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 Watchmaker of Filigree Street

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street—Natasha Pulley, 2015. Rating: 5/5

Historical fiction gets a warm, probably lemon-colored, wash of fantasy in this unforgettably heartwarming Victorian thriller. Yes, that’s an oxymoron, and yes, it applies perfectly.

It is 1883 and Home Office telegraph operator, Nathaniel, is eking out a sterile existence. He’s sacrificed his musical talent and his ability to see sounds as colors in order to support his widowed sister. When an expensive, mysterious watch appears in his room and saves his life during a bombing of Scotland Yard, Thaniel tracks down the watchmaker, Keita Mori. Mori owns a small shop filled with his exquisite clockwork creations that seem to be imbued with a touch of…magic. And Mori has another special talent: he can see possible futures.

Overwhelmed by Mori’s kindness and quirkiness, Thaniel takes the room Mori has available to let. But Thaniel goes from renter to reluctant spy when authorities suspect Mori’s clockwork is tied to the bombs in recent terrorist attacks. Grace, a practical young scientist, also suspects that Mori is a danger to Thaniel’s self-determination and sets out to stop the watchmaker.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is ethereal commingling of suspense and love story. If it were a song, I think it would be in the key of D Major. Pulley’s characters are beautifully drawn: every tiny detail contributes to their depth and plausibility. I want to have a cup of tea with Thaniel and Mori and Katsu, they are that real.

Adding a vibrant layer to the story is the rich history of Londoners’ fascination with all things Japanese. Pulley’s portrayal of the Japan Native Village and the debut of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado is fascinating: both deepening our understanding of Mori and offering a unique contrast to English cultural norms.

I had to catch myself as I was reading. I was horribly conflicted because the suspense is hideously stressful, and my desire to scan a couple of pages at the end (just to make sure everything and everyone turns out o.k.) fought hard with my desire to savor every word and whimsical image. (I withstood temptation.) As soon as I set the book down, I wanted to read it again. And I wanted another one.

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street is suffused with an affecting, quiet joy. A deeply satisfying track- down-the-bomber-historical-thriller that’s also about following your heart.

rating system five crows


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Big Dark Chocolate Caramel Cookie

Oh yes.

Forget jewelry and roses and expensive dinners. Bake this massive, chewy, delectable cookie for your Valentine and they’ll be yours forever. Or, heck, just make it for yourself. Either way will bring happiness.

Back in the day (we’re talking early ’90s, here) we’d go to the original Old Chicago on Pearl Street in Boulder for free glassware night, a good pizza, and their big warm cookie, straight out of the oven. Those were the glory days before Old Chicago became a chain and their food quality tanked. I still remember that cookie with foodie nostalgia.

But this cookie is better. Bigger. More refined for today’s gourmet cookie palates.  Plus, the recipe is ridiculously simple.

We love a slice warmed up just a little bit alongside some good ice cream, or topped with a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Be creative. Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

1 ½ cups flour

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

10 Tablespoons butter, softened to room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup bittersweet (60% cacao) chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips

½ cup toasted walnuts (or pecans)

12 caramel candies

Flaky sea salt (optional)

 

Special Equipment:

A 10-inch cast iron skillet

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How to Make it:

Heat your oven to 375 F.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and the brown sugar together on a medium-high speed until very light-colored and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Add in the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

Drop your mixer speed and add in the flour mixture until just combined.

Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips.

Butter your cast iron skillet so your cookie doesn’t stick. That would be very sad.

Spoon the dough into the skillet and pat it down evenly.

Push the 12 caramel candies into the dough.

Sprinkle the top with sea salt, if you want.

Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Let it cool. If you can wait that long…

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Review: Earthcore

Earthcore – Scott Sigler, 2017. 4/5

A bloodbath ensues when a mining company drilling in the remote Utah mountains unearths way more than it signed up for.

Connell Kirkland, once a nice guy, now a cutthroat asshole, assembles a high-tech team to bore a record three miles down and extract a mass of pure platinum. The haul will be worth a world-economy-changing amount of money.

But Connell has a lot of problems. He’s saddled with a puerile tech genius and his oversized ego. A psychopathic ex-NSA operative who lives for the wetwork. An aggressively unpleasant anthropologist. Oh, and folks who’ve gone into the mine have historically disappeared or been massacred. Then add in the fact that Connell and a handful of others get trapped at the bottom of that impossible shaft, and Connell’s literally in deep.

This is Sigler’s newly-expanded version of Earthcore. According to the author himself, it boasts 50% more words, more violence, and more character development than the first version, which was originally written in 2002, and first published in 2005.

There is an extensive build up before anyone even enters the mine, which is, frankly, frustrating, but Sigler keeps enough suspense going to hold your interest, and the delayed gratification is worth it. From there, the storyline races ahead with a few surprises along the way. My biggest beef is that there are not many likable or relatable characters, and most of the nice guys may as well be wearing red shirts. Kudos to Sigler for expanding those characters from the first version—and several do have personal epiphanies at the end—but, with a few exceptions, you don’t care much about them.

Sigler gleefully delivers plenty of “blood and nastiness,” and the…creatures…in the mine are creatively unique. But, maybe because I didn’t like the humans in the story that much, I ended up finding the monsters less terrifying, and even felt a little bad for them.

All that said, I flew through Earthcore and I’ll undoubtedly read the promised sequel. Sigler writes well, and this was a fun read. For some top notch sci-fi horror try Sigler’s Infected series.

rating system four crows