Home For The Haunting By Juliet Blackwell: Review/Guest Post/Giveaway

Dec 7, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Cynthia Chow, Fantasy & Fangs, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Cynthia Chow
& Juliet Blackwell

We are happy this week to have a review of Juliet Blackwell’s latest supernatural mystery, Home For The Haunting. We also have a fun guest post from Juliet where she talks about how her own background connects to that of her main character. Details on how to enter to win a copy of this book at the end of this post.

Home for the Haunting: A Haunted Home Renovation Mystery By Juliet Blackwell
Review by Cythinia Chow

In the spirit of goodwill, and a less-than-sober New Year’s resolution to be more charitable, has contractor Mel Turner volunteering to be “House Captain” for Neighbors Together, a charitable organization that renovates homes for the disabled and elderly. What this means is that poor Mel is not just wielding a hammer on an occasional Saturday, but is instead answering the endless nonsensical questions of earnest but extremely unqualified and very inexperienced volunteers. A further ill-advised wager with her mostly retired former contractor father has them competing to see who can successfully complete their projects first, and the crafty Bill Turner has managed to assemble a team of dedicated workers, while Mel is sentenced with community service-ordered hungover frat boys and well-manicured sorority sisters.

Months of inspections and planning culminate in one weekend of volunteers swarming the homes, and this means that Mel finds herself hiding in Port-o-Potties for a few minutes of respite. Endless requests from Monty, the wheelchair-bound former motorcyclist whose home is being fitted for his disable status, have Mel at the end of the rope of her patience as she struggles to find sympathy. Much more disconcerting, though, is that once again Mel’s status as a “ghost whisperer” comes into play, when she witnesses neighboring spectral activity and the more earthly presence of a body stuffed into the neighboring shed.

The presence of local youths who chant songs around the neighboring home that is declared to be the “Murder House” due to the tragic deaths, definitely ensures that Mel’s special ghost communicating skills will come into play. This also allows the author to share her knowledge of San Francisco history and fascinating lore, from to the “wilderness” of Martinez just minutes from the city to the cutesy town of San Quentin, known more for its prison than its quaintness.

Mel’s reputation is well known enough to the point that the San Francisco Police Department requests that Mel aid in their investigation as a “ghost consultant.” This makes her boyfriend and Green Contractor, Graham, a little testy and his environmental renovations already often place him at odds with Mel’s more historically accurate concerns. The arrival of Mel’s perfect sister Cookie also disrupts Mel’s peace of mind, as watching her father dote upon Cookie drives Mel crazy. Mel may wear vintage dresses with construction boots to work sites, but she will never have a pristine manicure or wield flirtatious charm like a weapon to get what she wants as brilliantly as Cookie.

The author of the Witchcraft Mystery series, as well as one half of the Art Lover’s Mystery Series, Juliet Blackwell continues to craft enjoyable and fun novels with a woo-woo aspect that is surprisingly minimal. Ghosts appear, but they do not interact with Mel. The dialogue is witty and the relationship between Mel and her boyfriend is believable, as they negotiate miscommunications and uncertainty, mostly due to Mel’s inability to commit and her vague plans to move to Paris. Mel may not always behave in the most mature manner possible, but she can be forgiven by the family-induced insanity and the fact that ghosts now seem to pop in and out of her of her life all too frequently. The fourth in the series remains fresh, as the author expands on this very likable character, who somehow retains her overall mental health despite the chaos that surrounds her.

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

The Haunted Writing LIfe of Juliet Blackwell

I don’t watch TV. This is not a moral stance; I just never have enough time in the day, and I’m too cheap to pay a monthly fee. Maybe it’s because I grew up when television was free (and limited to about four channels), so I’m just not used to it. Also, I get confused with all the remotes. Me and technology? Not a great match.

But the other day I was in a hotel room. Me, alone in a hotel room with a TV and an easy-to-use remote? Dangerous! Especially when I discovered HGTV. There was this perky, lovely blonde woman who drove everyone crazy by insisting they keep all the old stuff in a house and revamp it, rather than tossing everything and replacing it with new stuff. When she asked a helper to hoist her into a dumpster so she could rummage through the cool stuff thrown out of an old house, I was hooked.

I have totally done that.

I felt a definite kinship. Except for the fact that she’s perky and blonde, we’re practically twins. Or perhaps I should say she’s practically twins with Mel Turner, protagonist in my Haunted Home Renovation series. Mel’s not blonde and she’s not particularly perky, but she certainly does share the love for old buildings. Of course, in Mel’s case, her fondness for antique architecture comes with an ability to see ghosts in the attics, the basements, behind the walls.

Juliet Blackwell

I worked for many years doing decorative painting (faux finishes, gold gilding, murals, borders, wood-graining, etc) on historic renovations. Later, my responsibilities grew and I found myself acting as project manager for several residential projects, and then worked with the Rebuilding Together organization for seven years as “house captain.” Through those experiences, I learned about the construction industry, how to build (and re-build) a house, issues with city permits and safety codes, how to deal with clients and employees, and how to oversee a crew.

I draw on all those experiences when I write about Mel Turner, General Contractor, in the Haunted Home Renovation series. As for the ghost sightings…well, that’s a tough one. I enjoy reading about old ghostly legends, and there are plenty of those to be found in San Francisco. I’ve never actually seen a ghost myself…but I do believe I’ve felt one or two. And in my experience, it’s hard to find a construction worker on old buildings who wouldn’t ‘fess up to the same, after a beer or two.

Are you surprised? After all, old buildings hold whispers of energy from all those who have gone before. The walls have seen lives being lived; the floors have carried people through their journeys here on earth; the ceilings have provided them with shelter. And all have stood silent witness to whatever happiness or tribulations, any love or violence that has taken place. We know humans emanate energies of all types–physical, psychological and perhaps also spiritual. So is it so hard to imagine these leave some sort of energy trace?

I have trailed along with ghost hunters and have spent time alone in a house where a murder occurred. I have been with others in an otherwise “empty” house when we all heard careful, methodical footsteps overhead. I have met so many otherwise perfectly normal, sane folks who have intricate stories to tell that I can’t not believe them.

Many people claim all these sensations are due to the creaks and moans of old timbers, the strange magnetic pulls under the earth, the “fear boxes” created by metal pipes and wires, or by gas leaks or the power of suggestion.

Maybe they’re right. Maybe the ghosts are all in our minds and the history of a building means nothing at all. But I believe that, at the very least, the fact that our minds are cast back to the lives that were led in a historic building, the grace or simplicity of the built-ins and moldings, the skill of stone masons and carpenters, and the all-too-human convoluted tales that took place therein…that’s proof enough of residual spirits for me.

So Mel Turner, that perky woman on HGTV, and I, will continue to understand that real old wood is almost always a better alternative to plastic or pressboard–that it will last and can be mended, the way vinyl and glued veneers cannot. We will carry on in salvage yards and, yes, even dumpsters to find just the right fixture or design element for a historic home. We will keep on fixing up buildings to find their hidden grace and design, and to relish in the spirits we find there, whether they’re all in our heads or not.

I hope you’ll join us! Or at least join Mel Turner in the Haunted Home Renovation series…or heck, watch that perky woman on TV, she’s a hoot!

You can learn more about Juliet on her website.

To enter to win a copy of Home For The Haunting, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Haunting,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 14, 2013. U.S. residents only.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

Juliet Blackwell is the New York Times and national bestselling author of the Witchcraft Mystery series, featuring a powerful witch with a vintage clothes store in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood. She also writes the Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series, starring Mel Turner, a failed anthropologist who reluctantly takes over her father’s high-end construction company…and starts seeing ghosts behind the walls. Juliet currently resides in a happily haunted house in Oakland, California, where she is a muralist, portrait painter, and recipient of the overly zealous attentions of her neighbor’s black cat, who seems to imagine himself her new familiar. Juliet served two-terms as president of Northern California Sisters in Crime. Visit her at www.julietblackwell.net, www.facebook.com/JulietBlackwellAuthor, or on Twitter @JulietBlackwell

19 Comments

  1. This sounds like a great read! My husband and I once renovated a house built in 1782. Lots of work!

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  2. Sounds like an interesting series

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  3. I have been in an old house and there was a room that when you walked into it the temperature was about 50 degrees colder than the rest of the house. We rented the house for a very short period of time. This sounds like a book I would love to read.

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  4. Interesting, sounds like a good book! Thanks!

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  5. Please please please add my name to this drawing. Ms Juliet is one of (if not the number 1) my favorite authors.
    Her books bring me joy. and I have worked on habitat type job sites so I know I will relate to this book!

    Our present home is from 1864 and I am sure we have spirits here. (So far friendly)

    Reply
  6. A signed copy? What a great giveaway!

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  7. I think im behind by one on Juliet’s Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series. Last one I read was Dead Bolt. Not sure how I missed Murder on the House. So I’m going grab that one & read while I wait on this giveaway chance. ;). Thanks for the review/interview and giveaway chance.

    Reply
  8. Murder and ghosts! What more does a girl need? 😛
    I have this book on my MUST read list and really looking forward to it.

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  9. Love this series!

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  10. I recently started reading this series by Juliet Blackwell and I absolutely love it! 🙂

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  11. A charming interview with Juliet Blackwell. Home for the Haunting will assuredly be a narrative I’m looking forward to reading. Thanks for the possibility of winning a copy.

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  12. I have read every single one of your books and can’t wait to read this one!

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  13. Would love to win this, sounds great

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  14. What a wonderful giveaway. Thanks for this chance.

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  15. I would love to win this book by Juliet Blackwell! I love her “Witchcraft” series and I am sure I will love this one to since I like cozy mysteries.

    Reply
  16. I love her work and have been collecting them steadily after I found the first one of her Lily Ivory books, her writing is brilliant and I love the haunted houses series. It really brings to light some of my favorite types of ghost stories. 😀

    J?

    Reply
  17. I have been enjoying this series. I still have a couple of them to read, once the holidays are behind me I hope to catch up.

    Reply
  18. We have a winner
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher

    Reply

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