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Tuesday 22 May 2018

Mademoiselle Azzaro EDT | Review

Newly launching this Summer is the latest fragrance from Azzaro Paris; Mademoiselle Azzaro L'eau Tres Belle, a violet-macaroon base, bursting with blueberry and jasmine. 

Before you try that though, I have the original Mademoiselle Azzaro* eau de toilette to show you, and it is a beaut.

Designed to make you think of Paris with every spritz, this is a floral, elegant scent, housed in the prettiest bottle. 

Would you look at the bow!!

This is for sure aimed at a younger market than myself (you can picture me wrapping a shawl around myself now if that helps), as it features notes like mandarin blossoms and peach but then it adds in some subtle accords like iris wood and syringa flowers that balance it to ultimately leave an impression that's quite sophisticated. 

Bottom line; It's sweet, floral and fruity but with an underlying warmth that makes it last well on the skin.

If you're a fan of Miss Dior/Miss Dior Cherie, Marc Jacob's Honey or Dolce & Gabbana's The One, then I think you'll like this. 

This comes in a 30 ml (€48) and 50ml (€68) size, and is available in Arnotts, Debenhams and selected pharmacies nationwide.

If you like this version already and are looking to try Mademoiselle's even more romantic Parisian sibling, L'eau Tres Belle is also now available. 


*Indicates products in this post were supplied for review. This is not a sponsored or paid for post. As always, all opinions are my own!

Sunday 13 May 2018

Recently Read: March.

I know, this is good and late but here we are. I didn't get through as many books as usual in March because one in particular completely monopolised my time. Helter Skelter, while interesting in parts, took ages to get through.

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
This is the very detailed account of the Charles Manson murders of actress Sharon Tate and four others at her LA home in 1969. The book relays the lengthy investigation that led to the arrest of most of the Manson "family" and the subsequent trial. As it's written by Vincent Bugliosi, the prosecutor in Manson's trial, there's a huge amount of legal details in there that I really felt I had to wade through. That took away from the overall story for me, which I've always found intriguing and in fairness, the sections of the book that focus on the cult itself and Manson's background were engrossing, I just felt that other parts of the book could have easily been shortened without detracting from the essence of the book. If you're a fellow fan of true crime you'll enjoy this anyway, or if you're just interested in reading up on a historical event you'll also appreciate Helter Skelter. For me, this was one of the most fascinating parts of this book- I felt like I was fully immersed in the atmosphere of the time.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
This is the prequel to Practical Magic, which I just read in January of this year and loved. Set in 1960's New York, it brings us back to Franny and Jet's (the Owen's sisters aunts in PM) teenage years, along with their charismatic brother Vincent. Their mother Susanna has set down certain rules for them that they have to live by; no wearing black, no candles, no magic books, no walking in the moonlight and most importantly; no falling in love. If an Owens falls in love, a family curse set in 1620 means that harm will come to their beloved so all three valiantly try to avoid love but soon realise they can't escape it forever. I really love the way Alice Hoffman writes and especially how she immerses the reader in this world of magic, which is so different from anything else I've read. I loved both The Rules of Magic and Practical Magic and I don't think you need to have read one before the other to enjoy them. I'd recommend both of them!

The New Mrs Clifton by Elizabeth Buchan
Set just after WW2, British Intelligence Officer Gus Clifton arrive home to London to his two sisters with his new wife in tow, Krista, a German woman he married in secret. Krista has been broken by the war; she's malnourished and unwell but is also traumatised by the horrors inflicted upon her. Her relationship with Gus is strained and his sisters cannot understand why he married her in the first place. Their bitterness over the war and prejudice against the Germans doesn't help. Gus has also deeply disappointed his originally intended wife, Nella, who lives nearby, and her brother who now holds a grudge against Gus, who he plans to get revenge on. Both of Gus's sisters are struggling to cope with what they had to do to survive the war, Tilly in particular is very much on the edge. Full of dark secrets and betrayals, this is a really good angle on WW2 that I've never really come across before. Well worth a read. 

The Woman In The Window by A.J. Finn
This is one of those thrillers that gets the "for fans of Gone Girl and Girl On The Train" written on the front of it. As with most of this genre of books, the connection there is the psychological thriller, massive twist and "difficult female protagonist". 
Anna Fox is an agoraphobic psychologist and mother of one. Something catastrophic happened to her six months ago that's left her unable to leave her home. She has figured out how to survive in her current predicament; she sees a therapist online, she has a downstairs tenant that doubles up as a handyman and for entertainment, she drinks wine and watches her neighbours. 
She's particularly interested in the new family that have moved in across the road and so starts watching them intently, that is until she sees something she shouldn't have. 
This leads to Anna questioning everything she believes to be true, including her own mental faculties. Anna is your classic unreliable narrator so I also questioned everything she said and did but that aside, she's a difficult character to spend an entire novel with. 
Like the protagonist in Girl On The Train, Anna has an alcohol dependency problem and so I spent a lot of the book telling her to "stop doing that!!". It's frustrating but real life is like that, I guess. 
One thing I would say is there's two fairly major twists (as there is with all of these sorts of books) which I had guessed well in advance. The clues are there and are easy enough to spot, if you're looking out for them. 
Overall, I liked the undertones of film noir and Alfred Hitchcock throughout this book but I felt it was drawn out and somewhat lacking nonetheless. 

Almost Love by Louise O' Neill
Practically known now for her "unlikeable characters", Louis O'Neill has created perhaps the most unpleasant female protagonist of all with Sarah, a young art teacher living in Dublin, sacrificing everyone else in her life for the man twenty years her senior she is seeing. Sarah hopes Matthew will realise some day that he in fact loves her and can't be without her but that seems extremely unlikely to even the most casual observer; Matthew is married, is a narcissist and uses Sarah for grotty sex in a grotty hotel room. But, and here's the catch, he does tell her from the start that he doesn't want a relationship. That doesn't and can't excuse his behaviour but still, Sarah plays a part in her own undoing, something you couldn't have said about Emma in Asking For It or Frieda in Only Ever Yours (O'Neill's two previous books).
This, if anything makes Almost Love more thought provoking. A common cry after reading this book has been "God, I wish I could go back and give this to my teenage self", such is the recognisable and clumsy attempts at love from a young woman trying for a breezy "oh I don't want a relationship, I'm a cool, easy going girl, just like a guy really", of her actions and words.
The storyline is non-linear; we get flashbacks to when Sarah was in art college and first meets Matthew, very much at the expense of her best friend Fionn, right up to the present time, where she is in a relationship with a new man, Oisín. Sarah can't seem to get any element of her life right and you could say she's her own worst enemy, but equally she's a painfully damaged character, with a sad past. My feelings for Sarah are so complicated; she's difficult and extremely unlikeable but also, she really needs help. At times, I wanted to slap her, other times I wanted to reach in and hug her and give her the name of a good therapist.
I still don't know how I really feel about Almost Love, but I can say it's an addictive read (I finished it in an evening) and it certainly got me thinking. Thinking about my own behaviour when I was younger, about the expectations and the roles placed on women by society and about the different types of love.
A difficult book to read at times but without a doubt, it's an unflinching look at obsessive love and quite unlike any other book on the market right now.

Have you read any of these?
What are you reading right now?

Saturday 5 May 2018

This Midwife Is Voting Pro-Repeal; Here's Why You Should Too

Hi there! You may still be pondering how you plan to vote in the upcoming referendum to repeal the 8th amendment of the constitution and I am here to tell you why you should vote YES. As the title of the article would suggest, I am a midwife and a nurse and have a whole wealth of knowledge and experience that means I am qualified to speak on the subject of women's health, as well as having my own personal opinions on the matter.

You may have read plenty on this being a "divisive issue"and that both sides are "as bad as each other" but there are some really basic facts here that are unavoidable and that don't involve convoluted and intentionally confusing and emotive language.

  1. The 8th amendment is about more than just abortion. Women's health is hampered by this law that equates the life of a woman to that of an embryo or a foetus. This is both bad medicine and bad law. Doctors and midwives are forced to withdraw certain care based on this amendment- women who may need scans, analgesia, antibiotics, anti-psychotic medication, radiotherapy, surgery etc. cannot be treated properly because of this law. Non-pregnant you gets emergency treatment in the case of sepsis, a mental health emergency, the flu, a cancer diagnosis etc. Pregnant you will be assessed but if your treatment is deemed in any way teratogenic (harmful to the foetus), you'll have to wait until you've given birth. By which time, your condition may not even be treatable anymore. Doctors can intervene and terminate a pregnancy if and only if the mother's life is deemed at immediate risk but as has become painfully obvious over recent years, there's no hard and fast rule that tells doctors exactly when to intervene. Each individual case is different and being forced to make complex medical decisions under the weight of potential legal retribution while trying to save a life is terrible medical practice. Women's lives are forfeited for that of a potential life- picture your sister, friend, colleague, classmate, cousin, mother or yourself. Picture your grown-up, adult life with all of your hopes, plans, likes, dislikes, favourite songs, memories, quirks, responsibilities, loves and losses and now compare that to an embryo that has just the potential to have your full life. The two should not be on an equal footing. Women deserve better.
  2. So it's not just about abortion, it's about overall healthcare but it is also about abortion. This part is a contentious issue for a lot of people but abortion is a medical procedure, it has by its very nature accumulated an added moral weight but as a health care professional, if this is a medical procedure that a woman needs, as decided by her and her doctor, then that's the best course of action. You'll have by now have heard of the so called "difficult cases" associated with abortion; rape/incest, a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality and in cases where the mother's life is at risk but abortion also is a necessity for women who have social, mental, emotional, fiscal and physical reasons why they can't continue a pregnancy. Women do not use abortion as a form of contraception. This is a fallacy created to paint women as flighty, fickle creatures when the reality is abortion is not something any woman truly wants- the same way I never want to have back surgery again (and didn't want it in the first place) but am grateful that it exists because I so badly needed it when I slipped a disc that time. 
  3. We need to trust women. As a country we have an appalling track record when it comes to how we treat women and girls. Mother and Baby homes, forced adoption, forced c-sections, forced episiotomies, forced symphisiotomies, women working in the public sector forced to give up their jobs upon marriage up until the year 1973, "churching women" (the church making women "clean" after the birth of a baby) up until the year 1967 (if not later), contraception illegal until the year 1980 (with restrictions), marital rape legal until the year 1990, the morning after pill only legalised in 2003 (and only available without a prescription in 2011), the gender pay gap (still a thing and still increasing, as per the most recent CSO figures), a ban on women priests (still a thing), and then of course all of the victims of the 8th amendment; Savita Halappanavar, Miss X, Miss Y, Miss P, the C Case, Ann Lovett, Amanda Mellet, Michelle Harte, and Sheila Rodgers, to name but a very few. Let me make it abundantly clear here; we are in violation of women's human rights as per the World Health Organisation, the European Court of Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Committee and Amnesty International. A reminder that women's rights are human rights, as Hillary Rodham Clinton once (many times) said. 
  4. You might then be wondering about the planned legislation for providing unrestricted abortion access up to 12 weeks gestation. There's a couple of reasons for this that I can see. Firstly, a foetus is not viable outside of the uterus until 23/24 weeks. If a miscarriage occurs, it more than likely will occur in the the first trimester (which is the first 12 weeks but actually that translates to ten weeks in reality; your estimated due date is based on the first date of your last monthly period and conception takes place two weeks after that date, hence 10 weeks). The Oireachtas Committee on the 8th amendment was particularly clear that this 12 week mark was important for cases where rape has occurred- it would be virtually impossible to legislate for women to choose abortion in this situation if there was a restriction in place based on a trial outcome or on an ongoing police investigation. In these circumstances, time is of the essence and our court system is notoriously difficult for victims of rape to navigate. Lastly, medical abortion requires pills to be taken only up to 12 weeks. As women are already illegally obtaining abortion pills up to 12 weeks without medical supervision, it could only become safer to legally provide for medical abortion in these circumstances with GP supervision. 
  5. Lastly then, and trust, I could go on all night about this, if you don't want an abortion, don't have one. That old chestnut. It's true though; abortions will continue to happen if you vote no. They will continue to happen if the 8th is not repealed. Women's lives will continue to be put at risk with illegal, unsafe and non-medically supervised terminations. Women will still be forced to travel to the UK and other countries to receive compassionate reproductive healthcare that they should be receiving at home, provided by their own doctor and surrounded by their loved ones, if they so wish. Close to their own home and their own bed with no terrifying taxi and plane journey to get through, risking bleeding out or blacking out from pain and blood loss. There's a pro-choice slogan of "stop punishing tragedy" and it makes me well up every time I hear it. I'm angry and personally devastated that we have sent so many women in need away from us when we should have been looking after them here. I want to put right that terrible wrong. 
Abortion will happen anyway. The 8th amendment was a bad law in 1983 and it's a bad law now in 2018. Please vote YES on the 25th of May and allow us to look after the women of this country with the care and dignity they deserve.

*the views discussed here are my own and not those of my employer*