Kid’s building site / digger chocolate birthday cake

This kid’s chocolate building site birthday cake looks great and is very easy to put together!

Kid's digger building site builder chocolate easy birthday cake

It was my elder son’s 5th birthday recently. It’s taken me a while to blog about this cake, but if you follow my posts you’ll probably already know I gave birth to our second son at around the time of my first son’s birthday and since then I’ve been a tad busy!

As I knew my sons’ birthdays would be very close together, I wanted to make a birthday cake which was simple and quick to assemble. Some internet browsing brought me to this building site / digger cake idea in the form of some photos. I did my best to copy what I saw, using my own cake recipe and various toy construction site pieces I already had.

Click for the recipe and more photos…

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Review | The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

 A promising situation undermined by an unlikeable protagonist. 3/5 stars.

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

Thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: Ella Black seems to live the life most other seventeen-year-olds would kill for…

Until one day, telling her nothing, her parents whisk her off to Rio de Janeiro. Determined to find out why, Ella takes her chance and searches through their things.

And realises her life has been a lie.

Her mother and father aren’t hers at all. Unable to comprehend the truth, Ella runs away, to the one place they’ll never think to look – the favelas.

But there she learns a terrible secret – the truth about her real parents and their past. And the truth about a mother, desperate for a daughter taken from her seventeen years ago…

My take:

Last year, Emily Barr’s previous book – The One Memory of Flora Banks – was the only book I gave 5 stars to. I loved Flora, I loved her story, and so I was excited to get my hands on a copy of The Truth and Lies of Ella Black. I had high hopes.

I’m sad to say I didn’t love this book. And this even though there are many similarities between Ella Black and Flora Banks: both give us a female teenage protagonist with mental health issues, struggling with seemingly rubbish parents who are keeping secrets from them. However, while I found Flora instantly likeable, Ella came across as whiny and, until quite late in the book, tremendously ungrateful, immature and annoying.

Continue reading…

ARC Review | Happiness for Humans by P. Z. Reizin

A must-read for romance fans looking for something different. 4/5.

Happiness for Humans by P.Z. Reizin

Thank you to Little, Brown Book Group UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

Happiness for Humans will be published on 4th January 2018.

The blurb: 

(Machines aren’t supposed to have favourites. Don’t ask me how this has happened.)

Jen is sad. Aiden wants her to be happy. Simple? Except that Jen is a thirty-something woman whose boyfriend has just left her and Aiden is a very complicated, very expensive piece of software.

Aiden has calculated that Jen needs a man in her life for optimum wellbeing. And with the whole of the internet at his disposal, he doesn’t have to look far to find a perfect specimen and engineer a meeting. But what, exactly, makes human beings happy? And can a very-artificially-intelligent machine discover emotional intelligence in time to fix Jen’s life?

My take

This is an entertaining romantic comedy, the novel element being that a number of the characters are artificially intelligent software who have developed their own personalities and gone rogue to interfere in the love lives of “real people”.

Continue reading…

Why I’ll be MIA for the rest of 2017

Some of you already know that I will soon be having our second child. The rest of you: surprise!

stork baby delivery

While this is incredibly lovely and exciting, I’m now suffering the nastier effects of being in the last stages of pregnancy. Chief among these is carpal tunnel. My hands going numb while also being rather painful makes it hard to type (and sleep, but let’s not worry about that), so I’ll be stepping away from blogging and Twitter for a bit to give my poor swollen fingers a rest.

Average day in the third trimester of pregnancy

And obviously once the baby arrives I’ll be falling off the planet for a couple of months, but I will do my best to put a short update here later in November (levels of craziness permitting) probably featuring cake.

All that said, having to be awake in the middle of the night could well mean I get to read more of your blogs than usual. Silver linings! 🙂

Take care and Happy Halloween, Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving and a good festive season to all!


Claire Huston / Art and Soul

 

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Review | The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

This is how creepy gothic suspense is done! A spooky 4/5 stars.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: 

Inspired by the work of Shirley Jackson and Susan Hill and set in a crumbling country mansion, The Silent Companions is an unsettling gothic ghost story to send a shiver down the spine…

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.

With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. But inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself…

My take:

A warning: if you’re of a nervous disposition, I wouldn’t advise reading this alone at night or you’ll be jumping at shadows! I admit I’m a scaredy-cat, but The Silent Companions is just the right amount of creepy/suspenseful without being downright terrifying. A good approximation for anyone who wants to know if they’ll be frightened witless would be to say it’s about as scary as an episode of Dr Who featuring the Weeping Angels. In fact, that’s a pretty good indicator of what you’re in for with this book.

Continue reading…

Recipe | Chocolate fudge muffins with Halloween chocolate webs

Spooky chocolate fudge muffins. Another idea for Halloween!

Easy chocolate fudge muffins recipe uk with Halloween chocolate cobweb spider web frosting

The search for simple Halloween-themed recipes continues this week with delicious chocolate fudge muffins topped with a chocolate cobweb pattern.

I found the original recipe for these chocolate fudge muffins on the BBC goodfood website. I’ve described the order in which I put the ingredients together, which is slightly different to the original.

Ingredients (makes 10 muffins)

Continue reading for the recipe and more lovely pics!

ARC Review | Wardens of Archos (The Relics of Ar’Zac, #2) by Sarina Langer

The rarest of things: a strong middle volume in a trilogy!

Wardens of Archos by Sarina Langer

Wardens of Archos (The Relics of Ar’Zac 2) will be published on 16th October 2017.


SPOILER ALERT

This is the second book in the series and so the blurb below contains spoilers for book 1 – Rise of the Sparrows. However, my review is spoiler free!


The blurb: Once a despised street rat, now the reigning queen of Rifarne, Rachael is at the centre of everyone’s attention. All she wants is a few peaceful moments to herself — but her kingdom has other plans.

A Mist Woman brings her a gift, and a warning: Aeron’s death has released the Dark One’s shades into the world. And Rachael, as the only living seer in existence, is the only one who can stop him before he destroys everything she’s beginning to cherish. But can Rachael trust the Mist Woman, or is Kaida just another sorceress playing with her life?

Rachael is running out of time. The shadows are coming, and their claws are reaching for her.


My take:

Sarina very kindly gave me an advanced reader copy of Wardens of Archos to read.

Continue reading…

Recipe | Chocolate and mint layered fudge

Chocolate and mint layered fudge. An easy idea for Halloween… or any time!

Chocolate and mint layered fudge uk simple halloween recipe ideas

I’ve started looking for Halloween recipes. While I was mooching around the internet, I wondered if I could make chocolate fudge with a bright green mint layer. So, not exactly a classic “Halloweeny” recipe, but Halloween would be a good excuse to make it!

I got the original recipe from the BBC goodfood website. I’d make a couple of changes in future… but I’ll mention those when I get there.

Ingredients (I got 48 pieces from the block of chocolate mint fudge)

Continue reading for the rest of the recipe and more pics!

Recipe | Rice Krispies stars: puffed rice cereal with marshmallow, white chocolate and sprinkles!

So easy to make, kids of all ages will enjoy these Rice Krispies stars: puffed rice cereal with melted marshmallow, white chocolate and your choice of sprinkles!

Rice Krispies stars marshmallow white chocolate tray bake treats cake pops easy recipe uk

This basic Rice Krispies tray bake recipe gives you lots of options. If you’re short on time, just cut the large rectangular slab into squares. Or use a biscuit cutter to cut out stars or any other shape you like. If you have skewers, lolly or cake pop sticks, you can insert these into your pieces to make treats for children’s parties.

I got the original recipe here at GoodtoKnow.

Ingredients (makes 14 to 20 Rice Krispies stars depending on how thick you spread the mixture and how big a star cutter you use)

Wait! There’s more. Click for the recipe and more pics!

ARC Review | The Surrogate by Louise Jensen

A brilliant epilogue is the perfect ending to another enjoyable read from Louise Jensen. 4/5 stars.

The Surrogate by Louise Jensen

The Surrogate is out tomorrow, Wednesday 27th September 2017

Thank you to Bookouture and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book to read and review.

 

The blurb: Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents, and are on the point of giving up. Then a chance encounter with Kat’s childhood friend Lisa gives Kat and Nick one last chance to achieve their dream.

But Kat and Lisa’s history hides dark secrets.

And there is more to Lisa than meets the eye.

As dangerous cracks start to appear in Kat’s perfect picture of happily-ever-after, she realises that she must face her fear of the past to save her family…

My take:

This will be a short review to avoid spoilers!

Regular readers of my reviews will know I have an up-and-down relationships with book branded “psychological thrillers” or “dark thrillers”. However, having enjoyed Louise Jensen’s previous two books – The Sister and The Gift (click the titles for my reviews) – I went into The Surrogate with high hopes, which thankfully weren’t disappointed.

From the blurb and the first couple of chapters, I came to expect something along the lines of The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, but I was pleased to discover that the author gives us something else entirely!

Continue reading…