chez_jae: (Books)
Today, I finished reading Give Up the Ghost by Juliet Blackwell. It's part of the author's "Haunted Home Renovation" mystery series, and now I'm all caught up with that series. Yay!

Contractor Mel Turner is called to the scene...of a grand old Victorian that was gutted and modernized on the inside. Seems the renovations stirred up some angry spirits, and now the homeowners are unable to sell. They want Mel to restore parts of the home to appease the spirits, in accordance to what a psychic advised. The job isn't Mel's cup of tea, but she's horrified by what was done to the house, and she agrees to take on the project. She arranges to meet with the psychic, only to find the woman dead when she arrives at her apartment. On the scene is the psychic's distraught brother, Landon. Mel can't shake the notion that Chantelle's death is somehow connected to Crosswinds, the old Victorian.

In the meantime, Mel's friend Luz asks her to come scope out a rental house that some of her students were living in until a ghost scared them out of it. As a result, Mel finds herself investigating two separate hauntings in an effort to find some peace for the living. Along the way, she keeps encountering Landon, and Mel finds herself reluctantly attracted to him. Not helping matters is the fact that her boyfriend, Graham, is out of town on business. Mel is confused and guilty by her feelings for Landon, but it may not matter if she can't uncover a killer before she's the next victim.

Fun story, and with quite a lot going on. I appreciated getting to see more of Luz, as well as Tricia, another friend of Mel's. Mel herself is getting more confident in her ability to sense, see, and speak to ghosts. Not sure that I liked the fact that the author seemed to be pushing Graham out of the picture in favor of a new, shiny love interest for Mel.

Favorite lines:
♦ Dog, for his part, looked ready to figure things out. Or maybe he was hoping for a snack, it was hard to tell.

I like Dog's character!
♦ I'd known her for years, and she'd never tried to have me killed before.
♦ It was a phantom food fight and I was on the losing end.

Funniest scene I've read in ages!

Mel's love life is none of my business, so in spite of my misgivings about that particular plot point, this one gets five stars:

*****
chez_jae: (Books)
Apparently, reading books is the new job.

:D

Between last night and this evening, I polished off Keeper of the Castle by Juliet Blackwell. The book is part of her "Haunted Home Renovation" mystery series, featuring contractor (and reluctant ghost buster) Melanie "Mel" Turner.

While Mel is struggling to find enough work to keep her construction crew busy, her boyfriend Graham is busy at the site where an old Scottish monastery is being reconstructed in Marin County, after having been dismantled in Scotland and shipped over. The crew on the project is frightened because of paranormal activity. Graham asks Mel to come look at the site with him to see if she can connect with any ghosts. During Mel's visit, a building inspector is killed, and the construction crew's foreman is arrested for murder. The billionaire who's funding the project, Ellis Elrich, hires Mel to come in and take over the reconstruction. Due to the distance from her home, Elrich invites Mel to stay at his estate during the process.

Mel doesn't believe the former foreman is a murderer, and she encounters a plethora of suspects, both on-site and at Elrich's estate. There are protesters at the gates to the estate, deadly looking bodyguards, a personal assistant who would do anything for Mr Elrich, an an eccentric expert in historic reconstruction. Also, there's the ghost of a Scottish warrior who brandishes a broadsword and chases people out of the tower room. Not only does Mel feel compelled to unravel the mystery, both of the recent murder and the ancient haunting, but Graham is injured on-site, her (former) stepson gets arrested for vandalism, and now her father has a smart phone and is responding to her voice mails with text messages.

Fun and fast moving. I had a difficult time putting the book down last night (I took it to bed with me!). I adore Mel's character. She's hard-working, tough enough to handle being a woman in a male-dominated profession, yet still uncertain of her relationship with Graham. She's also determined to speak with the ghost of the Scottish warrior, in spite of her own fears. The plot was excellent and introduced several potential suspects. I didn't quite figure it out, although I did give a passing thought to the culprit before glossing over that person and seeking elsewhere.

Favorite lines:
♦ I was the opposite of the kind of person you wanted in your foxhole when hell started raining down.
♦ Dad, Stan, and Caleb looked at me like I'd lost my mind. Dog looked at me as though waiting for me to drop some food, but that was his typical stare.
♦ Was I being hunky punked?


Fabulous book, five stars!

*****
chez_jae: (Books)
After I realized I had only read one book in Juliet Blackwell's "Haunted Home Renovation" mystery series, I picked up another. I finished Home for the Haunting this evening.

Mel Turner is spending the weekend doing volunteer work. She can't help but admire the lovely, old home across the street, that is, until she sees ghosts looking out the windows at her. Mel does her best to focus on the job at hand, but when a body is discovered adjacent to the property she's working on, she finds herself at the center of yet another murder investigation. This time, however, the SFPD has unofficially asked for Mel's assistance. While Mel is trying to run her business and track down leads, her older sister blows into town and causes even more turmoil for Mel.

The story was fun. It was interesting to see how a 25 year-old murder was tied into the current happenings. Mel's feelings of inadequacy in regards to her sister were touching, especially when Cookie revealed that she was jealous of Mel. Ah, sibling rivalry! There was less actual interaction with ghosts, and more contact with real, live people. Ha ha!

Favorite line: You know your job is tough when you find yourself escaping into a Port o' Potty for a minute alone.
You know your book is going to be good when that is the first line!

Very good! Four stars:

****
chez_jae: (Books)
I began reading Murder on the House late yesterday, took it to bed with me to continue reading, then finished it today. It's part of Juliet Blackwell's "Haunted Home Renovation" series.

Contractor Melanie "Mel" Turner has been asked to bid on restoring an historic home in San Francisco. It's allegedly haunted, and the owners want to turn it into a haunted B&B. When she first arrives at the house, the door is opened by Annabelle, a young girl, who leads her to an empty parlor. Mel soon learns that Annabelle is one of the ghosts, and the owners are astounded that she was able to see the girl so soon after arriving. Mel is eager to renovate the historic old home, but the catch is, she is expected to spend the night in the house, along with her competition, Josh Avery of Avery Builders. Mel brings along friends Stephen and Claire for support.

While there, a few small odd things happen. The elderly home owner, Mrs Bernini, goes out to walk in her gardens. Not long after, toys begin flying down the stairwell, and everyone flees the house in fear. They stop outside to regroup, and Mel sees Mrs Bernini walking along the pathway. When no one else can see her, Mel gets a bad feeling. All of them go to the garden and find the old woman at the bottom of an unused well.

With a murder investigation ongoing, renovations are put on hold, but Mel wants another chance to get into the home to try speaking to Annabelle again. She also takes the opportunity to question neighbors and friends of Mrs Bernini to see who may have had a motive to kill her.

I really enjoyed this book. This time, the ghosts weren't terrifying, but the mystery of what happened to Annabelle's family, as well as the mystery surrounding Mrs Bernini's death, was compelling. It was fun to reconnect with familiar characters and meet some new ones. I loved Mel's sarcastic wit, whether she was speaking to someone or simply thinking it.

Favorite lines:
♦ "You're right--the only thing that would have improved this evening would have been me shooting at people."
♦ "I don't suppose...I mean you wouldn't be interested in going over to the Bernini house with me, would you?" / "The haunted house you ran screaming into the night to escape? The one where a little old lady was killed last night?" / "That would be the one."
♦ "Yes, but I have an evil plan. I'll neglect my own work in favor of protecting you, and then when I go out of business, you'll feel so guilty you'll be compelled to sleep with me."


Excellent! Five stars!

*****
chez_jae: (Books)
I finished reading Dead Bolt last night, which is the second book in Juliet Blackwell's "Haunted Home Renovation" mystery series.

General contractor Melanie "Mel" Turner has seen enough of ghosts, so when strange things begin occurring as she and her crew are renovating an old Queen Anne Victorian in San Francisco, Mel isn't pleased. In addition to the ghosts, her crew is trying to work around the family, who insist on remaining in the home during the process, while some of the neighbors are less than pleased with the noise and activity. When Mel's father discovers a dead body next door, Mel is unwittingly dragged into the investigation. She is convinced that the home's history had something to do with the recent murder, and she begins to research the family who built the home.

This book was quite a bit spookier than the first. This was no friendly ghost who needed his murder solved; it was multiple, malicious spirits. The story was fast-paced, and Mel was often running all over San Francisco, both for her work and for her sideline investigation.

Favorite line: In general, death threats were a bad thing. Death threats from the beyond? Worse.

Five stars!

*****
chez_jae: (Books)
Earlier this evening, I finished the book If Walls Could Talk, which is the first installment in Juliet Blackwell's "Haunted Home Renovation" mystery series. I had some other books in the series, then realized I didn't have the first one, so I bought it.

:D

Melanie Turner has taken over her father's construction business of renovating historic homes in San Francisco. When visiting a run-down Pacific Heights mansion, Mel and her friend Matt encounter one of Matt's colleagues, who has been seriously injured. Kenneth later dies of his injuries, and then his ghost begins appearing to Mel.

Although Mel wasn't sure she wanted to take on the project, it seems someone has already filed for permits under her company's name. In an effort to find out answers, Mel begins making the rounds and asking questions. Her only clue to the crime may be an old box that she found hidden in the walls of the mansion. The police aren't treating Kenneth's death as a homicide, so it's up to Mel to find out who killed him and why.

I enjoyed the story. Mel is an engaging heroine. I appreciated that she was older (39), and not a svelte waif. She has a wonderful, wry wit, and I liked reading about her interactions with other characters, including her father, (former) stepson, and even Kenneth.

Favorite line:
"Wait a minute," I said. "The dog saw you."
"So?"
"So maybe I'm not crazy, after all."
"Or maybe the dog's a figment of your imagination, too--ever think of that?"
"Very comforting, Kenneth. Thank you."


Four stars:

****

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