Thursday, October 22, 2020

Haunted Houses

Oakes, Cory Putnam. The Second Best Haunted Hotel on Mercer Street
August 18th 2020 by Amulet Books
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Willow Ivan's family has run a haunted hotel for 400 years, although business has not been good lately. Her father is so distraught at the death of her mother that he pays no attention to the business at all, and Willow hasn't been to school in six months. Her mother haunts the hotel, but as a weeping woman who can't remember much, which is difficult. The hotel is staffed with actual ghosts, some of whom, like Pierce, have been there since the beginning. When a chain hotel, the Hauntery, opens up on the same street, everyone is very concerned that this will mean the end of their business. The Hotel Ivan is highly rated according to all of the best haunted hotel measures (like the Zagged guide), but offers a gentler, cozier haunted experience. The Hauntery strives for consistency across locations, so hires ghosts to fill particular roles. Evie and her family work there, and Evie and her cousin play the role of "spooky little girls" who dress in dresses and pigtails, and have a set script of asking people to play with them in a creepy fashion. When Evie goes off script, she gets in trouble with the management. The two girls meet when they both go to the local library and Evie (who is such a new ghost that she can't manipulate material objects) reads a mystery novel over Willow's shoulder. Evie does not tell Willow that she works at the Hauntery, and when Hotel Ivan is in need of a phantasm, Evie offers to work, since that is a role she would like to embrace. The Ivan's ghosts are starting to fade at an alarming rate, and Willow can't quite figure out why. Her investigations also turn up some inconsistencies at the Hauntery, where the big draw for employment is that the employees DON'T fade. As things become more and more dire, will Willow be able to figure out the threat of the Hauntery, make peace with her parents, and keep the hotel's Zagged rating?
Strengths: I liked the fact that we were immediately plunged into Willow's world, and there were just enough explanation to keep the story going without getting bogged down in details. Details about the difficulties of running a hotel are realistic, and Willow does the best she can. The issue of her truancy is addressed. I liked that she and Evie bonded over a favorite mystery character. The Hauntery is a great, evil corporate entity, and Evie's struggles to retain her identity will resonate with middle grade readers. There is some diversity with Leo, the screaming phantasm, who has another persona as Leonata, a drag performer, and his husband Alfred.
Weaknesses: The father is so distraught that he doesn't even notice Willow hasn't attended school in six months? I will never be found of the trope of the dysfunctional grieving parent.
What I really think: This was a fun romp, but not really very scary, making it perfect for elementary students who want to read about ghosts and their antics, but has enough meat in it that middle school readers who want a book with magical realism will enjoy as well.

White, J.A. Dehaunting: Shadow School #2
August 25th 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

After Cordelia Liu's initial exposure to the creepiness that is Shadow School, she is forced to take some time off from ghost hunting by Dr. Roqueni. Her uncle, Elijah Shadow, who used her to find ghosts when she was a child and wasn't always kind, has appeared, and Dr. Roqueni doesn't want him to know about the students who can dispatch ghosts to the beyond using "brightkeys".  When she's allowed back into the school, Cordelia and her friends Benji Nunez and Agnes Matheson find some odd things going on. Ghosts are refusing their brightkeys and remaining in the school. Agnes is hard at work trying to make a dehaunter, a device that will use the forces of the school to send ghosts on their way as a group, making brightkeys less important. Cordelia feels that this is generally good, but a little impersonal, so when the device is damaged, she is blamed. She and her friends make a startling discovery, though, when they spy on their teachers. The teachers have been acting even weirder than the ghosts, staring into space and complaining of frequent headaches. Will Cordelia and her friends be able to help the teachers, continue to send the spirits on their way, and get through the school year?
Strengths: This had come nice twists, which I don't want to ruin. I enjoyed Cordelia's work ethic when it came to finding the brightkeys, and found the number of runners who showed up as ghosts wanting shoelaces or earbuds to be highly amusing. The story line with Benji's new friends, especially Viviana, gave this book an extra kick of friend drama that will be well received. Agnes' math and science abilities are put to good use on the dehaunter. All in all, a great ghost romp that will circulate well with readers who enjoy Mary Downing Hahn and Dan Poblocki.
Weaknesses: This took me a little while to get into, since it started with Cordelia being forced to take a break from ghost hunting.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing for my oddly large population of fantasy readers who only want books that are set in schools. This is a great ghost story, has friend drama, and doesn't have a ton of underlying sadness to weigh the story down.
Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. Great, you're sharing two interesting and fun holiday reads today! I thought The Second Best Haunted Hotel, might be scary, but you say that it's a perfect read for younger elementary kids. My granddaughter was looking for something not too scary to read to her eldest son. This sounds like it fits the bill. Shadow School sounds very intriguing ghost story. Enjoyed reading your posts and comments.