My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Review: The Summoner

The Summoner Layton Green, 2013.

Dominic Grey, working as a US diplomatic security agent in Zimbabwe, is tasked with finding out what happened to the ambassador’s good friend, who apparently vanished during a secretive religious ritual.

Together with a fierce and beautiful local official and a world expert on cults, Grey follows a dark trail of corruption and terror.  Hunting a powerful and evil n’anga – usually a healer and spiritual advisor –  Grey sees things that defy rational explanation and shake his world view to the core.

A tough guy with a lack of respect for authority and zero tolerance for injustice, Grey survived childhood with a violent father and watched his sick mother die despite all her faith and prayers.  Now, his own beliefs – or lack thereof – are challenged by the magic and butchery he witnesses.

The Summoner is a deep book: on the surface a mystery/ thriller with a hint of supernatural, it is truly thought-provoking and disturbing on an elemental level.  Green captures the essence of the dichotomy that is modern Zimbabwe:  vitality and despair, beauty and secrecy, honor and corruption, globalism and racial tension.  This setting creates a shocking juxtaposition of contemporary urban life with primitive rituals and belief systems.

Green leaves the reader with a deep sense of unease.  What is real?  Can unknown beliefs or concepts affect one’s reality, despite one’s own beliefs?  Is magic real? The Summoner will get under your skin.


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Petrifyingly Perfect Pumpkin Coconut Bread

Fall is in the air and there is no better time for Pumpkin Coconut Bread.  I’ve been baking this for years.  It always turns out beautifully: moist, flavorful.  And it makes three loaves.  Oh yes.  One to eat, one to freeze, and one to give away.  Or maybe two to freeze.  Or… You work out the distribution.

This recipe also lends itself perfectly to other add-ins: chopped candied ginger, mini chocolate chips, raisins, currants.  Change the nuts to walnuts.  Play with it!  This is an easy recipe that will be a keeper for you.

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Ingredients:

5 eggs

2 cups canned pumpkin

2 cups sugar

1 ¼ cups vegetable oil

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 packages (3.4 ounces each) instant coconut pudding mix

3 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teasopon ground nutmeg

¾ cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional)

How to Make It:

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Grease and flour three 8-inch x 4-inch loaf pans.

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Toast your nuts if you’re so inclined.

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In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and pumpkin until smooth.  Add the sugar and oil; mix well.

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Combine the flour, pudding mixes, cinnamon, baking soda, and nutmeg; add to the pumpkin mixture.

Stir in the nuts and anything else you may be adding.

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Transfer the mixture to your three loaf pans.

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Bake at 350F for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

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Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pans to wire racks.  Let cool completely.  Wrap and freeze for up to six months!

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Happy Fall!


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Día de los Muertos Marigold Garlands

I recently held a BOOOk Fair at our school library with a Day of the Dead theme.  (Aside – I am so fortunate to have an administration that loves a spooky fall Book – “BOOOk” – Fair).

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Día de los Muertos is primarily a Mexican holiday. It is a multi-day celebration that starts on October 31st – Halloween – and goes through November 2nd – All Souls’ Day.  Over these days, families take time to remember and celebrate family members who have passed on.  They visit cemeteries where they clean the graves of their loved ones and decorate them with altars – ofrendas – using foods & drinks their loved ones enjoyed, toys, and marigolds.  The marigold, known as the Flor de Muerto, is supposed to attract the souls of the dead to the offerings.  We have a large Hispanic population at the school and they loved this Fair.

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One decoration I made was marigold garlands.  These are absolutely stunning and super-simple to make.  Fortunately, in our backyard, marigolds are essentially perennials and come up on their own every spring.  I have an abundance to work with.

Take a sunny fall afternoon and string these beautiful garlands.  They have an amazing weight to them when they are fresh, and a lovely, almost spicy scent.  As they dry, they shrink up, but remain so pretty.  You can cut the garland and spread the dried seeds in your fall garden to come up again next year.  Use them as necklaces or add to a fall tablescape. Use your decorating imagination!

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You need:

Marigold flowers – lots: The string I made for the blog today was three feet long and used 55 flowers.

Embroidery floss

Embroidery needle

Pony beads

How to make them:

Gather your marigold flowers.  You can cut them off the plants with scissors or just pick them by hand.  Make sure to get the seed pod with the flower – this is the part you will be passing the needle through.

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Thread your needle with your embroidery and string your first pony bead, making a knot.  I am using the embroidery floss without separating it into strands so it will be a little stronger. I’m using an orange color to blend in with the flowers.  There is a huge variety of pony beads available!  I am working with some translucent pony beads in all colors.  They add a subtle sparkle in the garland.

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Now, string your first marigold flower.  Push the needle through the seedpod and pull the flower down the floss so it rests on the anchor pony bead.  Next, string another bead.  Then, add another flower. Continue alternating beads and flowers, scooting them down so they are tight together on the string.

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Turn the marigold flowers at different angles to make the garland look full from all sides.

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When you have your garland as long as you want it, knot the end.  Leave enough thread extending so that you can tie the two ends together if you like, to make a circle, or necklace.2017-09-25 16.10.44

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This garland was just under three feet, and used 55 marigold flowers.  It only took about twenty minutes!  Have fun!

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