UK Christmas Giveaway! Win a Yoshi book purse and a paperback copy of Art and Soul

An early Christmas present for one lucky UK-based reader: this lovely Yoshi book purse and a signed paperback copy of Art and Soul!

Art and Soul Yoshi book purse Christmas giveaway

It’s been 7 months since I published my debut contemporary romance, Art and Soul.

Thank you all for your support. To everyone who has bought, downloaded, read, reviewed, spread the word and put the book on their Goodreads shelf, I’m tremendously grateful. And I’m sorry this giveaway is only open to UK-based entrants, but international postage costs are huge. Hopefully I can organise an international giveaway in the future.

The giveaway is running from Sunday 22nd November 2020 to midnight on 30th November 2020 (all times GMT).

I’m running the giveaway using Rafflecopter and you can enter here.

The full terms and conditions are at the bottom of this post.

Good luck!

UK Giveaway Christmas Yoshi bookworm purse and paperback copy of Art and Soul by Claire Huston

Full terms and conditions:

–This is a prize draw to win one Yoshi Christmas bookworm coin purse (as pictured) and one signed paperback copy of Art and Soul by Claire Huston. There will be one winner.
–The one winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email by Thursday 3rd December 2020. The winner must then respond within seven days of the date of contact, providing a valid UK address for the prize to be sent to. If a selected winner does not meet all of the entry conditions or refuses the prize, another entrant will be selected at random from the remaining eligible entries. –Unsuccessful entrants will not be contacted.
–No purchase necessary to enter.
–The prize draw is open to residents of the UK aged 18 or over. Entrants must be UK residents and must provide a valid contact method to enable notification if they are a winner.
–The winner’s name will be published as part of an announcement on Claire Huston’s blog and social media channels.
–Any personal data given as part of the competition entry will only be used for the purposes of running the prize draw and delivering the prize and will not be shared with third parties except for the purpose of delivering the prize. –After I have dispatched the prize and receipt has been confirmed I will delete the data I hold.
–This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.


Claire Huston / Art and Soul

Review: A Wing and a Prayer (Broken Wings 1) by M. W. Arnold

An enjoyable cosy mystery in a great period setting.

A Wing and a Prayer by M W Arnold book cover

I’m delighted to be taking part in this tour. Thank you to the author for providing me with an e-copy of this book via Rachel’s Random Resources.

The blurb:

When Betty Palmer’s sister dies under suspicious circumstances whilst landing her Tiger Moth, Betty and three other women pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary in WWII England unite to discover who killed her and why.

Estranged from her family, Penny Blake wants simply to belong. American Doris Winter, running from a personal tragedy, yearns for a new start. Naturally shy Mary Whitworth-Baines struggles to fit in. Together though, they are a force to be reckoned with as they face the mystery that confronts them.

Against the backdrop of war, when ties of friendship are exceptionally strong, they strive to unravel the puzzle’s complex threads, risking their lives as they seek justice for Betty’s sister.

My take:

I’m not a great reader of sagas, but I do love a cosy mystery. Besides, it’s been a good while since I’ve read a story set in World War II and I really enjoyed the period details in A Wing and a Prayer. The specific setting for the mystery is also intriguing: I had never heard of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) before and it was great to get an insider’s view of this civilian organisation which was a crucial part of the war effort. And it was even better to find out that the teams who repaired and transported planes around Britain included female pilots.

These brave women are the inspiration for Penny, Doris and Mary, three fictional pilots who are A Wing and a Prayer‘s core characters. They’re an interesting, trans-Atlantic bunch, each with their own strong motivations for joining the ATA and with strengths and weaknesses that complement each other. It was great to see the women bond and form a formidable team in their efforts to solve the mystery surrounding the death of Betty’s sister.

Continue reading…

Charity book auction: get a signed book by giving to a great cause

The annual Authors’ and Illustrators’ Children in Read online charity book auction ends this Friday, 13th November 2020 at 11pm (GMT).

Don’t miss your chance to bid on a signed copy of a book by a favourite author!

Children in Read 2020 auction homepage image with genre list

Hundreds of authors and illustrators in every genre imaginable have donated signed copies of their books for a fantastic cause. This is the biggest signed book auction in the world and all proceeds go to BBC Children in Need. Bids start at just £5.

If you want to get browsing now, the auction homepage is: https://www.jumblebee.co.uk/childreninread2020

A copy my debut novel, Art and Soul, is lot 188 in the contemporary romance category. Just in case if you fancy placing a bid 🙂

Children in Read 2020 auction lot 188 Art and Soul by Claire Huston

If your bid wins its auction, all packaging and posting within the UK is free! If you’re outside the UK, you shouldn’t give up hope – if you contact the auction organiser (either via the social media channels listed at the bottom of this post or by email at childreninread@yahoo.com) about a particular lot, they will ask the author if they could send it to you.

Successful bidders will be notified after the auction closes 13th November 2020 11:00 pm (GMT) via email.

And in case you’ve never heard of Children in Need, it’s the BBC’s charity which raises funds to help children in the UK be safe, happy, secure and have the opportunities they need to reach their potential.

Please share!

Please help spread word of the auction to anyone you think might like the chance to bid on a signed book by a favourite author.

You can also keep up with the auction’s progress on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. But remember, the auction closes this Friday, 13th November so don’t wait too long to bid for a favourite book.

Thank you and happy bidding!


Claire Huston / Art and Soul

Review | Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes

The less-discussed side of Greek myth. 4/5.

Pandora's Jar by Natalie Haynes book cover

Thank you to Picador/Pan Macmillan for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

My take:

Earlier this year I enjoyed and reviewed Natalie Hayne’s A Thousand Ships (she’s had a busy year!), her excellent retelling of events relating to the Trojan War from the point of view of the female characters. However, while that was a work of fiction, Pandora’s Jar is non-fiction and a more academic consideration of the women of Greek myth.

This is an entertaining look at 10 female mythical figures as Haynes continues to her work to make the classics accessible. She was a stand-up comedian for many years and her wit shines through in her writing, helping to make what could be quite dry subject matter amusing and relatable. The volume of research she’s done is also commendable, particularly when the primary material about women in Greek myth is often scant, especially when compared to what we know about the men from ancient sources.

Continue reading…

Recipe | Bonfire night chocolate flake cupcakes

Add some sweetness to your November 5th celebrations with these chocolate flake bonfires with orange buttercream flames

Guy fawkes bonfire night November 5th chocolate flake and buttercream cupcakes easy recipe uk

If you’re not from the UK, you may not know that it’s traditional here to celebrate the night of November 5th with bonfires and fireworks. This cupcake decoration idea – using chocolate flakes to create the firewood and piped orange buttercream for the flames – is another one I saw a photo of on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.

The cupcakes

Use your favourite cupcake recipe! My recipe index has lots of cupcake recipes if you need some ideas. For example: caramel cupcakes, yoghurt cupcakes and brownie cupcakes.

I used my golden syrup sponge cake recipe. I used the same quantities of ingredients for making a loaf cake, but divided the mixture between 12 cupcake cases and baked for 20 minutes at 180 degrees C (160 fan, 356 degrees F, Gas Mark 4) until risen and golden.

Bonfire night guy fawkes' cupcakes recipe

Decoration ingredients (for 12 cupcakes)

Continue reading for the recipe and more lovely pics!

Review | The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

Highly atmospheric and fiendishly clever, but missing something for me. 4/5 stars.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stu Turton book cover

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

The blurb:

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is facing trial and execution for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent, while also on board are Sara Wessel, a noble woman with a secret, and her husband, the governor general of Batavia.

But no sooner is their ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A strange symbol appears on the sail. A dead leper stalks the decks. Livestock are slaughtered in the night.

And then the passengers hear a terrible voice whispering to them in the darkness, promising them three unholy miracles. First: an impossible pursuit. Second: an impossible theft. Third: an impossible murder.

Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?

With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent and Sara can solve a mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board

My take:

I was incredibly impressed by Turton’s debut novel, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, if for nothing more than the sheer amount of work that must have gone into keeping all the plot lines straight. So I was really looking forward to his new book and I’m sorry to say I didn’t find it quite as successful as Seven Deaths. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it at all, I just didn’t find it as pleasing. I’ve given both books 4 stars, but I think Seven Deaths was more 4.5 rounded down and The Devil and the Deep Water is more 3.5 rounded up (I’m aware this is a bit odd and possibly unfair, but I can’t review with hindsight!).

There is loads of great stuff to like in The Devil and the Deep Water. What I enjoyed most was the brilliant atmosphere. The ship is a great claustrophobic setting for mysterious shennanigans and felt really creepy and threatening at times.

I also liked the female characters who didn’t sit on their backsides and wait for anyone to save them. I’m not quite sure how historically accurate women having this much agency in the early 17th century – particularly onboard a ship – would have been, but I was happy to suspend my disbelief.

Continue reading…

Recipe | Halloween cute oreo spider muffins

Make your favourite muffins and then add these cute oreo spiders for an easy Halloween bake

Halloween cute oreo spider muffins spooky easy uk recipe cute bake

I saw this Halloween oreo spider muffin/cupcake decoration idea on Pinterest and decided to give it a go!

The muffins

Make whatever muffins are your favourite. You could make cupcakes instead. My recipe index has lots of muffin and cupcake recipes if you need some ideas. For example: chocolate fudge muffins, snickers muffins or Halloween brownie cupcakes.

I made plain vanilla sponge muffins: 4 eggs (large or medium), 8 oz (225g) self-raising flour, 8 oz caster sugar, 8 oz butter/baking margarine and a tsp of vanilla essence/extract. Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy, stir in the eggs until combined and finally fold in the flour. Divide the mixture into your cases (12 muffins or 24 cupcakes) and bake for about 20 minutes at 180 degrees C (160 fan, 356 degrees F, Gas Mark 4) until risen and golden.

Plain vanilla sponge muffins

Decoration ingredients (for 12 muffins)

Continue reading for the recipe and more lovely pics!

Review | Home Stretch by Graham Norton

An involving tale of shame, secrets and acceptance. 4/5 stars.

Home Stretch by Graham Norton book cover

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

It is 1987 and a small Irish community is preparing for a wedding. The day before the ceremony a group of young friends, including bride and groom, drive out to the beach. There is an accident. Three survive, but three are killed.

The lives of the families are shattered and the rifts between them are felt throughout the small town. Connor is one of the survivors. But staying among the angry and the mourning is almost as hard as living with the shame of having been the driver. He leaves the only place he knows for another life, taking his secrets with him. Travelling first to Liverpool, then London, he makes a home – of sorts – for himself in New York. The city provides shelter and possibility for the displaced, somewhere Connor can forget his past and forge a new life.

But the secrets, the unspoken longings and regrets that have come to haunt those left behind will not be silenced. And before long, Connor will have to confront his past.

My take:

This is Graham Norton’s third novel and I was really pleased to get approved for an eARC after having read and enjoyed his previous two books: Holding and A Keeper.

As in his first two books, the action in Home Stretch mostly revolves around a small community in Ireland. However this time Norton has been more ambitious as the characters’ stories grow to span over 30 years and 2 continents.

Continue reading…

Review | A Deadly Education (Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik

Loved it. Can’t wait for the next installment. 5/5 stars.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik book cover

Thank you to Random House UK for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Enter a school of magic unlike any you have ever encountered.

There are no teachers, no holidays, friendships are purely strategic, and the odds of survival are never equal.

Once you’re inside, there are only two ways out: you graduate or you die.

El Higgins is uniquely prepared for the school’s many dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out untold millions – never mind easily destroy the countless monsters that prowl the school.

Except, she might accidentally kill all the other students, too. So El is trying her hardest not to use it… that is, unless she has no other choice.

My take:

I’ve previously read and thoroughly enjoyed both Uprooted and Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik and gave them both 4 stars. But with A Deadly Education she’s finally done it and pushed me to a rare 5-star review!

The Scholomance – the setting for A Deadly Education and arguably its biggest character – is a magic school/school of magic that does its best to kill the students trapped inside. Staying alive is their incentive to learn. There are no teachers, no adults at all in fact, just a load of kids getting along in a life and death struggle until the survivors “graduate”, which involves running a final gauntlet to the school exit through a tunnel of horrific monsters.

Continue reading…

Review | Skelton’s Guide to Domestic Poisons by David Stafford

A promising murder mystery overwhelmed by character study. 3.5/5 stars.

Skelton's Guide to Domestic Poisons by David Stafford book cover

Thank you to Allison & Busby for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Unassuming Yorkshireman, Arthur Skelton, is one of the most celebrated and recognisable barristers in the land. His success in the high-profile Dryden case – ‘the scandal of 1929’ – catapulted him to the front pages of the national newspapers. His services are now much in demand and, after careful consideration, he agrees to defend Mary Dutton.

Dubbed ‘The Collingford Poisoner’ by the press, Mary is accused of poisoning her husband after years of abuse. Together with his trusted assistant, Skelton digs deeper and discovers that secrets and lies run deep in the Dutton family and all is not as it appears.

My take:

I enjoyed this story, especially its varied and colourful range of characters, the often witty dialogue, and the way it dealt with the intricacies of the intersection of law and politics. I also liked that it wasn’t entirely London-based and the period details were terrific, you can tell there’s a lot of careful research behind the writing.

However, from the first couple of chapters I thought I was in for a thrilling investigative mystery, but that isn’t really what the book turns out to be. While Skelton’s detective work does take us down a few dead ends and yields some revelations, I felt that the book becomes more a character study than murder mystery.

Continue reading…