Audiobook Review: <i>Murder on the Orient Express</i>, Read by Kenneth Branagh Audiobook Review: Murder on the Orient Express, Read by Kenneth Branagh Danielle Prielipp Read Danielle Prielipp's review! Review: <i>Stealing Ghosts</i> by Lance Charnes Review: Stealing Ghosts by Lance Charnes David Cranmer Read David Cranmer's review! <i>Killin Pace</i>: Excerpt Killin Pace: Excerpt Douglas Schofield A high-octane, heart-pounding tale set in Everglades City, Florida, and Sicily, Italy. Review: <i>A Season to Lie</i> by Emily Littlejohn Review: A Season to Lie by Emily Littlejohn Amber Keller Read Amber Keller's review!
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Showing posts by: Sandra Mangan click to see Sandra Mangan's profile
Oct 29 2013 9:00am

Fresh Meat: Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By by Elizabeth J. Duncan

Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By by Elizabeth J. DuncanNever Laugh as a Hearse Goes By is the fifth book featuring Welsh salon owner and amateur detective Penny Brannigan, who's facing murder at a clerical conference (available October 29, 2013).

Elizabeth J. Duncan's series of books featuring Penny Brannigan have garnered awards and attracted legions of fans. Never Laugh as a Hearse Goes By is the fifth to feature the Canadian ex-pat manicurist and amateur sleuth Penny—and the first time I've made her acquaintance.

This book is the epitome of cozy and will definitely appeal to lovers of the genre. The stories may be set very much in the here and now, but they owe a great debt of gratitude to Agatha Christie and her creation, Miss Marple.

Penny lives in North Wales, in the fictional market town of Llanelen, where she co-owns the Spa, an extremely popular beautician's business. She is a talented artist, and also spends her time beautifying the nails of a range of local clients—that is, when she isn't getting herself inextricably involved in solving crime.

[You know, as you will...]

Oct 5 2013 3:00pm

Undercover Artist: Loren Kantor, Noir Woodcutter

Lauren Bacall woodcut by artist Loren Kantor

Loren Kantor is a Los Angeles-based woodcut artist whose interest began in the mid-1980s.

He recalls: “I attended a German Expressionist art show at LA County Museum and I encountered the woodcut prints and paintings of George Grosz, Kathe Kollwitz and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. I was mesmerized. I loved the stark lines and bold imagery.

”I was also blown away by the dark subject matter. Characters expressed emotional angst and images focused on the shadowy and unpleasant aspects of society.“

Loren was hooked; ”I was writing screenplays in those days and I never envisioned attempting woodcut carving myself. But the images remained in my subconscious and whenever I saw a woodcut print I felt a sense of excitement.“

He became an Assistant Director and worked on films, commercials and television shows through the 1980s and 90s. And in the early 1990s, he made a move which once again brought woodcutting into his orbit.

He says: ”That's when I moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco. I lived near the San Francisco Mission District, which housed small art galleries on every block. I came across a new generation of woodcut and linocut artists, most of whom were Latino. Again, I was enthralled.“

But once again, the idea was filed away for future reference after Loren moved back to Los Angeles, met his future wife and got married. ”Several years ago, my wife surprised me with a woodcutting set for my birthday. I checked out a few online tutorial videos and I dove in. The carving process was difficult at first. I cut myself often, the blocks were ragtag and I felt like a child with his first set of fingerpaints. Before long, I got the hang of it.“

Director Billy Wilder, woodcut by Loren Kantor

Then, two of Loren's great loves came together: ”I've always been attracted to vintage Film Noir movies. During college, I took a film noir class and immersed myself in the classics: Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, The Third Man. I fell in love with the black and white photography, the sinister shadows, the cynical heroes and enticing femme fatales. I realized the imagery of film noir was a perfect match for the carved lines of a woodcut.

“We needed art for our walls at home, so I decided to carve images of my favorite film noir personalities. I carved Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, James Cagney, Peter Lorre and director Billy Wilder...”

[From classic noir to modern, dark visions...]

Aug 5 2013 12:00pm

Fresh Meat: Justice for Sara by Erica Spindler

Justice for Sara, a romantic thriller by Erica SpindlerJustice for Sara by Erica Spindler is a romantic thriller about a young woman who returns, after a decade of hiding, to her hometown to solve her sister's murder. (available August 6, 2013).

She's the queen of the romantic thriller, with a raft of awards to her name, so a new Erica Spindler novel is always something to look forward to.

Her books are not for fans of hard-boiled, noir or heavyweight crime novels, but if you like your murder mystery with a frisson of romance, then Spindler is definitely your girl.

Justice For Sara is the story of Katherine (Kat) McCall. Orphaned as a teenager, Kat lives with her older sister, Sara, in Liberty, Louisiana. The girls are heiresses to a huge fortune, although 17-year-old Kat won't receive her inheritance until she reaches her 18th birthday—a fact which is causing loud and long arguments between herself and Sara, who worries that her little sister is running with the wrong crowd and dabbling in drugs and underage sex.

So when Sara is found, bludgeoned to death with Kat's baseball bat, the local police are convinced she is the culprit.

Luckily, a jury thought differently, and now, 10 years later, an innocent Kat is back in Liberty—and bent on discovering the truth.

The townsfolk don't exactly welcome her with open arms, but luckily the hunky local police Sergeant Luke Tanner is willing to help in her search for justice —thus adding the love interest that make Erica Spindler's books such a hit with female readers.

[Sounds promising so far...]

Jul 9 2013 9:00am

Fresh Meat: The Twelfth Department by William Ryan

The Twelfth Department by William RyanThe Twelfth Department by William Ryan is the 3rd in a historic series set in Stalinist Russia featuring investigator Captain Alexei Korolev (available July 9, 2013).

The year is 1937, and Captain Alexei Korolev of the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department is facing his toughest case yet.

And he must tread carefully, because the Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del (NKVD)—the infamous law enforcement agency of The Communist Party—are scrutinising everyone, watching their every move and thought. There is no room for error in 1930s Russia.

Korolev is put in an extremely unwelcome spotlight when he is called upon  in to investigate the death of a scientist from a mysterious human behaviour research unit. And to complicate matters, the body has been found at one of the city’s most prestigious addresses.

[Where prestige is measured by closeness to the Kremlin...]

Jun 8 2013 9:00am

Undercover Artist: Katie Stainer and her Bibliophilic Origami

Tiny paper sculpture jewelry by Katie StainerAs a child, I used to make “fortune tellers” out of a square of paper – remember them? It was my only real experience of what I now know is called origami. And if that word has conjured up crude swan and rabbit shapes, then think again... because Katie Stainer takes the skill to a whole new level. And books play a huge part in her work too.

Katie is based in Nottingham – in the UK's Midlands region, an up and coming area for contemporary craft and design. Originally from the historic city of Bath, she found inspiration in her gorgeous surroundings.

She explains: “I was surrounded by breathtaking architecture and natural beauty, and always had a fascination with the asthetic. My childhood passions leaned towards music and creative writing before I finally discovered my love of art and design. I completed a BA(Hons) in Decorative Arts at Nottingham Trent University in 2011 and haven't looked back!”

A designer maker specialising in unique origami jewellery and sculpture created using recycled and reclaimed books, Katie has a long-established love of reading.

[She truly consumes literature]

May 20 2013 8:30am

Fresh Meat: Graveland by Alan Glynn

Graveland by Alan Glynn is a thriller set in the world of Wall Street high finance (available May 28, 2013).

Set in the here and now, Graveland is very much a book of its time. It centers on the current financial crisis—and much of the action takes place in and around Wall Street.

The story begins as the CEO of a top Wall Street investment bank is gunned down while jogging in Central Park, and this death is soon followed by another, when a highly successful hedge fund manager is shot and killed outside a glitzy Upper West Side restaurant. Were the pair chosen as orchestrated terrorist targets or is plain old coincidence to blame? Investigative journalist Ellen Dorsey has an entirely different theory—and her search for the truth will take her into some decidedly murky waters.

[Greed is not good. In fact, it can get you killed...]

May 13 2013 8:30am

Undercover Artist: Kate Bufton, Transformer of Books

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, well with Kate Bufton that is certainly true! She sees books as much more than a mere storage area for words and ideas, but as the starting point for some incredible pieces of artwork.

Based in Warrington, in the North West of England, Kate says her creative side was nurtured by her teachers at school and college. “It was only at university when I started to realise that art and craft are so closely linked, yet so far apart. I consider myself both an artisan and a crafts maker,” she notes.

Kate creates amazing shapes and designs by manipulating old and unwanted books through a variety of cuts and folds. “I love manipulating the pages of the book and transforming the books from a carrier of text to an object of art,” she explains. “The pages take on a whole new and innovative life, forcing the books to be open and the pages to be displayed for all to see.”

[Her life is an open book...]

Apr 17 2013 11:00am

Undercover Artist: Jodie Rogers, Sewn By The Sea

Most arts and crafts are a mystery to me, but there are plenty of folk out there who are putting their talents to good use. And when their work includes old books, then I’m definitely hooked!

Upcycler Jodie Rogers, also known as Sewn By The Sea, lives at the seaside in Leigh on Sea in Essex in England.

Mum-of-four Jodie comes from a very artistic family, and arts and crafts was something they did together as she was growing up. After leaving school, she studied for a national diploma in fashion and design and A-level art. Then came motherhood, but she kept up with crafts as a hobby. Now that her two older children are at school and the younger two at play group, she has the time to turn her work into a business.

[Time is on her side...]

Apr 5 2013 8:30am

Undercover Artist: Louise Firchau, the Paper Panda

Books. They take us to places we never dreamt of going; introduce us to people we may love or loathe; inspire, educate, thrill, and move us. They may also provide a starting point for great artwork—and I’ve been seeking out craftsfolk whose love of literature has developed into something amazing...

My idea of recycling books is to pass them on to friends or give them to the charity shop. Which just shows how little imagination I have, because out there in the world of arts and crafts there are people inspired by old paperbacks and hardback novels.

[We envision something beautiful...]

Feb 27 2013 9:30am

Criminal Records: On a Crime Fiction Soundtrack

Just lately, I’ve been pondering the reasons behind my apparent predilection for all things crime fiction.

As a kid, I remember staring with amazement at the covers of my Mother’s library books. Invariably, they showed a discarded gun, carefully posed body, or spatters of blood—which my brother and I thought was hilarious. We were always teasing her about “Mum’s Murders.”

I couldn’t see the attraction then, and contented myself with the likes of The Famous Five and Nancy Drew—both gave me a grounding in the world of detection, but apart from a desire to drink lashings of ginger beer, they didn’t take me any further along the path of criminal enlightenment.

I suppose both played a part in making me a crime fiction aficionado, but throughout my ruminations I still felt there was something I’d forgotten—the missing link, as you might term it.

[Maybe if you hum a few bars... heh, bars...]