Some of you already know that I will soon be having our second child. The rest of you: surprise!
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.
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
This is how creepy gothic suspense is done! A spooky 4/5 stars.
Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.
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…
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.
Spooky chocolate fudge muffins. Another idea for Halloween!
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!
The rarest of things: a strong middle volume in a trilogy!
Wardens of Archos (The Relics of Ar’Zac 2) will be published on 16th October 2017.
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.
Sarina very kindly gave me an advanced reader copy of Wardens of Archos to read.
Chocolate and mint layered fudge. An easy idea for Halloween… or any time!
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!
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!
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!
A brilliant epilogue is the perfect ending to another enjoyable read from Louise Jensen. 4/5 stars.
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…
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!
Chocolate, vanilla and caramel layer cake. Honestly, one of the nicest things I’ve ever made (I surprised myself!)
This cake came about because I treated myself to four shallow round cake tins… which of course meant I had to make a four-layer cake. That said, you could still follow this recipe using 2, “ordinary” depth (about an inch/2.5 cm) round cake tins and then cut your cakes in half. Here’s a photo of an “ordinary” depth tin (on the left) and one of the shallow tins (on the right):
To make the cakes, I used my usual go-to sponge recipe. It’s the only one I can remember without having to look at a book! I found the caramel buttercream frosting recipe over at Instructables, although when I make it again I’ll add icing sugar for the filling and crumb coat as well, not just the final coat (that will make sense when you get to the decoration section of the method!).
Continue reading for the recipe and more lovely pics!
A bright swirl of raspberry buttercream is a great finishing touch to these raspberry and coconut cupcakes.
The last recipe I’ll post for a while featuring raspberries (promise!). One bonus of this one is that it allows you to use fresh or frozen raspberries. The original recipe for these raspberry and coconut cupcakes comes from the BBC goodfood website.
Wait! There’s more. Click for the recipe and more lovely pics!
Don’t be fooled by that shiny cover. Darkness lies within! 3/5.
Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.
The blurb: Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the ‘BookFrogs’—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.
But when youngest BookFrog Joey Molina kills himself in the bookstore’s upper level, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions: trinkets and books, the detritus of a lonely, uncared-for man. But when Lydia pages through his books, she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?
As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago—and never completely left, as she discovers.
My experience of this book suffered because I went into it expecting one thing, but got something else entirely. I think the cover and the blurb somehow made me think this was going to be more magical and mysterious than it was. And that there’d be more about books and the bookshop. Books about books are always a lure.