Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

This little book (and when I say little, I mean some 500 pages long) came my way last spring, and it took me some time to pick it up. When it comes to these typical chic lit novels, I am always a bit alert. I don’t underestimate them, but keep cautious till proven read-worthy. And it so was! Even though it has many characteristics of the genre, it also has many other features that make it extraordinary different.

It is set in modern day Edinburgh, and in many ways the city plays just as important role as the characters. Page after page the author describes corners and streets, cafes and parks, with an extra load of typical Scottish expressions. The Stortfold Castle is in the background of a few turning points in the plot. Lou is a 20-something girl who works at a small cafe close to the castle, very unambitious and unaware of her own skills. At the beginning of the book, we find her jobless and in a bad relationship, living with her parents, grandpa, her sister and a nephew – the whole lot. On the other hand, Will used to be a successful London-based manager, a lover of extreme sports, who, in a single moment, lost it all together with his will to live. The accident leaves him quadriplegic, and Lou becomes his carer. She is quirky and special, wear odd clothes and does not really think through everything that comes out of her mouth, but Will seems to enjoy her childlike view of life. The author describes in details the daily routine of a quadriplegic person, and the way a family copes with it.


Of course, there are many other minor stories, such as Lou’s relationship with her parents and sister (a former high achiever turned single mum), or Will’s relationship with her ex-girlfriend who is about to marry his best friend. Of course, most of these end with a ‘happily ever after,’ after a few bumps on the road.

Lou and Will are an odd couple and their special connection is something you will think about long after you’ve read the book. I adored the part when they go out together, and the moment when she first realises that she is in love with him. I hated some bits. I cried through others. Yesterday I read online that the film is coming out next year, starring Emilia Clarke (GoT) and Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games 2,3 and 4) and cannot wait to see it on the big screen. Warning: waterproof mascara essential!


The Night Circus

What a novel! What a story, style, characterization, dedication to details & most of all, how imaginatively written. Although I found the story slow and confusing at the beginning, I was suck into it, thinking of myself as a keen circus goer, or even a “rêveur”.

If you want to know what the book is doing in there, leave a comment!
If you want to know what the book is doing in there, leave a comment!

Let me try to break down the plot line: Le Cirque des Rêves, or the Circus of Dreams, is a traveling circus that is only opened at night. They arrive without a notice, and leave in a similar manner. There are no posters or any other kind of marketing, but people are spell-bound by it, they are drawn to it and some even follow the circus around the world (“rêveurs”). This phantasmagorical fairy tale is set in Victorian London, and it draws many features typical of the Victorian style: mystery, tragical love story, inevitable fate, haunting ghosts, magical artifacts, orphans, magical twins, and many more. Re-invented, these become intensified to the point that you feel like you are in a circus and can’t quite get out. The circus is magical: there are blooming gardens made only of ice, and acrobats going insanely high without a safety net, and a magician whose jacket transforms into a raven. But, more than this, the circus also serves as a stage for the magician Prospero the Enchanter and an enigmatic Mr A.H to put their proteges to test. Celia Bowen, a daughter of the magician, and Marco Alisdair, an orphan plucked and mentored by Mr A.H., must fight each other, but the victory of one means the death of the other. Celia, a natural illusionist, transforms the circus, adds magical tents and generally maintains it, while Marco, who learned about magic from books, creates illusions that only exist in the mind of the beholder. Hope this is enough to tease your curiosity so you get the book, and find out the rest for yourself!

20151105_134602I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is refreshing and intriguing, it’s like a dream… Given that it is a debut novel, can you imagine what we can expect from this amazing novelist!

Visit her website at: and find out about her new book. While waiting for Flax-Golden Tales to come my way, I will be keeping my eyes on her blog (where you can actually read some stories online).

Back to Menorca… West Coast: Cuitadella, Cala Blanca and Cala Son Bou

Menorca has so much to offer that going there just for a weekend getaway does not simply cut it. You need a week or maybe even a fortnight in order to see all the charming places brimming with things to do, photos to take, and specialties to taste. On the westbound reading train, today we will stop at only three places, but I owe to tell you that the Western coast has so much more to offer… gorgeous beaches, such as Cala Morell, Cala en Bosc, and Cala en Forcat, just to name a few.

Contrary to the busy and noisy capital Mao (Mahon), in the peaceful and colonial Cuitadella, time does not fly and the atmosphere is calm and lazy. You can stroll through medieval cobbled streets that wind up and down, and around. Let you mind wonder and tune your nose to the fine smells coming from many fish restaurants and bakeries. DSC03645The town has had a interesting history and came under attacks many times: the most severe and bloody being the attack by a Turkish naval unit some 500 years ago. Over 3000 people were enslaved and most of the town plundered.

Treat yourself with an ice cream as you slowly continue towards the town’s port, situated right next to the breathtaking Placa d’es Born. Apart from many souvenir shops and cafes, visit the town hall (in the picture below) and other palaces made of that golden sandstone that serves as a natural building air conditioning.


Cala Blanca *the white bay* is located only 4km away from Cuitadella and it boasts brilliant white sand beach, framed by the green backdrop of a pine forest of trees. The water is crystal clear here and you can follow schools of fish as they circumnavigate around you as you swim.

There are many bars and cafes in this area, so stick around till the sunset since the view is amazingly romantic!

Cala Blanca5
Romantic sundown at the Cala Blanca

Platges Son Bou is the longest sandy beach of the island with nearly 3km of heavenly golden sand. It is an ideal place for families with children, with small playground and good showers and toilets. You might also want to stop by and see the remains of a the Basilica de Son Bou which was erected in the 5th century AD. Again, highly recommend is to watch the sunset from the Son Bou beach…it is phenomenal!

Playa Son Bou
Playa Son Bou

‘Song for Night’ by Chris Abani

Critical Appreciation of Song for Night by Chris Abani

I read this novel a few years ago, while I was doing my Master’s at the Universidad Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain. The story is so powerful and so intense that I could do nothing else on that day, but read and read, and read. After I had finished the novel, I felt nothing, and everything. The critical appreciation underneath is the original essay which I wrote on this topic.

“Tenderness and fear, as well as kindness and love can never be voiced; they have to remain hushed and unspoken. The terror of war does not recognize words and does not speak a language. War orders, pushes around and throws onto the ground. War devours. In my opinion, the worst thing about war is not all the houses that get burned down or the people who get killed; for me, the malice of war lies in the absolutely frightening fact that it eats souls; it rips humanity out of people. Can you still call yourself a person if you are soulless, if you, catching a sight of yourself in a mirror, see but an animal hungry for blood?

This novel is so much more than just a novel. It is a unique treasure – it is a dictionary of war. The entries are not death, kill or opponent. On the contrary, Abani chooses the sweetest and dearest words to explain: imagination, soul, mercy, mother, home. Moreover, he does not just describe the words, he paints them. The images are so strong that they carve into the reader’s mind as a memory remembered. We do not read about his pain, we feel it. It transcends the words and pages; it is not yet another story. Song for Night is yet another proof of the absurdity of war and the effect it has on people. It is a warning against the atrocity and madness.

The narrator of the story is a 13-year-old boy caught up in the midst of violence. It seems as if My Luck stands for all the boy soldiers used in the Biafran War in Africa, but at the same time, he speaks for all the children and adults alike who have found themselves in war. His narration is sophisticated, poetic and smooth. He is not trying to impress us, or to amaze us. After the death of his parents, My Luck is recruited into the unit of the army that defuses the unmapped mines. The mines are scattered all over the area just as the corpses will be scattered later. The unmapped mines, the unmarked graves. On his journey through the territory, My Luck stumbles on dead bodies both on water and land. In the middle of that madness, he has not lost his humanity and sense of morality, we can see that the narrator has a great respect for the human kind; he buries some bodies, and tries not to disturb the others.

As all the other children who were mine diffusers, My Luck had his vocal cords cut out. The army did so in order to prevent the others from getting scared after hearing a scream of a dying child. Those children cannot have a voice, they cannot speak since there is no one they can turn to; there is no one to hear their cry. Moreover, no one cares. One of the causes of the Biafra War was the British organization of the country of Nigeria; it was convenient for them to have all the black community organized in one country. The people did not just belong to different nationalities, but to different religions as well. With the discovery of oil in the region, human greed took the war over. And, as My Luck says, after some time, you get used to seeing death and torture. In big wars, small people do not exist. We tend to remember the big names, the big treaties and big victories. To collect all the stories of the people who took part in the war or, even more disturbing, of all the ones who were killed in the war would be impossible to digest. In his famous “Anthem for Doomed Youth” Wilfred Owen, commenting on the atrocity of the WW1 compares soldiers to cattle dying in the slaughterhouse of war. In Song for Night, Abani’s narrator repeats that all they did was sleep, kill, and eat. A life of an average predator. They are animals, cattle. My Luck is different because he has not lost his sense of humanity, he loves and hurts; he remembers and longs; he cares. He is still human.

This novel is a journey. Deprived of his childhood, his parents, the narrator has no sense of identity or belonging. He got lost somewhere along the way. He travels through his memories to regain himself. Reclaim his identity. The novel is short – his life is short. His song for night is the sky full of stars which gives him light and shows him which way to go. ‘You have all the light you need inside you,’ the light is kindness, love, empathy.”


After reading his other works, I simply wrote an email to the author, expressing my love for his books, and he responded!!! He thanked me for the essay (I also attached that) and the kind words. Such a great man!

This is not an easy read, not just another little book that you can pick up and put down just like that. It is a great novel, and it will make you cry. But is probably one of the greatest postcolonial novels ever written.

Falling in Love with Faro and la Ilha Deserta


In today’s post I am taking you to the southern coast of Portugal – the Algarve region. Known for great food, picturesque countryside and juicy oranges, it is also a magnet for many tourists… Beware! Get ready for the most amazing beaches in Europe, lots of caves and waves, mouth-watering specialties, and the most friendly people I have ever meet.

To kick things off, I will take you to Faro, the most important town on the southern coast. It has had a dynamic history, as has the whole region. In fact, it was precisely from here that the Portuguese ships had set off in search of new continents, peoples, and, well, fortune. The moment your captain says that you have begun landing, glue yourself to the plane’s window and enjoy the view… sandy beaches as long as your eyes can see, rocky cliffs, lush green golf courses, and to top it all off, the delta of the Ria Formosa Natural Park with numerous islands scattered around, many of which are completely deserted. The airport is relatively small and well organised, so get yourself a rent-a-car vehicle and your Algarve adventure can start.

To get to know more about this amazing place, go to . My best friend and my partner in crime, Ronny, and I drove directly to the port of Faro, where you can find a spacious (and free) car park, and after a few minutes walk, we found ourselves in the busy streets of the downtown Faro, with crowds of tourists everywhere around us and wonderful examples of architectural mastery in the midst of rows of orange trees.


Faro Cathedral
Faro Cathedral

A company called Animaris ( offers boat trips to the Ilha Deserta (the Deserted Island), as well as private guided tours of the Ria Formosa Natural Park. This uninhabited island boasts 11 km of pristine beach, as well as unique biodiversity and ecosystem typical of the entire delta. After a comfortable and chilly boat ride, we arrive at the island and we take the road on our right. DSC05356A tiny hiking trail forms an inner ring around the island. You might see examples of rare species, such as the birds called Sacred Ibis or the Brant Geese, but don’t be surprised if you see some Humpback whales swimming around. Time and time again we stop to take pictures, but finally we sit our small bums down. Believe me, hours mean nothing when you are there, stretched on that soft sand. An occasional seagull or a big wave break the silent magic that will wrap you up, warm and relaxed. And the best thing is… no people in sight. If you are the kind of person who enjoys sunbathing naked, well, here and now is the chance! I cannot confirm we did that, but neither can I deny it 😀 !!!

On the way back, we stop at the only building on the island, the Estamine restaurant and enjoy sipping on a espresso latte, while waiting for our boat to take us back to the civilisation.


You do just walk in the sand, you wade :D
You do just walk in the sand, you wade 😀
Can we please just live here?
Can we please just live here?

Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts

Yes, my first book review is a chick-lit novel about pairing lonely and unhappy people with equally lonely and unhappy dogs! I know, if you have a degree in literature it is not a kind of a read that you want anyone to see you reading on the train or in your office during the lunch break. But it is all kinds of great! The author Lucy Dillon, has written 6 books so far, and according to the Goodreads reviews, you might also want to check ‘The Ballroom Class’.

Imagine the following: you are flying to Tenerife for a ten days holiday and you have only half of an afternoon to pack… You put your swimsuit, then another one, a few cute dresses and some sandals, and think…well, that’s about it! No book in sight. Luckily, the hotel we were staying at had a ‘take it or leave it’ book shelf going on, so naturally, I was all over it! Among the ominous crime stories and the non-fiction history books and alike, my choice was either this or  something in German but then I would have to open my dictionary on every page…. No, no, no… Give me that dog story!!!

Do not get confused when you start reading the book and in each chapter there is a different protagonist, because pretty soon, their faiths intertwine. Rachel, a London-based business woman, finds out that her strange aunt had died and left her an estate in the countryside. Moreover, Rachel also got a boarding kennels and a dozen of dogs. To make things even more complicated, Rachel had just got out of a 10-year affair with a married man, and she also left her job. But soon a tall dark stranger enters her life and turns it upside down, which is exactly what she needs. The tall dark stranger is her late aunt’s favourite dog called Gem. Other lonely hearts include a handsome local doctor (I cannot recall his name), a sweet couple trying to have a baby, Natalie and Johnny, and lastly a single mum with two young boys, called Zoe. And guess what? All of them get dogs! Yes. There is this pairing up skill runs in the family, aunt Dot had it and Rachel seems to have it. Based on a few questions and their own gut feeling, they can tell you what dog breed would make your best companion.

A cortado con hielo, Playa Enramada, and two book worms
A cortado con hielo, Playa Enramada, and two book worms

To be honest, I would not have liked the book that much if it wasn’t for the fury friends. Truth be told, the characterisation was great and the storyline is solid. Especially the complex relationship between Natalie and Johnny, a happy couple that is trying to get a baby, is moving and emotional. I also enjoyed that little touch of mystery as well, when Rachel starts disentangling her late aunt’s complicated past by reading old letters and looking at old photos. These scenes were described with such a dedication to details and were a joy to read.

The book’s got a 4-star rating on Goodreads, and though I would not pick it up at a bookshop, I enjoyed reading it. I have always loooooved dogs and it bothers me that we have a ‘No pets’ policy in our building. This novel has made me think about volunteering at a local dogs’ rescue center. But I still wonder what dog would I be paired up with?! Hm….