by Kathleen Costa
& Lois Winston
This week we have a review of a mystery perfect for starting off our march to Christmas called Drop Dead Ornaments written by Lois Winson. We also have a fun guest post by Lois and a craft! Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win an ebook copy of Drop Dead Ornaments, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Drop Dead Ornaments: An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery by Lois Winston
Review by Kathleen Costa
Time to channel your inner “craftster!”
Anastasia Pollack was first introduced in 2011 by author Lois Winston with Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun. Anastasia is a recently windowed mother of two teenage sons hounded by a loan shark wanting repayment of her husband’s debts. She also pretty much inherits her mother-in-law with whom she has a bittersweet relationship. Ok, no sweet, just bitter! She is the crafts editor at American Woman falling into more trouble with a dead body, murder investigation, secret affairs, and close scrutiny by law enforcement. A delightful book, earning from me 5/5 Crafty Stars, and what else? The book includes as a bonus marvelous “Anastasia’s Crafts” ideas: Handmade Bridal Tennies, Birdseed Roses, Recycled Jeans Placemats, Fourth of July Clay Pot Candles, and Decoupaged Flag Tray.
Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun (2011)
Death by Killer Mop Doll (2012)
Revenge of the Crafty Corpse (2013)
Decoupage Can Be Dangerous (2013)
A Stitch to Die For (2015)
Scrapbook of Murder (2016)
Drop Dead Ornaments (2018)
Drop Dead Ornaments earns 5/5 Glass Ornaments…Entertaining and Clever!
Anastasia is recuperating from her unfortunate run-in with a killer, but the holiday season seems a great way to brighten her day along with two doting children Alex and Nick, a nice romance with Zack, and a Shakespeare-spewing parrot named Ralph. Her crafts background has come in handy, too. Alex and the other high school seniors are expected to complete a community service project. Deciding to fund-raise for the county food bank, Anastasia has spearheaded a handmade ornament sale at the town’s annual Holiday Crafts Fair. The seniors were all on board, and sales are vastly surpassing anything candy, candles, popcorn, or wrapping paper could have garnered. But, the dead body may deflate their success…
Anastasia is getting used to the fact Alex has a girlfriend, Sophie Lambert, who has made it clear that her father will be matching the funds the teens earn. When she meets Shane Lambert, he is nice enough, generous, and very handsome which precipitates Anastasia’s Mama to put on her best “I’m available” attitude despite his being much younger. “Age is merely a number, dear.” But, she can’t shake a niggling feeling. The platinum blonde stranger seen eyeing Shane at the fair, and Sophie indicating the woman also showed a very personal interest in her makes for quite the mystery. Then when the same blonde is found dead, the circumstantial evidence points to Shane. For the sake of her son, Anastasia starts to check things out.
Lois Winston has made me a fan! Her clever mystery is highlighted by an entertaining first-person narrative sharing Anastasia’s inner thoughts and perspective. She accented every page with clever quips, little stories, and digs that brought a smile to my face! The murder mystery is quite clever and engaging with enough twists, turns, and a bit more peril than any amateur sleuth deserves. But even though this group may have just put the “dys” in dysfunction, they are all levels of fun. Mama is over-the-top with a serious credit card addiction and in search of a Mr. for her Mrs. Ira, a half-brother-in-law, struggles with his own issues and uses things to ingratiate himself into the family. And then there’s Lucille…I don’t even know where to start. There’s way too many things to say about her. But it is all tempered by an endearing relationship between Anastasia and her sons and the support and love she gets from Zack. Lois has penned a delightful series with realism (law enforcement doesn’t just Willy-nilly include amateurs), family (good and very challenging), and a satisfying mystery from beginning to end.
And just in time for the holidays…Anastasia’s No-Crafting-Talent-Required Glass Ball Christmas Ornaments. Lois provides easy-to-follow directions for five glass ornament designs and Ideas for Filling Ornaments. For additional ideas check out Anastasia’s Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, the blog of Anastasia Pollack, crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth.
Be a Big Lois Winston Fan!
Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.”
USA Today bestselling author Lois Winston is quite the accomplished writer. Along with her cozy crafted seven-book Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, she pens a three-book Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mysteries and a two-book Empty Nest Mystery series. She also writes five romantic suspense, romance, and Chick Lit books under the name Emma Carlyle along with three novellas and short story collections, a children’s chapter book, four non-fiction books, and has joined in four multi-author Romance Super Bundle boxed sets. But writing is not all. She is also an award winning designer of needlework and craft projects for various publications and craft kit manufacturers. She channeled Anastasia Pollack for several years as a crafts editor and uses her art and design background as source material in her fiction. Her writing style and creative “crafty” eye makes her Anastasia Pollack Mystery series a Top Ten favorite of mine!
Remember the “A”!
By Lois Winston
The last few years we’ve been hearing quite a bit about STEM learning, the need to place more emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math in our schools. What hasn’t received as much attention is STEAM, which adds the arts to the mix. Leave out the arts, and you leave out a critical component of creative development in children. However, more and more school systems are doing just that, diverting dollars and resources from the “A” to enhance the “S”, “T”, “E”, and “M” in their curriculums.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of more “S”, “T”, “E”, and “M”, but as someone who spent most of her adult life as a designer in the consumer crafts industry and who now writes a humorous amateur sleuth mystery series featuring a magazine crafts editor, it should come as no surprise that I believe we shouldn’t forget about the “A”.
Creativity is a skill that needs to be nurtured in order for our kids to grow into the leaders of tomorrow. Solving problems and resolving conflicts require creative thinking, and art stimulates our creative juices. Although children are born with wonderful curiosity and creativity, very early on both tend to be squelched. With outside influences trying to make children conform to a prescribed norm, our homes should be a center for our kids to have the freedom to express themselves. Sometimes it’s just way better to color outside the lines.
The more kids see their parents engaging in creative pastimes, the more likely they’ll want to join in. So step away from your smartphones and social media, and spend some time with paint and pompoms, even if it’s only an hour a week. Lead by example. Keep basic craft materials handy for those “I’m bored; there’s nothing to do” days. Forget about the mess your kids will make. We all sometimes need the freedom to make messes.
The biggest mistake people make when crafting is tackling a project beyond their abilities. Remember, Da Vinci didn’t wake up one morning and decide to paint the Mona Lisa. It took him years to develop the skill. Don’t expect to create a beautiful quilt or sampler if you can’t sew a button on a shirt. Start small with simple projects that require little or no skill. Once you feel comfortable, you can move on to more advanced projects. There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction that can be derived from creating something out of nothing, no matter how small or rudimentary the project.
Once you discover the joy of crafting, you’ll wonder how you ever existed without it. Then you can spread the word, encouraging others to craft. Consider a crafting birthday party for your children, either at home or your local craft store, rather than a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. And instead of buying another video game the next time your child is invited to a birthday party, purchase a craft kit or craft supplies.
The wonderful thing about crafting is that most crafts require no innate talent or a degree from an art school. Anyone can craft. In Drop Dead Ornaments, the latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, I’ve featured several ornament projects that anyone can do, even if you don’t know the difference between a glue gun and a Glock. And none of them require either a glue gun or a Glock!
You Can Channel Anastasia for Christmas
By Lois Winston
At the back of Drop Dead Ornaments you’ll find directions for making some of Anastasia’s easy glass ball Christmas ornaments. As a special treat to KRL readers, here’s another easy Christmas ornament project.
Many people find it hard to part with Christmas cards. Some hold special memories. Others are just too pretty to toss during the post-holiday cleanup. So why not turn these cards into ornaments? This project is so easy to make that even young children can take part. So consider some family crafting time for a rainy or snowy afternoon.
There are no rules to making these ornaments other than to be creative and have fun. Use craft materials you have on hand or pick up various items at your local craft or big box store. For the patterned paper, you can use wrapping paper, scrapbooking paper, or even wallpaper remnants.
rick-rack, braid, or lace
assorted decorative items (small buttons, pompoms, charms, flat-backed acrylic gemstones, etc.)
glue stick, tacky glue, gem glue
Trim the front from the back of the card, then trim the card to the desired size.
Cut a piece of printed paper slightly larger than the card. Using a glue stick, glue the card centered over the paper. Next, glue the printed paper onto the index stock.
When the glue is dry, trim the index stock even with the printed paper.
Decorate the cards with assorted trims, using tacky glue for pompoms and gem glue for buttons, charms, and gemstones.
Samples shown were decorated as follows:
Gold braid and a white snowflake charm were used to decorate the Reindeer card ornament.
The Bird card ornament omitted trim around the perimeter. Small red pompoms were glued over the printed holly berries on card.
The Happy Holidays ornament was trimmed with green rick-rack and embellished with small red gemstones.
To enter to win an ebook copy of Drod Dead Ornaments, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “ornaments,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 1, 2018. If entering via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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