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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review - Keeper of the Castle

Today I review the next in the Haunted Home Renovations Mystery series.  I have reviewed each in this series from the debut issue.  The Fourth, Home for the Haunting (click here), the third, Murder on the House (click here),  the second book, Deadbolt (click here), and the debut book, If Walls Could Talk (click here).
  I have had the great honor of two interviews with the author, the recent interview (click here), and the older author interview (click here). 

Author: Juliet Blackwell

Copyright: December 2014 (Signet) 336 pgs

Series: 5th in Haunted Home Renovation Mystery series

Sensuality: mild kissing

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Cozy

Main Characters: Mel Turner, woman construction renovation Owner/Operator

Setting: Modern day, San Francisco

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Mel needs some big paying jobs to keep Turner Construction going and continue employing her construction team.  Her boyfriend Graham wants her to  be the general over a large project.  The project is reconstructing an ancient monastery brought over from Scotland stone-by-stone.  The project is for a motivational speaker, Ellis Elrich, who will use the reconstructed monastery as his new retreat center.  When Mel is touring the project, she finds the county building inspector dead and two ghosts that followed the building.  In spite of the murder, she joins the team and finds protestors outside motivational speaker's home, a man from Scotland wanting to repatriate the monastery back to Scotland, Florian Libole, a dodgy but famous historic building consultant, potentially the wrong man taken into custody for the murder, and too many things that don't add up on the project. 

There is a mini-mystery involving the ghosts.  Why would there be a Spanish female ghost, the Red Lady, in a Scottish monastery, and why does she envelope anyone who comes close with overwhelming sadness and hunger?  Then there is the Scottish highlander who is very confused about what he is supposed to be guarding, but takes his sword and charges any man that comes near.  Why is this ghost so confused and how can Mel get him settled?  Now add the rumor of a curse attached to the ancient building and another that there is a treasure with the building!  These were interesting and added to the overall dilemmas of the construction site and may figure into the murder.

Mel Turner is a unique heroine who can hold her own on a construction site with a gang of men, and faces ghosts with courage but is afraid of a commitment with her boyfriend.  Graham is the romantic interest who at least accepts Mel's talent with ghosts, which is a huge plus.  Alicia Withers, Ellis Elrich's personal assistant is a breakout star.  She is very reserved, even uptight initially but her true self is eventually brought forward.  I can see a future for her teamed with Mel, so I hope she will be in more books.  Caleb, Mel's step-son from her failed marriage, is always a delight along with her dad and his business partner Stan. 

The Wakefield property with the mis-matched Victorian house and Spanish Revival interior next to the Scottish highland monastery being built on the land gave us a new setting without leaving the state even.  It has a quirky mix that provides delicious gothic touches all around.  The plot plays off of the Hearst castle and how structures would be brought over from Europe and reconstructed by the wealthy in the States. A touchy subject between countries and what if there were something of high value that was brought over with the building?  The pacing was steady although not fast.  I would say on par for a cozy particularly when many new characters are involved.

The climax occurred suddenly, rather surprised that *bam* you are confronting the killer. That felt a little rushed and was resolved equally as quickly.  I would have liked more time to get to the climax, some build up so it was more suspenseful, and a little more tension before it is all over.  The wrap-up was fine in general, but I would really have liked to know more on how the ghosts did with the solutions Mel arranged to give them peace.

Overall I found this yet another highly enjoyable adventure with Mel that gave us a Scottish fling without leaving California.

Rating:  Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

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Need some holiday crafts to do with the kidos, or want to make some ornaments for your tree or a simple gift?  Try these ideas out.

Mini Chalkboard Christmas Ornaments

3-inch wooden disc
Flat or satin finish acrylic crafts paint
Foam brush or flat-bristle paintbrush
Dove or other Christmas motif (see
next page)
White paper
White, wax-free transfer paper
Ballpoint pen
White gel ink pen
Paper towel
Spray sealer
Fast-drying clear crafts glue
Pearl cotton thread or ribbon
for hanger
Scrap of felt or cardstock

1. Paint the wooden disc; let dry.
2. Print the motif onto the white paper. Cut around the motif to create a circle or square the same width as the painted disc. Cut a circle or square from the transfer paper the same width as the painted disc. Place the transfer paper, carbon side down, on the painted disc. Place the motif, right side up, on the transfer paper. Using the ballpoint pen, trace the outline of the motif, then “color” in the inside.
3. Remove the papers from the painted disc. Use the gel ink pen to darken the transferred image. Work in small areas, filling them in and then blotting the wet ink with a paper towel for a chalky look; let dry.
4. Spray the disc with sealer; let dry. Glue the thread or ribbon to the back of the ornament, forming a hanging loop. Trace around the disc onto the felt or cardstock; cut out. Glue the felt or cardstock circle to the back of the ornament for a finished look.

Pattern for the ornaments -- right click on image and save.  Enlarge as needed.  This idea, directions and pattern came from Better Homes and Gardens website (click here)

Paper Ornaments
There's no need to get intricate when decorating your Christmas tree. For the easiest ornament idea ever, simply cut ornament shapes from patterned paper (or how about from copied book pages onto colored or decorative paper) and set eyelets in the top for hanging.  You can add touches of glitter glue, ribbons, buttons, foil, artificial poinsettias or ivy etc.  They won't take up as much space to store either!

Check here for more DIY ornament ideas (click here).

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