Thoughts on THE CURIOUS AFFAIR OF THE WITCH AT WAYSIDE CROSS

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for another book review!  For November, I read The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross by Lisa Tuttle.  It was published on November 28th.   As with my last two reviews, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, Hydra, for giving me access to an ARC (advanced reader copy) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  So, let’s get on with said review!

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The cover is interesting.

The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross is the second in Tuttle’s series about detectives Jasper Jesperson and Aphrodite (Di) Lane.  I admit that when I realized this was book two, I bought and read the first.  And I had a lot of the same complaints about both books.  The premise is a fun one, basically being a supernatural version of Sherlock Holmes.  The Witch at Wayside Cross sends our detectives out of London to Aylmerton in search of the story behind Charles Manning, who dropped dead in their front hall after showing up at two in the morning, delirious and babbling about being hunted by witches.  Sounds exciting, right?  Not so much.

I wanted to like the book with its promise of intrigue and witches, but it fell flat with me.  There were at least five suspicious deaths throughout the book and one missing baby.  It was a lot to keep track of, but we weren’t allowed to forget a single detail.  Not because every aspect of each crime was astounding or even memorable, but because everything was explained to us at least three times.  That’s still better than the first book, which explained every detail of the climax five different times.  It was as if Tuttle didn’t trust the reader to understand what was going on the first time around.  I found it a bit off putting in both books.

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Me every time I read a recap of something I just read in this book.

Aside from that, I found myself more interested in the supporting characters than the detectives themselves.  They seemed more well-rounded than both Jesperson and Lane.  This can be risky.  It’s what made me want to keep reading this book, but since none of them seem like they’re going to become recurring characters, it doesn’t give me any incentive to pick up the next book should there be one.

I also found Miss Lane to be kind of dense, which was where a lot of the multiple explanations stemmed from.  For a detective, she has a really hard time putting two and two together.  Considering we’re in her perspective throughout the book, it gets a little tiresome.  It’s like she’s being willfully stupid at times just so Jesperson will have a reason to speak.  For the time period, that kind of behavior is understandable, but she should at least make the obvious connections in her head.  At one point, she basically gives up trying to think and just follows her partner around because all will be explained.  For a story that seems to be trying to say women can do whatever men can do, Miss Lane fails miserably at matching Jesperson’s wit and intelligence.

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She really is sometimes.

Beyond all of that, I found the writing to be kind of rambling and there was a lot of focus on unimportant things.  I didn’t particularly care what they were eating as they were discussing the case.  I felt the kidnapped baby arc was thrown in to add an actual paranormal element, but wasn’t exactly important to the main story.  A lot of the story made me feel this way.  I understood why it was there, but it felt like it was there in order to turn a good novella into a mediocre novel.  That’s not the kind of writing I can enjoy.

Ultimately, I kind of wish I hadn’t wasted my time on The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross.  I feel bad for not liking it better, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.  And I won’t be going out of my way to get a sequel should one come out.

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Unfortunately, I’d only rate this one a 1 out of 5 stars.  It sounds really cool, but it was poorly executed.  If you want a good story about witches and mystery, this is not the book you’re looking for.

It’s Beginning To Smell Like Thanksgiving

Hello, hello!  So, my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is this week!  It’s currently Monday and the house smells like cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes.  And the aromas will just keep getting better as the week goes on.  So, in celebration of the season, I thought I would share a couple of recipes with you!  Namely, the cranberry sauce and sweet potato casserole Dad makes.  I know it’s a little late given that Thanksgiving will be tomorrow by the time this posts, but you can always try them next year or for Christmas.

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Picture stolen from Pinterest.

First up is Cranberry Orange Relish with Bourbon.  It’s a recipe Dad found in the Dallas Morning News a couple of years ago.  He decided to try this one since the chutney recipe he used before had apples, which I’m mildly allergic to, so I couldn’t eat much of it.  He’s tweaked it a little since then by adding walnuts, but here’s the recipe!

CRANBERRY ORANGE RELISH WITH BOURBON

Ingredients:
1 cup bourbon (Dad uses Jack Daniels)

1 orange, zested and supremed (see chef’s note)
1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice, freshly squeezed or from concentrate

Directions:
In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine bourbon and orange zest.  Bring to a boil and simmer, until reduced to a syrup, about 10 minutes.

Add cranberries, orange segments, sugar, and orange juice.  Stir until sugar is dissolved and cranberries pop.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Cover and refrigerate. Makes 8 servings.

Chef’s note:
To supreme orange: Using a sharp knife, cut remaining skin and pith off of the zested orange.  Working over a clean mixing bowl and using a sharp knife, cut out each segment of orange between the membranes.

PER SERVING:
Calories 1,620 (None from fat)
Trace fat (No sat)
No cholesterol
No sodium
Fiber 4 g.
Carbohydrates 276 g.
Protein 3 g.
Sugar 239 g.

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Picture stolen from Google.

Another recent addition to our Thanksgiving line up is Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel Topping.  Dad found this one last year in the Dallas Morning News.  It’s fairly similar to the recipe he had been using, but it has an orange-y flavor that makes it better.  Even I like it, and I’m not a big sweet potato fan.  I know he’s tweaked it, but this is the recipe!

SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE WITH PECAN STREUSEL TOPPING

Ingredients:
5 pounds sweet potatoes, roasted until soft (instructions follow; or substitute two 40-ounce cans sweet potatoes, drained)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon allspice
Grated zest from half an orange
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Heat oven to 350 F.  Butter the inside of a 9×13-inch baking pan.

Scrape flesh from sweet potato into a mixing bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor (work in batches if using a processor).  Mash or puree until smooth.  Add eggs and combine thoroughly.

Add granulated sugar, cream, allspice, and orange zest and mix thoroughly into mashed sweet potatoes.  Transfer sweet potato mixture to prepared pan.

To make the pecan streusel topping:
In the bowl of a food processor, place butter, brown sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, pecans, and vanilla and pulse until mixture is crumbly and looks like small pebbles.

Sprinkle sweet potatoes evenly with streusel topping — it should completely cover sweet potatoes.  Bake for 45 minutes.

Makes 15 servings.

To roast sweet potatoes:
Heat oven to 450 F.  Place whole sweet potatoes on the oven rack and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until tender.

SOURCE:
Adapted from Justin and Diane Fourton, Pecan Lodge

PER SERVING:
Calories 525
Fat 24 g. (11 g. sat)
Cholesterol 92 mg.
Sodium 271 mg.
Fiber 6 g.
Carbohydrates 73 g.
Protein 7 g.

Thanksgiving-2017

What are some recipes you or your loved ones make for the holiday?  Do you tend to stick to the same menu or try to mix it up each year?  Feel free to share here or on my social media pages.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

A to Z: Quotes

Hello, hello!  Today, I thought I would compile a list of quotes from various authors (ranging from A to Z).  Some will be old favorites and others will be new things I find during my searches.  What are some of your favorite writerly quotes or quotes from authors?  Feel free to share here or on my social media pages!

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A. Isaac Asimov: “Those people who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”

B. Judy Blume: “Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”

C. Angela Carter: “Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.”

D. Roald Dahl: “I understand what you’re saying, and your comments are valuable, but I’m gonna ignore your advice.”

E. Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

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F. F. Scott Fitzgerald: “That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”

G. Louise Gluck: “Of two sisters one is always the watcher, one the dancer.”

H. Ernest Hemingway: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”

I. John Irving: “Your memory is a monster; you forget—it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you—and summons them to your recall with will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!”

J. James Joyce: “History…is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

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K. Stephen King: “People think that I must be a very strange person. This is not correct. I have the heart of a small boy. It is in a glass jar on my desk.”

L. H.P. Lovecraft: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

M. A.A. Milne: “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart, I’ll always be with you.”

N. Friedrich Nietzsche: “People who comprehend a thing to its very depths rarely stay faithful to it forever. For they have brought its depths into the light of day: and in the depths there is always much that is unpleasant to see.”

O. George Orwell: “Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”

P. Edgar Allan Poe: “I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”

Q. Paul Quarrington: “Everybody is damaged goods. Everybody got bumps and dents, ja? But sometimes two people fit together, and the bumps go into the dents, and you have a whole thing like a potato.”

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R. J.K. Rowling: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

S. Maggie Stiefvater: “There are moments that you’ll remember for the rest of your life and there are moments that you think you’ll remember for the rest of your life, and it’s not often they turn out to be the same moment.”

T. J.R.R. Tolkien: “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

U. John Updike: “The world keeps ending but new people too dumb to know it keep showing up as if the fun’s just started.”

V. Jules Verne: “We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read.”

W. Oscar Wilde: “Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.”

X. Xue Xinran: “Everybody says women are like water. I think it’s because water is the source of life, and it adapts itself to its environment. Like women, water also gives of itself wherever it goes to nurture life…”

Y. Jane Yolen: “Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.”

Z. Sarah Zettel: “The true lady treats the whole world as her dance floor…”

The Pale Freak of the Moon

Hello, hello! Today hasn’t been a very pleasant day and I have no idea what to write about, so I decided to have some fun with this post. Earlier, I ran across one of those things where you use your initials to make a random phrase from their options (this one was “your nerd identity”). I really liked mine for once, so I decided to use it as a prompt for a quick flash piece specially written for my blog. It’s a first draft, so sorry if I ramble. As always, feedback and thoughts are welcome!

The initial thing in case you’re interested.

The Pale Freak of the Moon

The dust cascades ahead of me as I slide down the side of the crater, no doubt signaling my arrival like ripples on a pond. At least, that’s what I imagine when the Freak tells me about the motion of the water on Earth.  Nothing like it exists up here, so it’s hard to follow her stories sometimes.

I slip through the shadows, avoiding prying eyes, as I make my way to her cave.  No one else dares to follow me down here for fear of her, but they have no qualms about throwing rocks from above when they see me out in the open.  According to the Freak, bullies are the same whether they’re here or on Earth.  Difference makes you an easy target until you prove yourself otherwise.  But no matter what I do, they still come after me.

“You’re late, child.”  Her voice, strong and deep, rings out from the depths of her home before I even cross the threshold.  “Did you bring it?”

I skitter into the belly of the cave without answering.  A soft glow tells me she’s by the shrine in a corridor off to the left.  She sits by the altar with her legs crossed and her arms stretched out to welcome me.  Her features are that of an Earthling, but her skin is so pale it emits a gentle white light.  Taking me in her arms, she performs the welcoming ritual of a hug.  I struggle with the gesture every time, my tentacles tangling around themselves as I attempt to reciprocate.

“Well?” she asks.

Pulling a vial from my pouch, I hold it out to her.  Inside, a single seed floats in a viscous purple fluid.  Blood.  Namely, the blood of my mother.  The seed, a pulsing green orb, is her life force.  She left it to me when she passed into the nether realm less than a week ago.  Normally, I would be expected to plant it in the ground and raise the resulting child with my life partner in order to keep my mother’s bloodline flowing, but I have no partner.  No one here wants to spend their life with someone whose eyes are as bright as the stars.  Not in a place where darkness reigns supreme.

That’s why I have to do this.

Mother understood my decision to interrupt her eternal cycle, even condoned it.  She knew how miserable I was here.  Still, guilt pulls at my hearts when the Freak takes the vial from me.

“It’s beautiful,” she says.  “Are you sure you want to do this?  You can’t come back if you’re unhappy there.”

My tentacles raise in an involuntary shrug.  “I know I’ll never be happy here, so what’s the point in staying?”

The Freak nods and turns to the altar.  It’s covered in things from Earth: leaves, stones, flowers.  I wonder, not for the first time, how she keeps these items alive, but don’t voice the question.  She chants in a language I have never heard.  It sounds older than time itself and lulls me into that place between waking and sleep.

When I’m finally pulled back into consciousness, I can’t tell how much time has passed.  I wipe the sleep from my eyes, but instead of the usual tentacle, I have a hand.  The flesh is a rich tawny beige that I always imagine when the Freak speaks of sandy beaches.  My entire body now appears to be that of an Earthling.  I rush to the reflective glass she has hanging on the wall in the main room as fast as I can on legs I’m unaccustomed to, falling countless times before I get the hang of it.  My eyes are still the pale blue, almost white,  I’ve always been scorned for, but they somehow seem natural in my new face.

“Amazing,” I say.  “You’re a miracle worker.”

“It was all you.”  She touches my shoulder and turns me toward her.  “I only allowed your human form to come out.  Everything else was already a part of you.  I told you you were beautiful inside.  We’re not done yet, though.  Are you ready to make the journey?”

I swallow hard and nod.  Words refuse to form on my tongue.

The Freak opens the vial I had given her.  My mother’s scent fills the room and tears prickle at the corners of my eyes.  Pouring the seed into her palm, the Freak makes a fist.  She chants more unknown words until the fabric of space and time rips open.  Past the ragged hole is a beach unfolding into the ocean.  It’s just as I always imagined.

“It’s now or never,” the Freak says.

The seed in her now open palm is withering.  The opening to Earth begins to shrink.  Hesitating, I take a shaky breath.  The scent of saltwater hits me for the first time and a calm comes over me.  Yes, I can be happy as long as I have this view and this aroma to get lost in.  I step through the portal and into a place where no one knows me, where I’m not yet hated.  I start my life anew.

The End