Warning: This is NOT a creepy book. The cover makes it look like it should be. It should be. It has a creepy cover. It has all the elements of a story that could turn creepy on a dime. And yet, the talking doll NEVER KILLS ANYONE. I expected this to be like The Time of the Fireflies.
If I knew the talking doll wasn't going to kill anyone, I could have enjoyed this as a Rumer Godden style book with a fantastic dollhouse. As it was, I was on edge every time something new happened.
O'Reilly, Jane. The Secret of Goldenrod.
October 1st 2016 by Carolrhoda Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Citrine (formerly Trina) moves to an abandoned house so that her father can refurbish it. Everyone in town is deeply apprehensive about the house, and at school the children give Citrine such a hard time that she doesn't want to return. Her father lets her stay at home and help with the refurbishment, probably in part because he feels guilty that Citrine's mother left the family and hasn't been in contact with them in years. She finds the secret entrance to the turret room where a beautiful dollhouse is. The house has one doll in it-- and the doll talks to Citrine. The two decide that the doll's name should be Augustine, and they have a fair amount of fun together. In the meantime, townspeople keep returning items that had been stolen from the house in the past, hoping that by returning them, their bad luck will end. Citrine finds out about the original family, the Roys, and discovers that Augustine's owner, Annie, died of diptheria, which drove her grieving mother over the edge. The father moves to the carriage house (on which the dollhouse is based), which eventually burns down. Even so, none of the family comes back to murder Citrine and her father in their sleep. When the townspeople decide to give Citrine the money that was collected when kids dared each other to spend the night in town, Citrine decides to use the money to recreate the wonderful costume party that the Roys held. Descendants of the Roys come to the house and decide it is so wonderful that they want to live there, and Citrine and her father are to be the caretakers.
Strengths: The descriptions of the house are fantastic, the dollhouse is great, and Augustine provides friendship for Citrine at a time when she really needs it. As I stated earlier, if I hadn't hear that squeaky-death-is-around-every-corner violin music in my head at every plot turn, I would have loved this.
Weaknesses: I wasn't fond of the bullying, and the sub plot with Citrine's mother seemed forced.
What I really think: This might be better suited to elementary libraries, since doll stories are a tough sell in middle school, unless the dolls are murdering everyone with the steam heating system. Still, I really enjoyed it and might just have to buy a copy.
Ventresca, Yvonne. Black Flowers, White Lies
October 4th 2016 by Sky Pony Press
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Ella's mother is getting remarried, and while it's difficult to accept a new stepfather and brother, she's glad that her mo there will have someone once she goes to college. Stanley is a good guy, but new step brother Blake is really good looking. He comes to town for the wedding, and to stay in New York until college starts, and he and Ella hit it off pretty well. Ella also meets Gavin at the family bookstore, buying some cat books. He later comes to the animal shelter where she volunteers to look at cats, and asks her out. The hardest part of the wedding for Ella is the fact that she still feels very connected to her father, who died before she was born in a car accident. She's heard his voice before, but feels an even stronger, somewhat creepy, connection as the wedding approaches. When she starts hallucinating about things, and her beloved pet is injured, she starts to suspect that everything is not as it seems with her new step sibling.
Strengths: This was a great, creepy book, and the cover will draw many readers to it. I can't think of many middle grade appropriate books that involve "gaslighting". There were a ton of twists and turns in this one, and I hate to give them away. 6th graders wanting murder mysteries? This would be a great one to hand them.
Weaknesses: At one point, the step brother tries to seduce Ella, but she is not having it at all, and there aren't a lot of details.
What I really think: This is a great read for reluctant 8th grade girls, especially. Nice and creepy, but with some romantic elements.