Book Review: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

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Book: The Kitchen House

Author: Kathleen Grissom.

Rating: 7/10

The first confession I must make, before beginning this review, is that ‘The Kitchen House’ was not a book I would have ever chosen for myself. Whilst staying in my aunt’s house, my aunt passed on this book to me, as she is quite the avid reader herself. Upon receiving it, I immediately had doubts. It is after all a book based around the topic of slavery in America. Not a subject I was that familiar with and usually would avoid due to the heartbreaking nature of it. However having nothing else to read at that moment in time, I decided to take on the challenge. This book came recommended to my aunt also, so with a book valued in such high esteem, how could I not read it. My second confession to you all, is that I didn’t really quite know what to think of this book, once I had read it. On one hand it is so rich in history and the whole issue of slavery, as it was quite new to me, was quite educating and interesting if not disturbing on so many levels. The characters were captivating and in truth the story was different to anything I have read before, so I should have loved it. However and that is a big however, having completed the book I do not really understand why so many people recommended it. Let me begin my review to explain my thinking.

The novel is set in the Plantation-dominated south and the events take place within the late 1700s and early 1800s. The story itself is based around a tobacco plantation, called Tall Oaks, in Virginia. Almost immediately, the reader is made witness to the harshness of conditions for slaves on these plantations. It is important to note that this is not a happy novel, in fact devastation and tragedy are major themes that occur almost every few pages. The story is told in two point of views, that of a little Irish girl called Lavinia, who has no memory of the events leading to her arrival by ship to America. The captain, not knowing what to do with her, decides to bring her back to his home. Lavinia arrives, shell shocked and mute, terrified of everything around her. She is made an indentured slave and is left to be raised by the family of slaves who run the kitchen house on the estate. However being of white skin means that she is always in some kind of limbo, not truly belonging anywhere. The second narrative is from a slave of mixed race called Belle, who takes the role of surrogate mother to little Lavinia. Belle herself has many dark secrets she keeps under wraps (I cannot really explain, as it is a major plot spoiler).

As Lavinia grows up, her struggle to belong becomes more and more apparent. She cannot understand that while she can play with the children of the wealthy family, she is not one of them, as she is a slave. She also struggles to come to terms with how they treat her adopted family of black slaves. Lavinia constantly struggles with who she should remain loyal too. She desperately wants her kitchen family to love her, like they love their own children, but skin colour sets her apart. So while they love her dearly, she will never truly be one of them and they constantly keep her shielded from the horrific events that occur when in truth, Lavinia needs to witness these horrible events. I feel like there are ‘Mansfield Park’ (Jane Austen) moments to this story. Like in ‘Mansfield Park’, Lavinia is characterised like Fanny Price, insofar that she is the outsider to the wealthy family, whose own children are complete ninnies and like Franny, Lavinia ends up taking care of the ailing mother and family and being the child that the parents wished they had.

In terms of plot development, drama is key to this story, and not necessarily in a good way. There are many antagonists in this story that provide the major drama. There is the overseer of the slaves, who is cruel and abusive in his treatment of them. There is also the heir to the plantation, who transitions from a boy who desperately wants to please his father, to a psychotic adult who is intent to harm anything that comes in his way. This book is filled with melodramatic moments. I literally believe the author threw anything dramatic she could possibly think of, into the mix. The reader will witness rape, alcoholism, drug addiction, affairs, disease, escapes,  mistreatment of slaves, violence, deception, dishonesty and plenty of mystery. I would like to therefore note, that if you are not a fan of overly dramatic novels that this story is not the one for you. I have heard others complain about the overuse of violence and tragedy in the novel. Nonetheless although I found moments such as these a tad bit over the top, I remained determined to finish the novel and I am glad I did.

The story, as previously mentioned, has so much potential. The historical element of slavery is fascinating. I have observed movies relating to slavery before, but this novel goes into so much more detail. The reader will witness the culture of the slaves, through every aspect of the story, such as wedding ceremonies, song singing and religion. Family is a major theme in this novel also. The slaves all band together in unity to protect their own, and Lavinia, having no family herself, desperately wants to be part of this. We also see the comparison between family life with the slaves and that of life in the big house. It is evident which one is more loving.

In terms of characters, there are a lot of characters in the story to follow, and one will often find themselves having to flick back through the book in order to work out who is who again. However the main cast of characters are the backbone to this novel and the author really evokes emotions from sympathy to outrage when tragedy befalls these characters. My favourite character is that of Mama Mae, she is the grandmother everyone would want and her wisdom, wit and passion to protect her own, provide mettle to this otherwise overly dramatic story.

I do not agree that this book should be avoided, as it is a good read, despite its dramatic nature. Like I mentioned previously if you are interested in historical fiction, in particular pertaining to slavery, then I would promote this book to you without hesitation. Fans of ‘The Help’ would probably like this story. However I do advise approaching this, knowing how overly sensational and theatrical it can be. The author is quite a good story teller, and by using two narratives, that of Lavinia and Belle, we see the story from two perspectives, that of a white person and that of a slave. The author’s wording is quite poetic at times. It is as if she is an artist and the story is her easel and we are made witness to the most vivid description of events and characters. Therefore I do believe Ms Grissom has quite a talent as an author in that regard and would recommend you read the book to behold this wonderful story telling method she uses.

Overall, while this is not the best book I’ve ever read, it is one of note. Some will hate it and some will adore it and I think that speaks volumes of a novel, that it can elicit these major responses in readers and is a mark to Kathleen Grissom’s talent as an author. If you are an avid fan of historical fiction concerning the south and slavery, then this is not a novel to be missed. I did love reading it, but only once I had accepted that it was slightly unrealistic in regards to its theatricality. It is very realistic however, in terms of the daily lives of slaves, and how truly terrifying life was like under the command of psychotic and masochistic overseers. It also highlights how complicated it was for the plantation owners to involve themselves in the politics, in order to help the slaves.

Please give the novel a go. It will not be for all of you, but for the select few who do read it, I look forward to discussing the issues in the novel with you.

As always you can message me or leave your opinion below in the comment section. Or contact me on my social media pages below.

The Busiest Bee 🙂

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Recipe: Lemon Water

Imagine this, a sweltering hot day outside and you are stuck in a badly air conditioned fully packed room for a conference. This is exactly what happened to me recently at a conference I was attending. Stuck inside on a beautiful day is generally not anyone’s cup of tea and needless to say the experience is not one I would like to repeat anytime soon.

However this horrible experience was saved by a rather large jug of iced lemon water that was placed on the table I was sitting at. My mind was blown. I’m an avid water drinker, I drink two litres plus every single day, but I am quite picky when it comes to water. I regularly turn my nose up to tap water, instead spending a small fortune on the bottled variety. Yet this glistening jug of iced lemon water saved the whole day for me. The condensation dripping down the side of the jug was enough to cause my mouth to water. However this was tap water in the jug, I couldn’t possibly like it.

I was wrong. As I mentioned above my mind was blown. Regularly when I dine out at fancy restaurants I usually try to have at least one glass of the tap water given to me in jugs at the table, usually with one measly slice of lemon in it so I wasn’t aware of the true genius of its addition to tap water. Fast forward to last week where this lonely iced lemon jug of water sat on my table, filled with at least 10 slices of lemon. I just had to try it out. Mind blown!

Since this fateful day, lemon water has become a staple part of my daily drinking routine. So long to the bottles of iced water, there’s a lemon in town! Each night I drink about a litre of water in pint glasses with half a lemon in the them. I always take the time to squeeze a few of the slices of lemon also to give the lemon water a super kick!

Not only is lemon water extremely refreshing, but it has loads and I mean loads of added healthy benefits. Did you know lemon water can curb your food cravings? I certainly didn’t and usually I’m always nibbling on something in the evening but since beginning to drink lemon water, not a craving have I had! Honestly!

Lemon water also is a magnificent detoxer full to the brim with antioxidants and various vitamins including the old reliable vitamin c, wonderful for healthy skin and general well being. Lemon water also is extremely good for your liver and its function to get rid of all those pesky toxins in our bodies. Have a sore throat? look no further! With lemon water you will be adding anti inflammatories to aid those irritating sore throats. I could go on to tell you its aided benefits for cancer fighting, toothaches and heartburn but I would assume you are all getting the idea that this stuff is amazing and I need not say anymore!

Go ahead and give this juice of the Gods a try! It’s the perfect refreshing beverage to take a liking to coming up to this warm summer months. Also just a reminder I use half a lemon in a pint of water and top up the pint glass until I’ve had a litre or so of water, it might sound daunting but believe me you’ll be slurping this drink as fast as you’ll be pouring it!

As always if you have any queries leave a comment below or contact me on my social media sites.

Enjoy!

The Busiest Bee 🙂

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Book Review:Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Rating: 8/10

Wow. Each time I read a Gillian Flynn novel I come away feeling shell shocked, purely from the dark, sinister workings of her story lines. Dark Places was up there for me in most messed up stories of all time. Who would ever know from looking at a picture of Gillian Flynn, a normal looking mother of two, that she would have such a morbid and sinister imagination. I found her utterly fascinating as a author, and she really encompasses the old saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’.

Onto the story itself, the book begins by giving us a look into the dismal and depressing life of the main character of Libby Day. And as with all Flynn’s characters, this one has huge issues, namely that of being the sole survivor of her family’s massacre when she was only seven years old. A massacre that took the lives of her mother, and two sisters, each killed by an even more grisly death than the first. Despite all this, Libby managed to escape. The massacre was seemingly as a result of a satanic ritual, and the culprit behind it….none other then Libby’s older brother Ben, who has been imprisoned since this fateful day doing life for murder. It is slowly revealed also that Libby herself had aided prosecutors in putting Ben in jail as they apparently coached her into saying what they wanted her to say.

Fast forward twenty five years and the main character Libby is now thirty one, living an absolute shamble of a life, living off the proceeds of a charitable donations that were set up in her name all those years ago. However now the money has run out and now Libby must learn to fend for herself. The reader is faced with the harsh reality of Libby’s life, she is not a likeable character at all, she lives alone with her cat, has a drinking problem and has an urge to steal things from others on a regular basis. She is a social pariah who doesn’t know how to act around people, and this coupled with her horrific past, causes her to become quite the outcast, not fitting in wherever she goes. Libby has lived off other people’s money for so long that she doesn’t even know how to go about getting a job and feels anger and jealousy towards other missing women cases where as she sees it ‘her’ money is now being directed towards. There are no qualms about it, Libby is an appaling human being.

Faced with poverty she finds an unlikely savior in a young man named Lyle. Lyle is a member of a group of people who have an interest in macabre crimes such as Libby’s family’s massacre. The club itself is named ‘The Kill Club’ and its members have so much of an interest in Libby’s past, that they are willing to pay Libby money for memorabilia belonging to her dead family. Yes, these characters are deeply deeply disturbing. Libby seeing this club as her new lifeline, gladly begins to transact with the club passing over old notes given to her by her dead sisters (not morbid at all) to the club for a couple hundred dollars. This is all easy money to Libby of course who doesn’t seem to bat an eyelid in handing over these precious memories to complete strangers.

However a certain branch of the club (a group of deluded women to be exact) are convinced Libby’s brother was innocent of the crimes he was convicted for and confront Libby on her role in incarcerating her brother. Faced with the harsh truth that she could have been used by prosecutors and her memory of the events from that fateful night might actually be completely untrue, Libby soon becomes deeply embroiled in solving her family’s grisly murders. If it wasn’t her brother that killed her family, then who was it?

The book switches between characters and time frames quite effectively. Beginning with Libby in the present day but flashing back to the day of the murders in the points of view of her brother Ben, the suspected murderer, and also their mother and the events that led up to the shocking climax of events that night. Through each of the characters, the reader is left gripping their seat as they try to figure out ‘who did it’ and ‘why’. It is not predictable in any way at all, and each character is just as messed up as the first that the reader will often find themselves wishing they could throw the book at the wall in frustration with these horrible people. Yet you will not be able to put the book down.

What really shocked me in this novel, is the portrayal of the women. We have Libby who is a mess of a woman, who is dependent on people’s charity and cannot form a healthy relationship/friendship with any one. Then we have other female characters who are prostitutes, liars, druggies, attention seekers, blackmailers and the list goes on and on. Never before have I read a book where women were such horrible creatures, but maybe that’s what makes this novel so refreshing. It is not after all the men you have to watch out for, but the women!

There are so many twists and turns in this novel and so many ghastly events that make you feel as if you should feel guilty for reading anything this atrocious, and yet somehow you come out at the end of the reading experience, feeling exhausted yes, but also feeling like your eyes have been truly opened for the first time. Flynn is an excellent writer in this regard, she is not afraid of social norms, the killer is always someone you least expect, never the typical villain but someone who is the wallflower, the innocent turned evil. It is a truly amazing reading experience. It is not an easy read at all in terms of its graphic nature for example the gruesome animal killings and even the family murders described in such detail you feel out of breath by the end of the story.

This book is definitely not for the fainthearted. That is for sure. You will experience a roller coaster of emotions including absolute distress at some parts of the novel. With Gone Girl I found I didn’t really care what happened to the characters at the end as they were so utterly detestable, and with ‘Dark Places’ they are equally as disturbing. However the story is so riveting and Flynn really knows how to reel you in that you will be hooked from beginning to end. It is also so hard nowadays for me personally to find a book where I can’t guess whats going to happen next so for that reason it really appealed to me. It is cold and calculated read, but by God am I awaiting Flynn’s next novel with excitement.

My final verdict, it is well worth a read if you’re looking for something different and if you have a strong constitution for gorey details! It certainly won’t disappoint!

As usual if you have any queries at all comment below or contact me on my social media pages.

The Busiest Bee 🙂

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Book Review: The Last Summer by Judith Kinghorn

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Book: The Last Summer

Author: Judith Kinghorn

Rating: 9/10

I would love to share my review of one of the loveliest books I’ve ever read. ‘The Last Summer’ by Judith Kinghorn, an epic love story, set against the background of the outbreak of World War One.

Others have likened this novel to ‘Downton Abbey’, and I understand the comparison. However I do feel this novel portrays more than just the romance of the era, it also gives an in depth view of it’s rather less romantic issues such as the evils of war, the harshness of class divisions and utter tragedy of roads not travelled for if they had been happiness would have been achieved. Nonetheless, fans of the award winning show will adore this novel, and it echoes the works of such renowned authors such as Jane Austen. 

The novel begins, following the story of the sixteen going on seventeen year-old Clarissa Granville, who’s naive and eager personality immediately draws the reader in. Clarissa is the daughter of some-what wealthy parents who purchase ‘Deyning Park’ from an impoverished earl. Clarissa lives, in a life of innocent bliss, with her parents and three brothers. As with any girl of that age in this era, the only thing of import weighing on their minds, is making one’s début into society and ensnaring a wealthy, well connected husband. However Clarissa’s sheltered existence is brought swiftly down to earth with the arrival of Deyning Park’s housekeeper’s son, Tom Cuthbert. Although attending university and patroned by a mysterious benefactor, and being a ‘guest’ of Clarissa’s brothers, the class distinction between Tom and the Granville’s is ever present. Tom is the quiet, gentle, dashing and brooding type of character that every reader loves, and it isn’t much of surprise to discover Clarissa’s feelings for him begin to deepen. He awakens part of her soul she never knew existed, and he is equally enthralled by her charming, innocent personality. She begins to realise the selfishness of her class and Tom is testament to her becoming an altogether better person, who the reader can truly relate to. There are a lot of heart achingly sweet moments, where Tom and Clarissa engage in secret rendezvous’, and again I will say these moments are reminiscent of Jane Austen. 

However with happiness also comes despair in such novels such as these, and it isn’t long before Clarissa’s world begins to shatter around her. For the ‘Great War’ breaks out, stealing Clarissa’s brothers and Tom away. Tensions and miscommunication force Tom and Clarissa apart even further. Other forces such as Clarissa’s parents, also try to keep the two apart, fearing the social repercussions that may occur if Clarissa is left to follow her heart. As a result different emotions begin to emerge from this once beautiful romance. Jealousy, anguish and disappointment are emotions that are to the fore of this novel and the reader will find themselves so utterly frustrated that the two characters do not realise that they love each other and are too distracted by others to realise it. Sigh.

Nonetheless, Tom and Clarissa are bedazzled by each other, and are magnetised by an invisible force, that even when they have other commitments… (trying not to spoil the plot here), they cannot help giving in to their feelings for one another. One could argue that this is quite an unhealthy obsession, Tom is the Heathcliff to Clarissa’s Cathy, and how their love for another is almost damaging and tragic. Events occur which further causes Tom to distance himself. When he finally returns, it appears that he has become a different man, with a huge fortune in tow and finally garners the attention he so deserves. The events in this novel take place over a sixteen year period, so prepare yourselves for a long, but excellent love story.

I found this novel to be so enlightening. Before when reviewing another novel, I had mentioned how I couldn’t stand the indulgent, spoiled, little girls with rich daddies. However, Clarissa’s character literally changed my opinion of the aforementioned type of girl character. This is where the author’s talent lies, in my opinion, as she allows the reader to actually relate to someone you would never think you could relate to before. For example we see the world of pre-world war England through Clarissa’s eyes as she grows into adulthood and faces the harsh realities of her class, gender, love, and her inner battle to find her place in the world. The author elegantly portrays such personal upheaval with such magical descriptions that are so powerful and emotive, it is with such ease that the reader immediately identifies with the characters. Here is a passage from the novel that demonstrates the author’s talent:

“the vibration of change was upon us and I sensed a shift: a realignment of my trajectory. It was the beginning of summer and, unbeknown to any of us then, the end of a belle époque…”

In terms of other characters, Other readers who have read this novel, have expressed to me that they view Clarissa as quite the feminist, but I do not really think this is the case, or if it is, its more of a subdued part of her character. I think having come from the background she has, the social constraints were quite difficult and when finally giving the freedom to do what she wants, she literally throws herself into a lifestyle that does have a touch of scandal attached to it. Does that make her a feminist??? Not really sure myself, perhaps I shall leave that up to you avid readers to decided. On the topic of Tom Cuthbert, he is everything you could possibly want in a male lead. Courageous, gentle, dedicated, and terribly handsome are just some adjectives I would use to describe him. Yet I must admit that due to certain actions he takes in the second half of the novel, I was utterly baffled and disappointed in his ability to handle certain issues (really trying hard not to spoil for you lovely readers!). Also his treatment of other characters was a bit shocking at times. Despite this, the reader must remember that all that Tom Cuthbert does, is with Clarissa in mind, so try to ponder on that when you feel the need to throttle him, imaginatively of course.😉 I loved the upstairs, downstairs aspects of the novel also, the staff of ‘Deyning Park’ all provide wonderfully to this lovely novel.

Overall, I love this novel most dearly and I beseech you all to pick up a copy. If you are an avid reader of historical fiction pertaining to the first world war, and also love a good forbidden romance story, then this is the book for you my dear friends. Judith Kinghorn is an amazing author, who would even make reciting the phone book sound amazing! Her magical descriptions of events, emotions and characters are simply divine. I understand some might not like this kind of novel, each to their own, but I genuinely loved it and would recommend it most sincerely. 

As always please feel free to give your opinion, I love to get feedback. 

The Busiest Bee 🙂

Restaurant Review: Union 8 Kilmainham Dublin

Literally just back from trying out this trendy neighbourhood restaurant that has recently just opened up in Kilmainham. It is located near to the tourist attractions of the Irish Museum of Modern Art and also the Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). As it is really the only fine dining eatery around this area, it has become a huge success.

Today I decided to skip the busy lunch hour and dinner hour on a Saturday and instead went in at 3.30 between sittings. On entering the establishment you are at once greeted by a friendly waitress who shows you to a table. Granted the tables at the walls are quite close together so you undoubtedly feel like you are eavesdropping into other people’s conversations, however this is possibly due to the fact the restaurant space isn’t that large, so they make the most of every possible nook and cranny. Once you get over this fact it is quite enjoyable.

The honest truth, I really just came here for the chocolate fondant! I have heard manys a rumour about this particular restaurant’s chocolate fondant, I just had to try it out. And so I persuaded by boyfriend to come along for his lunch (my dessert in the middle of the day). I also had a glass of the house white wine which was pleasant and light. The boyfriend got the soup of the day which was a tomato soup and it came with beautiful homemade brown bread and real Irish butter. It was yummy if not a tad expensive (€6 for a bowl of soup always feels ludicrous, but it was good soup).

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Who are we kidding here, I know all of you probably only want to know about the chocolate fondant so here goes…..It was epic!! Firstly I must do a special shout out to our lovely waitress who sadly informed us at first that the fondant was not on the lunch menu but once she say how disappointed I was, she immediately went and asked the chef if it was at all possible to prepare one for me just this once. It’s not often you come across such helpful and willing staff so I must give them a special thanks!

Back to the fondant, at first when it was placed down in front of me, my first impression was that it was tiny! It was served on a huge white plate however so this was probably why. It was accompanied by homemade (delicious) pistachio ice cream on a bed of shortbread crumbs. Yes it did have that moment where you cut into it using your fork and the chocolate inside just flows out…..my mouth is watering again just thinking about it! Below I’ll attach some images for your aesthetic enjoyment 😉

Overall the soup, the dessert and the glass of wine cost €18. Warning alert, prepare to spend a lot of money here, the average item on the lunch menu costs €10. The dinner menu also could be a bit cheaper. The early bird costs €23.50 for two courses everyday from 5-7pm Sunday-Thursday and 5-6:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays. If dining off the a la carte menu, the cheapest starter is €7 and that’s for the soup! Main courses will set you back €16.50-27.50. Desserts are €6.50/€7. A bottle of house wine will also cost you €24 red or white.

So is it worth this cost? well they have no other competition in the area and the food is quite good and did I mention everything on their menu is gluten free!!! (as it says on their menu). The food is really good from what we experimented with anyways and Kilmainham has been crying out for a fine dining restaurant for quite awhile so its not a surprise to see it abuzz with activity. What I’ve learned about eating out in Dublin, people are willing to pay good money for great food and I think this is the perspective you need to have in your head before you walk into this quaint restaurant.

My score? 10/10 for the fondant! That’s for sure. The service is great and I love their jugs of tablewater with shreds of cucumber and springs of mint. If you are in the area definitely try this place out, I was quite impressed!

As always if you have any queries leave a comment or contact me on my social media pages.

The Busiest Bee 🙂

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Restaurant Restaurant: Moycarn Lodge and Marina

Score: 3.5/5

Yesterday I decided to pop home to my hometown of Ballinasloe, which is located about a forty five minute drive away from Galway City. Ballinasloe town is probably most famous for it’s October horse fair held annually in the town and rumoured to have been the fair in which Napoleon himself bought his horse. Our only claim to fame I would assume. Anyways one of the biggest issues with Ballinasloe town is the lack of dining options. There are plenty of bars (maybe too many) and not one but four Supermacs chain fast food restaurants, as it is also the hometown the the fast food chain. However despite all this my family and I continually find ourselves travelling to the nearby town of Athlone to go out for dinner. It is a shame but that is the reality. The only closest thing to a dining out at night option we have, is the bar/restaurant of the Shearwater hotel or pub grub.

However yesterday I discovered a little gem hidden just outside the town of Ballinasloe with easy access off the motorway. This gem is called the Moycarn Lodge. In the past I have frequented this establishment only when there was a big event on, such as 21sts, communions, retirement parties etc. However I failed to realise that they actually are a pretty impressive restaurant also. In fact one would assume as it hosts guest accommodation that it would just be a bar with simple bar food. However I am glad to say this is not the case and in fact at nighttime they have a separate room for their dinner time.

We arrived for an early dinner at 5pm and to be honest on catching sight of the bar I guiltily assumed not to expect much. Once handed the menus however this opinon quickly changed. The menu had a great variety of meals. From starters such as deep fried brie to main courses such as beef stif fry. There is literally something for everyone on this menu. I also couldn’t get over the reasonable prices of the courses. A side dish is only 2.95!

My mother and I decided to share a starter and settled on the deep frie. It came out in four segments served on a bed of lovely house saled and some kind of raspberry relish which complimented the bitterness of the brie brilliantly. Unfortunately we ate the starter so quickly because it looked so good that I forgot to take a picture! Take my word for it, it was yummy.

For the mains I chose an old reliable: Chicken goujons with a side salad and homemade wedges. Now I did have to pay extra for the wedges as the dish actually came with normal fries but I prefer wedges so I was a bit disappointed to pay extra but they were still quite tasty, in my opinion they were more like oven cooked chips not wedges at all but they were delicious. They are usually served with sweet chili sauce but I prefer garlic mayonnaise which was fantastic.

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My mother ordered the house chicken curry which to be honest just tasted like the tin of McDonald’s curry sauce so it wasn’t homemade but it still was tasty. Her only complaint was that it had coriander through it, which in my family is a big no-no because it’s quite fragrant and tastes like perfume and it’s an odd complaint I know, but we all can’t stand it! So after doing an autopsy on her dinner for a good 10 minutes picking out the coriander, she was finally able to enjoy the meal. It was served really nicely as you see below, with plenty of vegetables which we both love.

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With a glass of wine and a glass of cider the total of the mean came to €34 which was decent enough. The staff were friendly and very laid back so the experience was very relaxing. We stayed for another half an hour even after finishing our meals and could go up to the bar to pay the bill.

Overall Moycarn Lodge is definitely a place I’ll go back to for food. You would get more of the fine dining experience after 6pm I would say but for what we got I was very pleased. The only drawback was the inability to swap fried for wedges for free but despite this I still enjoyed my meal. I would definitely recommend it to those interested in a laid back venue with beautiful scenery and a friendly family atmosphere.

As always if you have any queries or opinions, please feel free to comment or contact me on my social media accounts: Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

The Busiest Bee 🙂

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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!

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 🙂