Restaurant Review: Il Folletto Galway City

Ok so I’m quite a fan of Italian restaurants, so much so that I would think I’m quite competent to know what good quality Italian food is. This place did not produce good Italian grub. I did really want to like it, it’s location is perfect down near the Spanish arch, the street is buzzing outside with lots of atmosphere, however this ends when walking into the restaurant. It was dead.

I should have taken this as a sign of things to come, but the €19 value menu really drew me in, plus a free glass of wine with your meal! Why not!

We were placed literally at the door to the kitchen right in front of the bar where we were listening to every conversation between the staff. It was my own fault for not asking to sit elsewhere. They also had a fan or something on in this area which meant not only were we freezing but our food became cold within seconds of serving.

On to the food. Well where to start. I ordered the bruschetta classic, I literally order this in every Italian restaurant I go to, that’s how crazy about it I am! But this bruschetta was completely flavourless! No garlic flavour at all, and it was served on what was basically a slice of toasted bread. My boyfriend, who eats everything, even tasted it and commented how bland it was.

For the main I made another error and ordered the pasta arrabiata. This dish is literally one of the easiest Italian dishes to make, chicken pieces in a spicy tomato sauce with slices of chillies through it and lashings and lashings of garlic. That’s it. What I got was literally fusilli pasta (not homemade) in a soup like sauce (convinced it was the leftover soup sauce that day) with only 2 slices of chillies (I counted) and the chicken definitely wasn’t cooked fresh. What was even more unnerving was that there were strings of spaghetti going through my fusilli pasta, which means that it was either the minestrone soup that the spaghetti strings were in or worse they never cleaned out the pot they cooked my pasta in. What made matters worse was half way through the dish I discovered a piece of chicken that still had a vein or capillary attached to it. Yuck!

When I informed the waiter of my unhappiness with the dish, he went in to the kitchen to question the chef on the chicken piece. The reply I received was that it had been a bit of hard chicken! Now in all my years of cooking and eating chicken I have never come across a bit of chicken like that before and I’m very sorry I didn’t take a picture of it to attach to this review so anyone reading could understand the utter disbelief to this ‘hard chicken’ statement I received

Having said all this, my boyfriend had a nice enough meal. He got the meatballs to start and the chicken escalope for the main and he only complained that the portions were too small.

So overall I would definitely not recommend this restaurant to Italian cuisine lovers and I personally felt I wouldn’t serve this food to my dog. I’ve never ever had to leave such a negative review in my entire life so for those thinking I’m being harsh, it’s all the gods honest truth! I’m quite a foodie so I was really really disappointed by this experience.

The only thing going for this restaurant is the great value of the menu price wise and the free glass of wine, but my strong advice is to go elsewhere!

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Make-Up Review: MAC lipsticks-colour of the month

Rebel                                            Lush Life

So anyone who knows me, knows of my obsession with MAC lipsticks! I can’t seem to walk through any airport duty free without at least purchasing one. Also usually every present request I give to my loved ones, includes a MAC lipstick. I just personally find them so superior to other lipsticks on the market and they last for such a long time.

Today I’ve decided to review the two shades from MAC that have been permanently in my handbag this month. Coincidentally they are both plum kind of colours so ergo my colour of the month theme with this review.

I am obsessed with the colour plum lately and the two MAC lipsticks I’d like to talk about are the shades: MAC Satin range in the shade Rebel, and the second is from the Mineralize rich range and it’s called Lush Life.

So the first shade I’ll talk about is the Rebel one. It was the first plum shade I bought actually. It’s from the satin range and it has almost a pink tone to it. It is lighter than the second shade but you wouldn’t really notice the difference too much. It applies on evenly, and it has a matte like texture. I always prepare my lips using a simple lip balm e.g. vaseline. I just find that this allows the lipstick to apply evenly and smoothly. The shade did not require that many top ups on a night out and in fact it stains your lips even after removal so they have this lovely natural plum tone to them. I’m quite fond of the shade, but it can dry out your lips if you do not prepare them in advance.

Onto the second shade. Lush Life was actually a gift from my mother and I love it! It is from the MAC mineralize range and it’s casing alone is what captured my attention as it is not your usual MAC lipstick container. This plum colour is richer and more red toned in colour. What I love most about it is that it has a creamy like texture and my lips require no preparation before application. This lipstick has an almost sheen to it as if a little lip gloss was applied also. Now because it is easier to apply that does mean it is easier to come off so more top ups were required on a night out. However because of the ease of application with this lipstick, it means you do not have to be in front of a mirror to put it on. I was able to discreetly and perfectly apply it quickly when no one was noticing.

I would definitely recommend both these lipsticks depending on what kind of lipstick fan you are, i.e. if you prefer mattes go with the rebel shade, but if you are like me and like the sheen to your lipstick and ease of application, then Lush Life is the one for you. On a sidenote both these shades look fantastic when paired with the MAC lipliner shade Vino. I will include a picture below with swatches of each of the lipsticks and also the lip liner so you all can get a good idea of what I’m talking about. I also have a sallow skin tone so these lipsticks could look darker on those with paler skin.

As always if you have any questions or would like to comment or give your opinion, please do so! Or contact me on my social media pages which I will include links for below also.

The Busiest Bee 🙂

 

*Rebel is the top swatch and Lush Life is the bottom one. Also apologies for the over exposure of the light in the first picture, I took a second one to include the lip liner Vino too.

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Book Review: The Alchemist’s Daughter by Katherine McMahon

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Book: The Alchemist’s Daughter.

Author: Katherine McMahon.

Rating: 5/10

 It has taken me such a length of time to finish this book, and not all due to the hectic days I have been having, but also because I found this novel utterly disappointing. It bothers me to no end, that the first review I must write after so long, is a negative one. Alas, I have promised to give honest reviews and so I must proceed with this one much to my own reluctance.

‘The Alchemist’s Daughter’ is set in the early 1700s onwards and tells the tale of Emilie Selden, a quiet, sheltered girl who has been raised in an old run down family estate in Bukinghamshire, almost in captivity if you ask me, by her philosopher father, a well renowned alchemist and scientist. whose aim is to make Emilie his apprentice and sees her, a female, as an experiment also. Emilie craves attention and more importantly love and affection. Her father although apparently raising her lovingly, and gifting her with his teachings of alchemy, has moulded Emilie into a well educated young lady, capable of holding debates with most learned of men. Emilie herself, a curious girl desperate to make her father happy, loves alchemy and treasures the moments spent with her father, in his unending search for the theory of what causes fire. Emilie also seeks the truth of who her mother was, and as her father is so unwilling to impart his knowledge of her mother, Emilie lives in a state of utter frustration, as she tries to come to terms with who she is and what her role is in the world. However it soon becomes apparent to the reader, that even though Emilie is highly educated, she is completely clueless about how women should behave and has simply no idea what the real world is like. 

Emilie’s sheltered existence comes under threat by the arrival of two men, polar opposites, who both become enamoured by Emilie’s beauty and intelligence. Reverend Shales is a quiet, kind man who is besotted with Emilie and encourages her curiosity but with less emphasis on Alchemy, since he is a reverend and is duty bound to disagree with the laws of Alchemy. Aislabie, is a flamboyant, charismatic, passionate man who sets his sights on Emilie, but secretly has ulterior motives. Emilie being so clueless and naive, allows herself to be seduced and destroys everything her father had been dreaming for in a simple selfish act, in her search for affection that has been lacking in her life up to this moment. Emilie’s small world is soon torn apart, as she now finds herself in a universe in which she knows nothing of, and must act a role she has never been trained for. Heartbreak and loneliness become huge themes in the novel following these events as Emilie is led down a path, she should never have gone.

I hated this novel. I cannot believe I am saying this as in theory the novel has everything needed to become a success. It has a wide range of interesting characters, it provides an in depth look at alchemy and the fascination scientists had for it in the 1700s. It provides a fascinating love story with plentiful love scenes that would make any reader blush. It has many moral arguments that any reader would like to sink their teeth into. Yet for some reason I was so utterly frustrated by this novel. The first half of the novel crawled by for me personally, I kept finding myself putting the book down. The second part of the novel, even though it picked up pace and contained much more exciting moments than the first half, was so full of over the top, dramatic, baffling moments that I started counting pages to see how much left of the book I still had to read before it was over.

The whole theory of Alchemy, although interesting and mildly captivating, was detailed in such a complicated manner, that a lot of it for me went over my head. I found myself yawning through the scenes in which Emilie and her father perform numerous experiments, when I should have been suffering from ‘mind blowness’ as I would like to call it. Although the author clearly did a lot of research on the topic which is what any reader would want, I do believe she could have written it in a more straightforward manner. Not all of us understand the scientific nature of the world and do in fact need it to be ‘dumbed’ down for us mere mortals. 

That being said, I was willing to overlook this issue had I been able to relate to the characters more. However this was not the case. I wanted to fell sorry for Emilie, as would any reader, for living such a uneducated existence when it comes to the real world and what would be expected of her in it. After all, had her father simply imparted pieces of information regarding her mother and even given Emilie the slightest bit of affection, he would have armoured her instead of leaving her defenceless to the evils of the world. Instead of feeling empathetic for Emilie, I felt such a deep level of annoyance with her character. Aislabie is clearly a rake, and no matter how naive someone is, his arrogance and seductive manner would have sent clear warning signs to even the dumbest of characters. She could have clearly gone down a safer path with the Reverend Shales but no, that would have been too easy and wouldn’t have provided the reader with such a overly dramatic plot.

Emilie also is unwilling to see things from others perspectives, she does not understand that the world is a complicated place in which people make decisions and that there are consequences to such decisions. She is altogether quite selfish at times, but again this is due to her ridiculous upbringing. She is the result of ‘the sins of the father’ so to speak. She is both emotionless/heartless and yet emotional at the same time, it is as if the author couldn’t decide what kind of character she wanted to create. Detached is the word I would use to describe this character. There are certain scenes in the novel where I literally wanted to shout at her character for being so deficient and gutless. Even though one must admit that she is also a different kind of female, then is expected for that era, it would have simply be unheard of for a female to have an education like Emilie has. Nonetheless I found her character spineless when I wanted her to stand up for herself and make her mark. For example If someone was forcing me to change myself, to tear down my family home and give up a career that was once so important to me, to fit into a mould of a perfect wife, I would not stand around and do absolutely nothing, and allow an attractive man to distract me from this, by using affection as a tool. I just do not understand it, and why anyone would want to write a character such as this, is astonishing to me.

I also resented the other characters in the novel, who could have stepped in at any moment to prevent Emilie’s downfall. Mrs Gill for example, the only motherly figure Emilie knew, practically turned her back to Emilie when she needed her most. Even Reverend Shales, for all the good he represented, could have whisked Emilie away from such a dreadful path. Instead he just warns her vocally and very insipidly, instead of actually doing something in an act of prevention. Once again in relation to her father, by keeping Emilie oblivious to the outside world, he set her on this depressing life journey. It is his fault, in my opinion, that all these events occurred. He created Emilie in his image, and while that image might work for him, it does not work for a young woman in the 1700s who hasn’t a clue how women act in this era. It was all so utterly frustrating to me as a reader. 

What I also don’t understand, is what kind of novel McMahon is trying to achieve. Is it historical fiction? or is it trying to be a scientific fiction? or a bodice ripping romance? I shall leave it to you readers to determine should you wish to read this novel, but I was completely confused as to what kind of novel I was reading. The first part of the novel, as mentioned previously details so much scientific inquiry, that is so complex, that one does feel they are reading a scientific journal. However the addition of historical figures such as Isaac Newton and various other famous philosophers, and the various mentions of how these famous characters brought about the age of enlightenment, challenging the church and whatnot, has lead me to believe it could be a historical fiction. Then there is of course the various amorous scenes in the novel, that would allow it to compete with any Mills and Boon novel. Its genre is terribly confusing as a result. 

Overall for me, it was a terrible novel and one I would not recommend to my dearest friends.I must begrudgingly admit that although I found the events in the novel terribly predictable, from the second part of the novel onwards, I could not put the book down. Even though I knew what was going to occur and knew that it would not be the ending I would like, I still persisted reading through it and was disappointed at the end as I foresaw. In fact the ending was so lifeless it is as if the author gave up. I am of the opinion that once I start a book, I must always finish it. However I really wish that after the first half of this novel, I should have realised it wasn’t going to get any better and I should have put it down, even though it goes against everything I believe in as a reader. I was actually aghast when reading other reviews of this novel that some readers actually quite liked the story. Nonetheless I do realise everyone has their own opinion on what works for them when it comes to novels. This unfortunately did not work for me. 

As always, please feel free to leave a comment on my blog or twitter page, I love getting feedback.

The Busiest Bee 🙂

Restaurant Review: Cactus Jacks Galway

 

Cactus Jacks is one of those restaurants that can actually be described as doing exactly what it says on the tin! This is one hipster restaurant you do not want to miss. It provides tasty Mexican cuisine at a totally reasonable cost (€19.95 for the early bird menu and a bottle of house wine for €12 during this time makes for a truly economic dining experience).

Cactus Jacks is tucked away down a quiet side street just off Quay street and one would worry that this would mean the atmosphere would be dead, however upon entering the restaurant the opposite was true. This restaurant is quite hipster smart, laid back in decor but this added to it’s appeal. A pleasant waiter greeted us on entry and quickly seated us at a table to our liking. He was very efficient and provided a lot of useful information regarding the menu and what not.

We actually arrived into the restaurant after early bird hours, but our waiter having noticed we ordered a bottle of house wine was quick to point out that next time we should come before 7 so we could avail of the €12 bottle of wine but that he would do us a deal and give us a second bottle for that price. Which was quite generous and had we been out with friends, it would definitely have been an option, however as there was only the two of us, we had to decline. It was still quite nice of the waiter to offer all the same.

Onto the food, it was truly a delight. I ordered the cheesy nachos for my starter, I was not disappointed, Cactus Jack’s signature chilli is to die for, with a hint of chocolate in it too so what’s not to like. It was served with nachos on the side which I also liked because often when you serve chilli on nachos they become quite soft and icky. There was also a little tub of sour cream to complement the dish. My boyfriend ordered the chicken skewers, which he said were lovely, if not a tad bit dry so maybe serving it with a dip sauce might be an idea? Just a thought however.

For the mains I ordered the Moroccan lamb burger. I was one of those picky customers where instead of regular fries I wanted sweet potato fries and instead of the hummus I wanted the relish and so on, but the waiter took all of my demands in stride and was quite easy going about it. The burger was amazing, and so deceptively filling! I was struggling to finish it half way through.

I also had ordered a side portion of the grilled Mediterranean vegetables, these however were the only disappointment with my main meal. They were covered in the herb thyme, which is ok in small doses but this was literally thyme overkill! Thyme is quite over powering in my books and less is more is always the key in my opinion and another herb could have been better suited e.g. oregano or in less is more terms, it would have been nicer just lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. However these are all just my own personal views and I realise my taste buds may not appeal to others, but again I will say it was a hell of a lot of thyme so I challenge anyone not to react the same way.

My boyfriend ordered the chicken supreme, he enjoyed it although it did advertise it as a large chicken breast and it was maybe a medium sized fillet. Again this is just a minor thing. Following the meal we weren’t rushed out of the restaurant like you would be in other restaurants, we were able to enjoy the rest of our wine in peace listening to the fantastic playlist of music they played in the restaurant, I did mean to get the name of the album but completely forgot, but it definitely added to our lovely experience.

Overall we thoroughly enjoyed our dining experience and look forward to dining in Cactus Jacks again hopefully in the near future. The food is wholesome and flavorsome and the early bird menu and wine offer is definitely a deal breaker that would make me want to return again! It’s also quite a nice place for all sorts of crowds: families, couples, tourists etc. so there is something for everyone.

Fashion Review: MET Gala 2016-the best, the worst and the interesting…

Yes it’s that time of year again! As with the Oscars award season, The Met Gala is one of my favourite times of year. What’s not to love, all the worlds favourite celebrities arrive dolled up in the most famous designer labels but also in line with a theme. This year’s theme for the gala was Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology. For me personally this theme wasn’t that out there and really only a handful of celebs actually represented the theme outrageously, last years theme was much more entertaining. Having said that I still am just as amazed with some of the gowns on display last night. In this blog post I will highlight my favourite outfits, the fashion disasters and the most interesting/bizarre styles of the night.

First up, my top ten dresses from last night:

Wow! Emma Watson definitely wowed the crowds in this sexy number by the designer Calvin Klein. At first glance you would think Watson was wearing a dress but her outfit is actually a two piece suit. Only she could pull off a number like this. Amazing! Is it futuristic? maybe not but still a hell of an outift a the end of the day.

Cindy Crawford is up next wearing a Balmain dress. Crawford once again proves she hasn’t aged a day and is just as hip as Balmain’s usual younger models such as Kendall Jenner. I love the futuristic metallic element to this dress also which fitted perfectly with the evening’s theme.

Gigi Hadid’s dress by Tommy Hilfiger was possibly my most favourite dress of the night. She oozed elegance and also was super sexy with the sheer detail of the skirt. I love the high neck aspect to the dress. The only disappointment for me would be her choice of hairstyle. I feel she could have done something a bit more adventurous to fit in with the night’s theme.

Alessandra Ambrosio stunned the crowd in this faboulous dress also by the designer Balmain, possibly the most popular designer of the night also. I love the futuristic element of the dress and let’s be honest, she could wear a black sack and make it look good. I also personally preferred this dress to Kylie Jenner’s version which had more cut outs and just wasn’t as classy for me anyways.

Kendall Jenner really is the ‘it’ girl of the fashion world as she proved last night in this head turning number by Versace. It showcased her toned athlete like body perfectly. Again I do have an issue with the hairstyle being slightly too boring for the them of the night but the dress definitely makes up for it.

Ok so Rosie Huntington-Whiteley didn’t exactly get the memo regarding the dress theme for the night but who cares in this case as this dress is too die for! Just look at that train and I love the shoulder detail! This dress is by Ralph Lauren and personally I think Rosie is the only one celeb who can get away with the ‘less is more’ when it comes to the hairstyles of the night.

Again another celeb who didn’t get the memo regarding the theme but woah the pony! this dress is literally what little girls have been dreaming about since the dawn of time. Princess dress in a nutshell! She looks amazing and the dress is by Zac Posen.

Wow! Not really sure honestly who Anna Ewers is but this dress really was fabulous! The detail is amazing and it fits in perfectly with the nights futuristic theme. Love her old hollywood glamour hairstyle which complimented the dress perfectly. The dress is a Jason Wu creation and I want it! 😉

Hailee Steinfeld wowed me in this H&M custom dress. I love the colour, I love the accessories, I love the shoes and I especially love her dark lipstick that she paired with the dress. Amazing!

Emma Roberts wore a swarovski crystal embellished dress by Tory Burch. The futuristic element you ask? Well let me tell you, the crystals are colour changing! I am in awe! I love the back detail too.

 

Now the list for the most interesting of the night-aka suited the theme of the night but I wouldn’t personally wear 😉

Queen Bey has to get a mention here. Interesting dress indeed by Givenchy, maybe not as stellar as her amazing outfit from last year but certainly makes the most interesting category. Dislike her eye makeup however, her eyes seem to look bruised to me.

 

Well you can see why Lupita makes this category. I’ll begin with the good, the dress is a Calvin Klein creation for the green carpet challenge collection. It’s a mesmerizing dress and shimmers most seductively. However that is where the good ends. What on earth was she trying to do with her hair. To me it seems to be challenging Marge Simpson, all she’s missing is the fact her hair isn’t blue.

I oddly love this Dolce & Gabbana gown on Kate Bosworth. She’s quite ethereal and angelic looking so definitely only she can pull it off. I love her headpiece also. She does look like a Greek God rather than futuristic.

You have to hand it to Kate Hudson, she really knows how to flaunt her body. I mean the lady is 37 as it putting 19 year olds to shame! I would love to have a body like hers! Onto the dress, this Versace dress is a show stopper and definitely fits in with the nights theme with lots of random cut outs, she certainly would turn heads.

Well Katy Perry definitely did get the memo regarding the nights technology/future theme. She owned the show in this dress in my opinion. The dress is by Prada and it even sports a Tamgotchi! Not loving the no eyebrows look however.

Zoe Zaldana looked like a glamorous peacock arriving at the Met Gala last night in this stunning Dolce & Gabanna piece. That train is awe worthy! Love it!

Now onto the wosrt outfits of the night: Unfortunately as with all of this occassions there are always those that really go a little too far

Taylor Swift what were you thinking! I really honestly tried to like this look but something just isn’t working. Whether it’s her platinum hair or the black lipstick, she does not look good at all! The dress is by Louis Vuitton and I’m not sure what the look is trying to be if I’m honest.

Does anyone else feel that every year at the Met Gala Madonna and Lady Gaga try to outdo one another with the most ridiculous outfits? This is just typical Gaga. Here comes the brutal honestly (apologies) she looks like she belongs on a street corner in the 80s. There I’ve said it and I can move on…

Kimye and another awkward photo. I don’t is it the angle but the dress looks quite unflattering on Kim and what is with her eyebrows, she looks terrible! I’m not even going to comment on Kanye and his attire. Moving on quickly…

I don’t I really need to comment on Madonna’s get up. It speaks for itself and explains why it’s in this category.

I’m just really not a fan of those boots with that dress. Just no….

For me this outfit is just way too fussy, there’s way too much going on and the frill is a different print to the rest of the skirt and top combo. Miranda is a beautiful lady and if this were all black or white it would suit her much more.

Again no comment….

Solange Knowles came as big bird from sesame street it would seem….yikes!

Eh…this is like something out of 50 shades of grey..a bit too much Nicki Minaj!

 

 

So there you have it, another year of fashion spectaculars and epic failures at the Met Gala! Do you have a favourite or would like to add to this blog? Just leave a comment underneath or tweet me @thebeeboss or there is Instagram of course, all links on the blog.

Also all images are courtesy http://www.vogue.co.uk.

Until next time!

The Busiest Bee 🙂

 

Fashion Review: The Bodysuits

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Bodysuits have slowly but surely become a massive trend in the last few months. I also have become an avid shopper when it comes to the bodysuit, there’s just something so sleek and sophisticated about them.

Above are images of two bodysuits I myself ordered of the website www.missguided.eu and I absolutely love them, except for the fact that they are super low cut and unfortunately I do not have the cleavage to pull them off 😦

However all was not lost as I quickly recovered my old Junior Cert sewing kit from the back of my wardrobe and set myself the task of making the neckline of the bodysuits much more socially appropriate 😉 The end result was much more satisfactory.

What I really like about bodysuits, is their versatility. You can pair them with jeans, joggers, short, skirts, and they will always make your outfit look super trendy. If the bodysuits are low cut like the above, accessorize! Big chunky necklaces can often suit these bodysuits perfectly.

Missguided can sometimes be a bit pricey however, and if I’m honest the quality isn’t always the best, but having said that the website would still be one of the first places I would go for last minute outfit inspiration.

Thankfully stores are picking up on this fashion trend rather quickly and more affordable retailers such as Pennys and Forever 21 are now stocking up on the bodysuits to get in on their current demand. Only yesterday I flew into Forever 21 and came out with yet another bodysuit (pictured below courtesy of the Forever 21 website) for €11! I just loved the zip detail instantly jazzing up any outfit.

Zipped Bodysuit

Not only did I manage the above cheap splurge but I then ran into Pennys and picked up another bodysuit for €11, its a sleeveless, black and white striped, high neck bodysuit which is probably one of the most comfortable bodysuits I own (picture of this bodysuit is up on my instagram account).

So bearing all this information in mind, my advice when buying a bodysuit is to shop around as there are quite often cheaper and more comfortable options right under your nose!

As always if you like to comment on anything I blog, please don’t hesitate!

The Busiest Bee 🙂

 

 

*Images sourced from the websites www.missguided.eu and www.forever21.com/eu

Make-Up Review: Urban Decay: Naked Palette 2

This is without a doubt my favourite eye shadow palette of all time! For years I have been using the Urban Decay Naked Palette 2, and for years I have been trying to find other products that can compete with it but to no avail.

What I love about this product, is its longevity. Not only does the eyeshadow stay on all night without needing to be topped up, the palette itself lasts for years! I received the Naked Palette two as a gift from my boyfriend for Christmas in 2013 and I’m still using the exact same palette. It is therefore a great investment!

The other thing I love about the naked palettes, is the colours they use. The palettes are designed to match your skin tone, Naked 2 would be the palette that best suits my skin tone. The palette comes with a super easy to use eyeshadow brush. One end has a wide brush to apply your eyeshadow base colour, whereas the other end has a more narrow brush to reach those awkward areas such as the inner part of the eyelid.

This palette will set you back €47, however I am a personal believer in the policy ‘quality over price’. This product is excellent quality and as mentioned above because it lasts so long it is totally worth every penny.

The palettes can be purchased in any Debenhams store in Ireland and also online on http://www.debenhams.ie.

Enjoy!

The Busiest Bee 🙂

Holiday review: A weekend in Prague

Guys if you haven’t been to Prague you are missing out! It is the most wonderful city with so much to see and do. I spent a lovely weekend in February in Prague with the boyfriend and we had one of the most wonderful holidays ever.

Prague as a city is like something out of a fairy-tale, the architecture in the Old Town especially has been untouched and is truly magnificent. In this area you will find the famous Astronomical Clock and a huge square in which many market stalls are set up to feed the hungry tourists with local Czech delicacies and the all important mulled wine.

February in Prague can be quite cold so wrap up well. One of the highlights of the trip for me, was the trek up into the Prague Castle grounds. Prague Castle is technically not a castle, but a series of exquisite buildings and a huge cathedral in the middle of it all. It’s quite dramatic and well worth a visit.

In terms of expenditure, the local currency Koruna is used. Prague was quite possibly one of the cheapest city breaks I’ve ever been on as the cost of food and drink is actually quite cheap (a cocktail for less that €4 and a beer for €1.50!) this may also have to do with the time of year we traveled also. The local market stalls are a must for snacking on the go, but if you would rather something a bit more formal, there are some wonderful bars and cafes surrounding the old town square. My particular favourite Czech Cuisine was in fact the Beef Goulash, which was literally served in a loaf of bread. Also a firm favourite of mine was the hot chocolate, which was melted chocolate mixed with hot milk served thick in an espresso cup. You have not lived until you have tasted it!

In terms of how to get around Prague, all interesting sites are within walking distance from the Old Town which is where we stayed. However if you did want to go further afield there is an underground subway and also a fantastic bus route which takes you out to the airport also. Again the cost of travel was cheap.

There is so much history within Prague. On the outskirts (about an hour on a bus) of the city lies the dismal remains of Theresienstadt concentration camp , an old concentration camp used by the Nazis throughout World War Two. Although it was not an extermination camp, thousands perished from the poor unsanitary living conditions. The camp lies in a just outside a little town called Terezin, which became a Jewish Ghetto during the war. The concentration camp is actually famous for the suitcase of children’s art that was smuggled out of the camps. The camp itself although morbid and haunting, is amazing to view. It consists of two fortresses, and usually in my experience with other camps the original camp has long been destroyed and leveled to the ground, Theresienstadt remains the exact same as it had been during the war. There is an amazing Museum within the camp grounds and even though we did not have a guided tour, tourists are free to walk around as they please. One of the eeriest moments had to be the tunnel that connected the two forts, it took maybe ten minutes to get through and it was long and dark and narrow. So definitely not for the faint hearted.

Lovely memorials now surround the camp which you can see is well cared for. After visiting the camp we decided to go into the town of Terezin where there is a Jewish Museum. It was perhaps one of the oddest experiences we had. The locals seemed quite resentful we were there if I’m honest. It was also quite like a ghost town, with barely any signs of life along the streets. We had presumed we would find a little café or bar to eat some lunch, but to our dismay there were none. So starving we had to return to our bus stop and return to the city quite famished. If I were to make any recommendations, do give the camp a visit, it is well worth it and so historically informative and a must for World War Two fans. I would avoid going into the town of Terezin however at all costs. This is just my own personal opinion from our rather strange visit there.

In terms of accommodation  we stayed in a lovely apartment just off the Old Town Square. The building homed a number of huge beautiful apartments run by the Indian restaurant below. The apartment building was called  U Cerneho Medveda- At The Black Bear (click the link for it’s page on booking.com). This apartment made our holiday. There’s no other way to put it. It had beautiful high ceilings with dark wooden beams and the artwork was to die for. For two people we had a huge amount of space. It is really a sprawling property. At the time we booked it when it was on special offer and for three nights it cost the equivalent of €15o! Amazing! It was a perfect spot to use as a base, as all the wonderful sites were in walking distance (no more than twenty minutes).

We stayed in number 43, it was like a penthouse suite. It felt like total luxury having a kitchen, living area, bedroom, toilet and shower room all to ourselves. The staff, I can’t say enough about them, such friendly staff who were super helpful. Even though it was so near old town square there was very little noise. Honestly I can’t wait to go back and I would stay here again absolutely!

The only issue we had was trying to not soak the bathroom floor as the shower was difficult to manoeuvre as you had to sit and have the shower head pointing in towards the wall to have a shower. As such the floor got soaked on a few occasions. The wifi was quite temperamental for us, it’s excellent when you can connect to it but some times it took ages to connect to the network. Not really too much of an issue as we were out of the apartment for most of the day. Also would have liked two pillows on the bed but that’s me being picky. Overall one of the best stays I’ve ever had!

Below are some pictures of the trip, They seem to be published all mixed up so I’ve included some titles to aid this. Enjoy! 🙂

Astronomical Clock-Old Town Square603829_10202445346413950_6215158708269749124_n

Inside Prague Castle Grounds1688468_10202445363654381_2588453792061087313_n10338299_10202445359694282_8206170515829187320_n10362573_10202445365774434_7053470860738730321_n10403011_10202445361414325_2228659248243849074_n

Old Town Square- Beef Goulash10917876_10202445366734458_7201483166505656018_n10407904_10202445349174019_698006600241371491_n

The Concentration Camp

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The famous hot chocolate.10985030_10202445358974264_2195414710779118178_n

Fairy-tale Architecture

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More of the concentration camp

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Prague Castle Grounds11011230_10202445365254421_8410831966207847767_n11014985_10202445362974364_5596774902714549211_n11018847_10202445351134068_7432146455056276244_n11021095_10202445364174394_8673103332245100534_n

Concentration Camp Memorials11021173_10202445367054466_5044914912189796386_n11023971_10202445376334698_6966058703601223341_n

 

 

 

Book Review: Supernatural Ghost Busting Series

Reviews

May I begin by saying that like most people I approach the supernatural genre with reluctant intrigue. It is not that I am ashamed of reading the paranormal, but I do understand that when one wants to recommend books to others, a supernatural book would not be the first on my list only out of fear of appearing altogether ridiculous. However the supernatural genre has always and will always be a guilty pleasure of mine and it is only with choice friends can I really indulge in discussion over such books. I wish it wasn’t so but alas the real world is a cruel one where we all are judged based on our interests. However having been raised on back to back episodes of TV shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed, the supernatural genre is in my blood and unfortunately for some, it isn’t going anywhere any time soon. So without further ado I shall begin my latest review of a new ghost busting series by a talented author Simone St. James. 

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Oh yes, even the name of the author sets the tone for this captivating book series. Simone St. James, what a brilliantly refreshing name. I congratulate the author on it’s brilliance. Now as to the books themselves. ‘The Haunting of Maddy Clare’, ‘An Inquiry Into Love And Death’ and the last ‘Silence for the Dead’, this is the order of the books in the series also.

In the first book, The Haunting Of Maddy Clare, we meet our heroine, Sarah Piper, in the post World War one era. Society is a most depressed state, and Sarah herself adds to this depressive background. She seems to have no family or friends and very little to call her own. Sarah is a temp worker and the novel begins with her being assigned to assist a rather radical ghost hunter by the name of Alistair Gellis, a scarred world war one soldier, who is tracking down a ghost who hates men hence the need for Sarah’s presence. Sarah in need of quick funds accepts the job offer. The story is quite fast paced and literally begins once Sarah accepts the position. We meet a variety of colourful characters, including the aloof and mysterious Matthew Ryder who is physically scarred from the war and has an almost overbearing demeanour, but opposites attract which is evident from this novel as Matthew is the love interest for the wet rag that is Sarah. Perhaps a harsh criticism of a character, but throughout the book I find myself at odds with her character, I found her quite the damsel in distress at times, and wanted to shout at her to grow a backbone. However I must admit the other characters balance the naivety of Sarah rather well, but altogether very clear male/female roles in the story. As for the story itself, perhaps a tad predictable in certain areas but as a whole rather enjoyable, with plot twists galore, numerous hair-raising moments and a moment or two of saucy scenes. I would recommend it for those who love a good spine chilling horror with a gothic twist. Also a must for World War One fans and romance lovers naturally. Overall rating: 8/10

 

In the second book of the series, we meet quite a different heroine by the name of Jillian Lee, an Oxford student, who from the outset would rather remain in college then clear out a house that belonged to her recently and suddenly deceased uncle Toby, who fell to his death off a cliff. The major difference with this character compared to the first novel is that she seems to be from an exceedingly wealthy background. Her parents are away holidaying somewhere and so it is left to poor Jillian to gather together her Uncle’s possessions, which she is only doing out of duty having no real connection to her aloof uncle. Her uncle Toby lived in a seaside village with nosy neighbours, whose comings and goings seem to be quite odd. It doesn’t take Jillian long to realised that all is not what it appears to be, eerie incidents begin to take place in Uncle Toby’s little cottage and Jillian begins to discover secrets about her Uncle that she never knew, the most prominent being that he was a ghost hunter. And so we find a common ground with St. James first novel. Everyone is convinced her Uncle committed suicide, but Jillian is determined to prove that his death was not intentional and so joins forces with a charming and alluring Scotland Yard Inspector Drew Merriken, who believed that Toby’s death was as a result of murder. Drew himself, as usual with these books, has a dark past himself and the two find themselves drawn together, quite physically and quite a lot!😉 In fact their relationship tends to take away from the actual plot of the story due to the insistence that these characters just can’t stay away from each other, so this in my opinion hinders the pace and richness of the plot, to the point I actual found myself shouting at the character to ‘just get on with it’! I think it is the background characters that make this story intriguing with their suspicious ways, you find yourself acting as you would in a game of cluedo, guessing who is the killer and what was their motive. I found it quite difficult to attain a connection with the main character, and her relationship with Drew annoyed me to no end. Particularly with him being a ladies man his whole life, he can suddenly switch off this side of his personality because he’s suddenly found the one in the uninteresting character of Jillian. Overall one cannot ignore the fact that St. James is a pro at the game of suspense. Her clever plot thickenings and twists give any reader the thrill of the journey to discover the truth, but in the series itself, an Inquiry lacks the pace and well roundedness of the other books and would be my least favourite I must admit. Overall rating: 6.5/10

 

This leads us to the last and most recent book in the series (one more still to come in April 2015). Silence for the dead, is in fact my favourite of the book series. I shall try to explain why but first I’ll give the plot summary. In this book we meet the rather amusing and brazen character of Kitty Weekes, who although is the worst named character of the book series to date, is beyond my favourite. From page one the mystery that surrounds Kitty, who seems to be on the run from something or someone, immediately captures the attention of the reader. She is not your normal heroine in this book series. She is no damsel in distress (hallelujah!) and so overturns the usual male/female roles. At the beginning of the book we see her lying to obtain a position as a nurse in a hospital dedicated to the care of troubled World War One veterens, who have been left shell shocked by the horrors they have faced in the war. This hospital has an altogether Gothic name of Portis House, and a Gothic setting seeing that it can only be reached by a bridge as it is built on an island. So basically if any storms occur or if any spine chilling incidents occur, the inhabitants of the hospital are on their own. Literally. The hospital itself has seen better days, the place is practically falling apart, there is not enough staff to run the grounds or the hospital itself. Most of the building has been abandoned and was left in disarray quite abruptly by it’s previous owners (which is one of the main plots in this story). This story is not as predictable as the others and the characters themselves have to be some of the best I’ve ever imagined reading. This is a true Gothic novel. From page one we are given the plot, the problem and the person who is set upon solving a mystery. Kitty is a vivacious and brave character, if not a little bit nosey, who realises all is not what it seems in this dilapidated hospital and sets about trying to solve the mystery. Then enters the mysterious, aloof and magnetic character of Jack Yates, or patient sixteen, who Kitty is warned to stay away from, but as per usual with these kind of characters their fates are always entwined. Yates really did appeal to me as the surprising hero in the story, his back story is intriguing and his connection and how his relationship with Kitty develops, is compelling and entertaining. The other characters also balance the plot, the Matron, who at the beginning of the story catches on to the fact Kitty is not what she seems, but is desperate for the help in the hospital, and almost admires Kitty’s deviousness. We have plenty of antagonists in the story to choose from and keep us guessing who is behind the mysterious goings on. We have a brave, outspoken and slightly reckless female lead. We have a compelling love story, we have a haunting and a murderous plot, all set against a back drop of the miseries of war. Once more St. James proves herself as a capable suspense writer and I must congratulate her on this gem of a story. 

Overall rating: 9/10

 As per usual, I’d love to hear your comments/opinions!

The Busiest Bee :)

Book Review: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Book: Outlander 

Author: Diana Gabaldon

Rating 10/10

Quite possibly one of the best books I’ve ever read. That is how I would like to open this review. From page one of this novel the reader is bombarded by an assortment of characteristics that immediately attack the senses. The richness of the language used, the colourful characters, the scenic landscapes that you can vividly imagine, the charm of the Scottish and most importantly the intense, passionate love story that is the heart of this novel, lays the groundwork for this epic best-seller by the author Diana Gabaldon. Wow. This is a book that truly left me breathless from the outset and throughout.

So what is it about? As plainly as I can put it without giving too much away, Outlander is a story based around the strong willed character of Claire Randall, who throughout the novel both infuriates and delights me with her brazen, domineering personality. At the start of the novel we meet her as a world war two nurse who has finally reunited with her husband, Frank Randall, for a much needed second honeymoon, after being separated due to their duties in the war. The couple decide on Inverness as their honeymoon destination as Frank is trying to trace an ancestor of his by the name of Captain Jack Randall. Whilst his head is stuck in the books, our self assured heroine decides to wander around the area, in search of flowers and plants and visits the infamous ruins of standing stones by the name of Craigh na Dun. Claire touches one of the stones and faints, the stone turns out to be some kind of time travelling machine and when we next meet Claire she wakes up in a completely different era, the 18th century to be exact. (history recap, it’s the eve if the Scottish Jacobite rebellion)

After a being assaulted by a man who looks oddly like her husband, she is rescued by a band of kilted Scots,led by a grumpy but captivating man called Dougal MacKenzie, who naturally upon hearing her accent presumes her to be a spy for the British, a ‘Sassenach’ meaning outlander. Claire tries to prove her worth by using her medical training to re-align a dislocated shoulder of one of the Scots, a Jamie MacTavish (or Jamie Fraser as he is later known). Jamie of course becomes the second half of the novel’s love story but all will be explained in time. Claire is taken back to their Clan leaders home, Castle Leoch. Here Claire has to prove herself, using her medical knowledge, to persuade the Clan leader, Colum MacKenzie, Dougal’s brother, that she is not a spy. However Claire’s headstrong qualities result in her ending up in the most dangerous of situations,as she tries to escape the suspicious Scots to try and find her way back to Craigh na Dun. Her bids for escape become more and more futile, and desperate, Claire feels utterly and physically lost, but she has an unlikely ally in the dashing, brave and charming red head, Jamie, who has secrets of his own. With this in mind, the two strike up an interesting friendship and Claire keeps finding herself utterly drawn to his company. 

And so begins one of the greatest love stories of all time. Torn between her loyalty to her husband in the 20th Century, but emotionally and politically tied to Jamie (trying so hard not to give too much away), Claire is ultimately faced with a choice, does she use her knowledge of history from the 20th century and chose to live a life in 18th century Scotland? Or does she remain loyal to a husband that she has been parted from for years due to the Second World War? 

Oh the suspense! This book is fast paced, but at the same time takes forever to get through, as there is so much back story, characters introduced and plot thickenings, that you must concentrate in order to get your head around it all. The story supplies you with everything you would want in a novel: adventure, mystery, romance, history, murder and lots and lots of drama. The romantic moments are often so intense that one might find themselves blushing and thinking that Game of thrones has nothing on the love scenes in Outlander!😉However everything fits right in this book, the romance between Jamie and Claire is so enlightening and really over turns male/female roles at times. Claire is the teacher and Jamie is the student. However their passionate arguments also portray Jamie in a truly macho, man protects the woman role too. It’s all utterly contradicting, it’s brilliant!

What truly shocked me about the novel however, is the depth of violent happenings that occur throughout the novel. From witch trials to rape to female beatings to public whipping, I was left sick to my stomach with the graphic nature of these scenes. The reader is truly left gasping for breath, It’s shocking in nature and how the author captures the depravity of these situations is truly genius. I have read a lot of books in my time, and never have I come across such harrowing accounts of violence and such emotionally charged scenes. This is what sets Outlander apart from any other type of novel in this genre. With most books one begins to predict how the story will conclude, but I can assure you most certainly, you will never, ever predict this one.

This leads me to question what I like and dislike about the book itself. One issue I always return to, is my liking of the main character Claire Randell. On a whole, she is everything a woman would like to be, she has a career, she is smart, educated, charismatic and attractive sounding. However as Claire is sent back in time to 18th century Scotland, issues with the character begin to appear. Yes she is clever, but really for that particular day and age I don’t think she should have been so outspoken. In many scenes in the book she comes out as rude and insulting to characters that are quite high up in the pecking order and could annihilate her in mere seconds. And yes I understand her need to return to her real world and be reunited with her husband, but after she invests so much emotionally and physically with Jamie, I find it hard to sympathize with her character when she acts so stupidly and disregards things Jamie has done for her. As to the other characters, they’re all fantastic, well rounded beings that all play a pivotal role in the story. Jamie is perfect as the hero of the story, and the author perfectly balances his ego with a glimpse of innocence now and then. However another issue that I must raise is this so called ‘innocence’ of Jamie, again without giving too much away, I found it very hard to believe that in that day and age, he would be so uneducated about the goings on in the world. Don’t even get me started on how he must punish Claire in one of the scenes of the book, which I’d love to get feedback on people’s opinions of this particular event. It was shocking and unethical but I suppose that is the aim of the author.

Overall however, this book is the most provocative, thrilling, stimulating, intriguing, dramatic, breath taking, shocking, spine-tingling, rip-roaring (I could go on with the adjectives for days) book I have read in a long time if not ever! The author magically gives us this time travelling world that is both realistic and magical. She gives us this epic love story which is the heart beat of the plot, these two characters that are so charismatic, we feel as if we know them. The historical aspect also adds to the drama and flair of the era and provides the reader with an insight into life back then, Also the use of the Scottish accent and dialogue adds to the charm of the novel and really makes the reader want to pack their bags and head to the highlands as soon as possible. 

I could not recommend this book enough and I am thoroughly eager in awaiting comments/opinions from anyone who has also read this book and enjoyed it as much as I did. I would also like to point out that by the end of the book I was trying so hard to slow down my reading speed so I could savour the story while it lasted a bit longer.

I await your comments with delight!

The Busiest Bee.