Becomes Air – this memoir is a must-read. A surgeon gets cancer and starts writing a book. Plenty of tears.

Hope you check out a few of these if you haven’t read them, and please let me know if you have any suggestions for me – my To-Be-Read pile is almost-infinite, but I always love new recommendations.

Things I Love Thursday

Matelots – new favourite restaurant in Luxembourg City

  • A film (and risotto) night at two friends’ place
  • A stress ball shaped like a little man
  • Intelligent, enlightened conversation
  • A film date with a dear friend
  • A film date with my boyfriend (with delicious food before the film)
  • Lots of films, as you can see
  • Loving my current reads: Wuthering Heights and The God of Small Things
  • Bowling and dinner with friends
  • Catching up with an old friend
  • Kniddelen
  • Sunday lunch in town
  • Writing about graphic novels
  • Writing about little books
  • Writing some snail mail
  • Having my office be more cosy (I should bring a cushion or two…)
  • “Clean house, clean mind”
  • Thinking about planning a sneaky trip to Malta (and by “sneaky”, I mean everyone and their dog will know about it)

Several Brilliant Short Books I Read in 2017

Photo by Karim Ghantous on Unsplash

When I set myself the goal of reading 28 books last year, I panicked a little at the beginning of the year, and got into the groove of reading a lot of short books (some of which were so short I kind of felt like I was cheating…) – but it turned out fine because I read well over 70 books/graphic novels/items overall, so it definitely met my initial goal, regardless of how you’d classify the books.

This meant that I read a bunch of wonderful little books/zines/pamphlets which I must recommend to you. I love sitting down and reading a little book in one sitting – and little books are always easy to carry around, so I can get through so many so often.

Here are some of the top little books I read in 2017:

Mrs Rosie and the Priest – hilarious tales written in the fourteenth century.

All the zines by Fran Meneses – this is one of my favourite YouTubers who’s an illustrator and all-round lovely human. Her zines are so relatable and beautiful.

Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw – these two short novels by Henry James were fascinating, especially since I had heard about them for years but had never read them. Now I know.

The Unknown Unknown – this essay was surprisingly deep. Made me think.

The Suffragettes – I cannot tell you how important this little booklet was to me. Now I just want to publish my own, but for Malta.

The Happy Reader – possibly the best discovery of 2017. This book magazine is my favourite magazine, and it’s such a magical read, every time. Like a book club, in magazine form.

Animal Farm – I reread this classic in 2017 and it was as brilliant as I remember (maybe more so). A definite must-read, and a very quick read.

Le Petit Nicolas – very readable French and adorable stories about little Nicolas. I’ve already gotten the next one in the series and I hope to get to it this year.

The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck – I heard this on audiobook while driving for 6 hours one evening from Normandy to Luxembourg. It was brilliant and hilarious.

Kate Tempest poetry books (Let Them Eat Chaos and Hold Your Own) – this woman is a genius, and I adore her poetry. Hold Your Own is probably my favourite, but I also saw her performing the entirety of Let Them Eat Chaos in Belgium, so it’ll always be special to me.

In short: little books are great, and I have a giant pile waiting to be tackled in 2018 and the years to come. Let me know your favourite little books (which I usually classify as being under 200 pages).

12 Excellent Graphic Novels I Read in 2017

Possibly a little late in the day, but I had to share some of the best books I read last year. This is the first of THREE posts in which I’ll share my favourite graphic novels (this one), my favourite little books/zines/magazines (the second one) and my top favourite books (in general!) (the third post) of 2017.

In last year’s book wrap-up, I mentioned that I was loving graphic novels and I really wanted to discover more in 2017. This happened on an INCREDIBLE level last year. I read a huge amount of graphic novels, and I loved this journey of discovering this new form of reading material. There are so many wonderful, heartwarming, clever, hilarious and beautiful graphic novels – and comic book shops are pretty much amazing places, even if some people look at you funny because you don’t look like the stereotypical comic-book-shop customer. Especially when I’m in a French comic book shop.

Here are twelve excellent graphic novels (or comic books) that I read in 2017:

  1. Lady Stuff – an absolutely hilarious little book about womanhood which I received as a Christmas present from my bestie. It’s brilliant.
  2. The Saga series – I wasn’t too sure about this much-hyped series when I picked up the first volume, but I was strangely hooked. Now, I can’t stop, and I’m almost caught up.
  3. The Giant Days series – this was also really hyped, and I didn’t love it as much as the Saga series, but it intrigued me enough to pick up a few volumes, and I’ll probably get another one in the future to keep going with the series.
  4. Transat – I read this French graphic novel and was completely engulfed in this woman’s story of her voyage through life. This tells you nothing about the plot, but just know that it is beautiful.
  5. Adulthood is a Myth – I read this book in the car (in its entirety) after picking it up at the post office – it was that good. Such adorable doodles with lots of relatable situations.
  6. Persepolis – a magnificent story which everyone should read. The film is also gorgeous. Heartbreaking and very eye-opening.
  7. Un bruit étrange et beau – I was utterly captivated by this book. It’s a graphic novel in French, and I started reading it after liking the cover. However, the cover barely has anything to do with the story, and it was glorious. Very heavy and very dreamy.
  8. Mooncop – such a minimalistic story, with beautiful illustration. Super recommended, even if you get through it in a few minutes. Soak up all the details.
  9. The Trouble with Women – also a must-read. So hilarious and clever. Those darn women!
  10. Pyongyang – this one had a few problems, but I enjoyed it nonetheless, because I love most things when it comes to the fascinating (sad) country of North Korea.
  11. Maus – believe the hype! It wasn’t something I unabashedly loved, but it was definitely an important, weird read.
  12. Le jour où le bus est reparti sans elle – another lovely graphic novel in French, which turned out to be all about self-discovery and a clumsy, endearing protagonist.

As  you might imagine, I am still really open to more graphic novel suggestions! I have a pile of them in my bookcase, waiting to be read, but there’s always room for more.

Things I Love Thursday

The view from my new office <3

  • Happy lunches
  • Spending an afternoon at two friends’ house with their adorable dogs/cats/children <3
  • Spontaneous galette
  • Spontaneous cider
  • Spontaneous Luxembourgish food (Kniddelen – so good!!)
  • The Gruffalo
  • Finally reading Murder on the Orient Express and adoring it
  • Fun farewell activities of a friend who’s leaving Luxembourg soon
  • Laser tag
  • Switching some furniture around our apartment (so now the TV is in the kitchen/living room) – everything feels much better and cosier
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (SO GOOD)
  • Planes
  • The Academy Award nominations
  • Plants in my office
  • When it isn’t raining

Things I Love Thursday

Venus, the cat

Top 10 Films I Watched in 2017

I love watching a good film. Nothing better than getting sucked into a story for a couple of hours – which is something you can do on most regular evenings, as opposed to a series, which requires a lengthier period of commitment. I watched over 100 films in 2017, and I can’t wait to see more good (and delightfully bad) ones in 2018. (Only a few days to go before they announce the Academy Award nominees!)

Firstly, let me just mention the worst film I watched, which was Extraordinary: The Stan Romanek Story. Oh boy, it was bad. In every way. It was also a little hilarious at times, so it still wasn’t a complete waste of time.

And here are the top 10 films I watched in 2017, in no particular order:

  1. Hidden Figures – so heartwarming and empowering.
  2. Moana – finally watched this and LOVED it. Excellent protagonist. Also excellent chicken and pig characters.
  3. A Man Called Ove – an utterly brilliant Swedish film. Highly recommended to everyone.
  4. Hounds of Love – quite a masterpiece of an Australian psychological thriller, which kept me at the edge of my seat.
  5. Lion – so many tears.
  6. Dunkirk – an impressive film with some great scenes (and PLANES).
  7. The Young Offenders – HILARIOUS Irish film. Watch it.
  8. Gaga: Five Foot Two – didn’t think I’d like it, ended up loving it.
  9. Sing Street – such a lovely film, with songs!
  10. La La Land – I didn’t love this as much as some others did, but there were some sweet moments.

Any other great film suggestions?

THREE YEARS IN LUXEMBOURG

Christmas trees in Luxembourg

Is this real life? I’ve been in Luxembourg for three whole years. I’m still here. It’s discombobulating. Let me review some stand-out issues of the past years.

TRAVELLING

Well, I’m in Luxembourg, and I’m not. In 2017 I travelled so much – flexible work arrangements and a large amount of leave has allowed me to take a tonne of “extended weekend” trips. Being in Luxembourg is such a blessing for European trips – getting to most places is relatively easy, and being able to drive to places in France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands has been INCREDIBLE. So many last-minute trips.

STAYING AT HOME

This is in contrast to what I just said about travelling, but I’ve really learned to say “NO.” this past year. I’ve stayed indoors, happy as ever, eating and lounging and reading (so much reading) and doing nothing or being productive – everything. FOMO has been set aside and I just stay inside whenever I can – recharging and just chilling. So good for the soul. And our flat in Luxembourg (versus our homes in Malta) has central heating so it’s heavenly in winter.

BOOK CLUB

One of the best things about my life in Luxembourg. In January 2017 I joined a book club and it’s been such a perfect thing for me – it’s a group of wonderful, intelligent people where we meet every few months after reading a fascinating book (and sometimes we even meet for a cheeky film night), often with a glass of crémant and always with some sort of nibbles. So fulfilling.

FLIGHT SCHOOL

Another amazing thing about my life in Luxembourg now is that I started a course to (hopefully) get my Private Pilot Licence (PPL) in 2018. It’s been intensive but wonderful. Few things exist that really keep me in Luxembourg, but this is definitely something which has made me feel very happy to commit to the country for a while.

CAREER DEVELOPMENT

Newsflash! At the airport, on the way from Luxembourg to Malta for Christmas, I received a job offer from the Court of Justice to work as a lawyer linguist there in 2018. I (obviously) accepted. I’m so excited, and it’s going to be such a great challenge for this year.

FRENCH

My French is better. However, I STILL struggle so much with speaking. Conversation classes might be required in the near future.

THE WEATHER

Ugh. Now that I’m actually trying to squeeze in flying lessons (very unsuccessfully during October/November/December 2017 due to the weather), the weather in Luxembourg has been very disappointing. When it snows, at least it’s magical and great. When it’s rainy and foggy – no, thank you.

GETTING A PET CAT

WE STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN A PET CAT.

MISSING MALTA

As always. I miss Malta. Of course I do. My closest friends and family are still there, it’s my true home. Yes, Luxembourg is less of a “new place”, but my heart is in the Mediterranean.

I’ll probably still be in Luxembourg in a year, but who knows? Stay tuned.

TRIPS I TOOK IN 2017

Étretat, Normandy, France

2017 was definitely a Year of Travelling for me. I milked the fact that I live in Luxembourg and was finally earning a regular wage (with the fantastic availability of lots of leave), and took lots of little (and other not-so-little) trips to new and old places.

This post is a list for me to remember all the places I visited in 2017, but also a few travel ideas for you that might spark some plans for the months to come.

CITY BREAKS

I visited Paris in January with a group of lovely Italian women who also live in Luxembourg – we visited museums, ate delicious food, and did a lot of shopping and walking around. We also stayed in a real Parisian apartment in Montmartre – glorious.

My only new country for the year was Portugal, when I whisked my boyfriend away on a surprise trip for his 30th birthday to Porto in February. We ate a lot of yummy food and drank a lot of port. Mmm.

We went to Berlin in May for a long weekend visiting my boyfriend’s cousin. We had never been to this city before and we both fell in love. It is so painfully and excellently hipster.

Maybe this doesn’t really count, but I found myself alone on a sunny Saturday once and decided to drive to Liège in Belgium for a long day out. I visited churches and bookshops and had an amazing outdoor lunch in the sun. Trips on your own can be amazing.

One of the most spontaneous trips was to another new city, Padova, where we spent a couple of days boiling in the sun, visiting cultural sites and lots of churches, and eating the best food of our lives. Go to Osteria ai Scarponi if you’re ever there – we went twice in the span of 15 hours…

I visited Brussels several times throughout 2017, but only went once for a proper “touristic” visit, with a couple of my sweetest friends. We did the Magritte museums and lots of food and lots of bookshops. Also, wine.

Utrecht was another new city which we visited this year. A good friend of ours from Malta had moved there and we took the opportunity to visit him as well as his new city – which is gorgeous and very Dutch. Definitely one to return to.

Another old friend lives in Leeds, and we visited his lovely house in December for a couple of days of hearty English food and a Field Music festival. Great fun and lovely eggs.

I went to London twice this year, once as an add-on to our big Iceland trip (detailed below) (which was a bit of a bad idea, to go to the noise and craziness of London after two weeks in the serenity of rural Iceland). The other London trip was the annual Christmas trips with my two best friends, which is always a Christmassy success (even if my flight on the way back got cancelled, but that just meant that I could hang out and stay with some lovely London-based friends who took me in so willingly).

BIGGER TRIPS

For Easter we planned a last-minute mega road trip around Normandy (with Amiens as our first stop to split up the car ride). It was so gorgeous – their churches are seriously impressive (I love a good church) and the countryside was beautiful, as were their beaches.

My big trip with my two best friends this year was Ireland for a week – we went on a road trip (and a boat trip) and had a lovely time hopping from one place to another. So many beautiful bookshops and puffins.

Another “big” trip for the year was Werchter in Belgium, for Rock Werchter. We camped for 4 days in a muddy field and listened to some great artists. It was OK, but there was so little personal space and hygiene, that “OK” is as good as it could have been. At least it then prompted me to want to go “proper” camping in a Luxembourgish field the following weekend where it was completely serene and quiet and peaceful – heaven.

The final trip of the year was Sicily for 5 days – it was a “bigger” trip, but in reality I spent most of it in our beautiful B&B in bed, because I got hit by a terrible cold which completely restricted me to a horizontal position + Netflix. At least I managed to climb Etna and explore Catania (and the fishing villages above Catania) a bit. I’m actually writing this post from my bed in Sicily. So glamorous.

THE BIGGEST TRIP

I went to Iceland for the third time in October with my boyfriend and my parents – it was quite an epic trip and required a lot of preparation and organisation, but it ended up being brilliant. We did a road trip around Route 1 but also spent a few days in the Westfjords (easily my favourite part of Iceland now). Log cabins, natural hot pots, incredible Northern Lights… It was very special.

MALTA

I was never too far from a Malta trip this year. I visited in January, February, twice in March, May, June, August, September, November, and December. (Technically twice in December, if you count that we travelled to Sicily from Malta.) For my sanity, I’ve really come to realise that I need to touch base back in Malta at least once every two months, ideally every month. This might sound excessive to a lot of people, but it’s really what’s best for me right now. While I’m hoping to calm down with the travelling (at least concentrate on a few big trips rather than just a million little ones!) in 2018, I’m still keeping it in mind that I’ll need to fit in 6-10 trips to Malta during the year.

And finally, I should say that apart from the trips I listed above, I’ve done plenty of day/evening trips to places across the border in Belgium, Germany and France, but they don’t count since they were only for a few hours (especially since these usually only necessitate a 20-minute drive). Ah, the perks of living in a little country in the middle of continental Europe.

I’m very excited about my travel plans for 2018 – as I said, they will hopefully be more focused on longer, more special trips, and one of my resolutions is to travel to a new country… I wonder which one it will be. Any suggestions?