Cozy Wednesday With Jennie Bentley (Great Giveaway Too!)

Welcome to the first Cozy Wednesday at Escape With Dollycas.  I am so excited Jennie is here to kick things off! The second book in her Do-It-Yourself Mystery Series, Spackled and Spooked was one of the first books I reviewed over at Dollycas’s Thoughts.  I have loved this series from the start and Flipped Out has quickly become my favorite.

Please help me give a warm welcome to Jennie Bentley!

Hi Jennie!

Hi Everyone, I am happy to be here as Dollycas settles into her new home, a major DIY project!


Last week, the fifth installment in the Do It Yourself home renovation mysteries was released by Berkley Prime Crime. It’s called Flipped Out a title it shares with the fictitious television show in the book, the one my main characters – designer Avery Baker and handyman Derek Ellis – are filming a segment of.

In real estate terms, a ‘flip’ is a house you buy and sell in quick succession, often without even closing on the sale before passing it off to someone else. It’s also used to describe a quickie renovation job; as Derek puts it: “Slapping lipstick on the pig.”

With five days to whip the house into shape for the cameras, Avery and Derek are applying a whole lot of ‘lipstick’ – and you can, too!

Whether you’re thinking of selling your house – the way Avery and Derek are – or you just want to a do a few updates while you’re living there, curb appeal is super-important: what someone sees when they walk or drive up to your place can make or break a sale, or totally demolish someone’s first impression.

Here are eight easy, inexpensive DIY fixes that can pump up the volume of an otherwise ho-hum exterior for little or no money.

1. First things first: Mow grass and tidy up landscaping.
It costs little to nothing (except for time clocked) to trim overgrown hedges, edge walkways, pull up weeds and cut out dead growth. Transplanting is free, too: Move those gorgeous dahlias from the back to the front yard, where they’re sure to be noticed. Mulch is another winner: Spread a layer of grass clippings (free, collected from a lawnmower), straw, or tree bark-based mulch at the bases of trees and flowerbeds. Doing so not only protects plantings and improves soil quality, but beautifies your yard. Use an online calculator to figure out how much you’ll need.

2. Wash dirty siding and dingy decking.
You can pressure wash any type of siding (save for wood shingles) quickly and easily with a rented power-washer. Or you can use some good old-fashioned elbow grease, your garden hose (on a medium-spray setting), a long-handled scrub brush and a bucketful of water mixed with a few squirts of dish soap. For wood porches and decks, oxygen bleach is the way to go. It’s nontoxic to you, and to pets and vegetation. Mix a few scoops into a bucketful of water, dip the brush and scrub away.

3. Invest in some cool house numbers.
Switch out those tired old digits and give your address a makeover. House numbers can be screwed in or easily glued on with adhesive—and there’s a vast array of styles and materials available. For even more oomph, paint or stain a tall newel post the same color as your front door or shutters, then attach some new, stylized numbers and sink it into the ground either at the end of your driveway or near your home’s entry. (Best to expect some neighborly copycatting on that one.)

4. Upgrade the mailbox.
Wobbly, dented mailboxes are unsightly. Changing the box is a great way to add personality. Installation of a bold door-side mailbox requires only some simple drilling. A good-looking, durable freestanding mailbox just needs a hole dug for the post. Or if your existing mailbox is serviceable but drab, you can paint it or buy a seasonal wrap.

5. Repaint or stain a wood door.
If you’re not ready to spring for a new door, this is the way to go. There’s no excuse for the front door looking anything but shipshape because paint and stain are so inexpensive (and potentially free if you have some paint or stain sitting around from another job). Remove any hardware first (or you can tape around hinges and knobs if you’re feeling confident and have a steady hand). Surfaces need sanding (fine, 180-grit sandpaper should suffice), dusting, priming and two to three coats of paint. Go with the grain; follow the same procedure with stain and varnish.

6. Upgrade the front door hardware.
Basic front door hardware is easy to replace. You’ll find a wide array of bells, doorknockers and escutcheons (plates surrounding bells, keyholes, knobs) at hardware stores and flea markets. A doorbell upgrade is also easy, as there’s often no need to replace the actual chime, just the hardware surround. (If you do want to switch out the entire doorbell, there’s minor rewiring involved.) A kick plate, typically made of polished metals like rustic pewter, aged bronze, or satin nickel, boosts a door’s wow-factor while shielding it from stains and scuff marks. Switching the lockset is the most costly change you’ll make to the entry. Protection is your first priority: choose a lockset that isn’t just pretty, but that will protect your home from intruders. For a cohesive, stylized look, choose accents with the same finishes, and be sure they’re stylistically similar to your home’s design.

7. Replace old light fixtures.
Match the style and finish of new lights to other elements in your entry and you’re generally good to go. For lighting the yard, you can opt for solar-powered lights, which have three significant advantages over their hard-wired electric counterparts: There’s no assembly required, they save energy, and you can move them around with little effort. Sink a few attractive lantern-style lights into the soil that flanks walkways and the driveway. You’ll be amazed at how good this actually makes a home look.

8. Clean and dress up windows.
Mullions, moldings and decorative brackets can really make your exterior pop, and installation is as easy as clicking in a PVC grid over existing windows, or screwing wooden brackets into existing structures. Sometimes, the act of simply cleaning the windows—inside and out—is all you’ll need to massively improve the view. Dish detergent (or plain old vinegar) and a microfiber rag (or a piece of newspaper!) should do the trick. For hard-to-reach windows, use a cleaner formulated for outdoor use that attaches to your garden hose. It should dry to a smudge-free finish, and there’s no need to remove screens. Just wash on a cloudy, non-windy day, as breezes and sunlight dry panes too quickly, leaving unsightly streaks behind.

These and other tips abound in “Flipped Out,” There are directions for how to customize a doormat, how to build your own batten-board shutters, and how to build your own window boxes and planters, among other things. And you don’t want to miss out on how to make your very own Swiss Cheese Adirondack chair! So go ahead, get yourself a copy today. You know you want to!

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About This Author

Jennie Bentley writes the Do It Yourself mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime, about textile designer Avery Baker and handyman Derek Ellis, who renovate houses in the tiny town of Waterfield, Maine. As Jenna Bennett she writes the Cutthroat Business mysteries, about real estate agent Savannah Martin in Nashville, Tennessee. Come summer 2012, she’ll also be writing a series of science fiction romances for Entangled Publishing. When not writing, she has managed to own and renovate nine houses in the past ten years. You can learn more about her doing and undoings on

Cover Illustration by Jennifer Taylor

A Do-It-Yourself Mystery
5th in the series
Cover Illustration by Jennifer Taylor/Paperdog Studios
Cover Design by Rita Frangie
A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
Published by The Penguin Group

As I said above this has become my favorite book in the series. The victim was surprising and there are a wide variety of suspects. Jennie is a first class storyteller, she has the way to tell a cozy mystery “nailed”. The characters have grown, the setting is wonderful and using a television home improvement show is contemporary, the the mystery as always is multifaceted and truly entertaining.

Flipped Out is the perfect escape into a good book.
A perfect escape for the first review on my new blog.

Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

As I said in the title of this post this includes a very special giveaway.
A 2 part giveaway!
If you haven’t read any of Jennie’s wonderful series the first part of this giveaway is perfect for you.
I am giving away an entire 5 book set of this series.
These books have been gently read.
U.S. Residents Only
The second part of this giveaway is a brand new copy of
Flipped Out
provided by the fantastic people at Penguin.
U.S. & Canadian Residents
For single book entries.

You will receive 5 Bonus Entries if you leave a comment for Jennie!
If you LIKE my new Facebook page, you will receive an additional 5 Bonus Entries!
If you FOLLOW this blog via email, Networked Blog, Twitter, GFC or WordPress Subscription you will receive another 5 Bonus Entries.
After you have done this one time you qualify as a follower and will receive any bonus entries in future giveaways. I am trying to track who has found the new site.
You do NOT have to follow my blog to enter this giveaway,
but it helps me to know how I am reaching people as I move forward with this new site.

Also if you promote this giveaway anywhere and provide links
I will give you 5 Bonus Entries for each link to thank you
for helping people find my new blog.

Winners will be chosen using Widgets

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Berkley Prime Crime. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

39 thoughts on “Cozy Wednesday With Jennie Bentley (Great Giveaway Too!)

  1. I’ve never heard of this series before, but LOVE that it’s about DIY Renovations! That’s so different. I love different!

    Thanks for the chance to win this series!

  2. This sounds like a great series! I’d love to read it! I think its wonderful that you managed to renovate nine houses!

  3. I love those house flipping shows on tv so these cozies sound like perfect reads to me! I love the sprucing up your home tips. Wow, renovating 9 houses in 10 years is phenomenal especially when you take into account you are writing books too! How do you ever find time to sleep?

  4. This series sounds awesome. This is a new to me series but I love the DIY ideas scattered thru the story.
    Love & Hugs,

  5. Congrats Jennie on your newest book. I have not read your series but I look forward to starting them. Great interview. Is Avery based on yourself or someone else you know? Do you plan to write other series? If so, same topic or will you branch out to another subject? Thanks.

  6. I really want to read this book for the mystery and tips. Some of the tips are ones that you never think of like update your front door hardware. We may be selling in a few years so this book would be very valuable to us.

    I have a little story to share. When we were houseshopping. our agent took us to a house with a house number 444!!!! To Chinese, the number 4 sounds like the word death and we didn’t even want to go in the house. The agent begged us since she had spent the time and gas on going there. We noticed that one of the house numbers was askew as we entered. There seemed to be large cracks in the livingroom walls (foundation problems/). I tripped as the living room and the entry way were at slightly different levels. One of the living room windows had a big crack in it.
    The kitchen was a terrible sight, old creaky cabinets and the appliances looked abused. The bedrooms had more large cracks on the walls. The flooring was loose in one the bedrooms and the
    closets were tiny, All the rooms needed a new coat of paint. The backyard had some rumble or trash in it. I had to restrain myself from laughing in order to save the agent’s face. She was totally silent while driving back to where are car was parked.

    Carol Wong

  7. Oops! As usual I did something goofy! (I left my post comment where ny fb link should have been left.) I didn’t leave my link where I shared on facebook. Here is the link if it still counts. Thanks 🙂

  8. Hello Jennie,
    It was nice meeting you, and I look forward to reading one or more of your books. This is the first I’ve seen this book. It sounds like a fun and exciting series. I liked all the little tips you gave us on updating our homes for almost nothing but a little elbow grease. Thanks for taking the time to visit us today.

    Gigi Ann

  9. This is a great idea for a series. We’re really into updating, so this would be a fun series for me. Thanks for the giveaway.

  10. Thanks, everyone, for visiting and commenting and all the nice words!
    Liz, thanks for the correct link. I’m working on putting together a different website, and things are up in the air a little. Sorry about that!
    Beth, sleep is overrated. And yes, I’m tired a lot.
    Carol Wong – love the story of the 444! Very interesting!
    Christine A – I actually write a different series already, about a real estate agent in Nashville. Ebooks only, the name on those is Jenna Bennett. The first book is called A Cutthroat Business. And starting next summer, I’ll be writing a series of science fiction romances, also as Jenna Bennett. A very big departure from the cozy mysteries, but a lot of fun to do!
    Thanks again, everyone! xoxo

  11. Jennie, I think you’re right, you are the perfect first Cozy Wednesday for Dollycas’ new site! I think the series sounds great and don’t know how I’ve missed out on it until now! Thanks so much for all the info!

  12. Thank you everyone for stopping by today. Keep passing the word. Hopefully I will be making an upgrade that will allow Google Friend Connect, collecting info, but have to figure out a way to get to Google since I am more or less banned from there, but I will keep working to improve this site all I can.


  13. I have Flipped Out on my reading list….and from having lived through a whole house reconstruction from the top down…I cant wait!

  14. Thanks, everyone! Just to let you know, almost in real time: I just heard from my editor this afternoon that we hit the New York Times list! So thanks to those of you who have already bought the book, and for those of you who haven’t, I hope you’ll give it a try!

    Thanks so much for having me here, Lori! xoxo

  15. What a fabulous giveaway! I love the tips, and i love the cover of the book. It sounds like a great book, too!

  16. Hi Jennie, I love to watch the “Flip this house” shows and can’t want to read the cozy mysteries you have written. Am adding you as new author and hope to read the first book soon. Thanks for stopping by to chat and share with us.

  17. I have the first in this series on my nightstand as my to be read next book. Would love to complete the series. I’ve heard so many good things about it.

  18. I just loved the house flipping tips. I am addicted to HGTV and have dreamed of doing some fixing touches on our place. Sadly we are in AZ so a great lawn is kind of out of our reach, but I keep dreaming. I love the simple advice of even updating the address numbers. 🙂

    The series looks great too. In fact I am intrigued by the other series that Jennie writes as Jenna. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

  19. I would LOVE to win these books so much !!! Great great giveaway. Thanks for the chance.
    Glad to find you again to.

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