Thursday, March 04, 2021

Ghost in the Headlights, Winterborne Home for Mayhem and Mystery

Duga, Lindsey. Ghost in the Headlights
March 2nd 2021 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Brianna has to move in with her uncle Shane at his dilapidated farmhouse while her mother spends two months in Nevada learning some new technology to help her with her job. Brianna's father died when she was small, so she spent her early years in Drury Gables, Pennsylvania, but moved away and hasn't seen her uncle since. She starts back to school right away, and is assigned Jacob, the mayor's son, to help her acclimate to the school. She's a bit standoffish with him because she is so unhappy with her situation, even though she always puts on a brave face when her mother calls, excited about her new opportunities. When Brianna thinks she is being followed when she gets off the school bus and heads up Shadowrun Road to the farm house, she shares this with Jacob, but is warned against talking about it. People are really upset when she discusses this at school, and for a while, her uncle has to drive her home. Before long, though, Brianna realizes that she is being chased by a ghost, and learns more and more about the girl in the orange satin dress who is chasing her. It is Elisa, who disappeared in October of 1994, and all that was ever found of her was one foot! Brianna finds some pictures, and using details from dreams she has and sightings of Elisa, she figures out what might have happened. Can she and Jacob bring peace to the ghost before it causes them harm?
Strengths: Yes! This has just the right amount of town and family history, serious ghost hauntings, and creepy blood and gore. Ravens in the bedroom with red eyes! Blood on the asphalt because the ghost is missing a foot! A prominent adult guilty of a horrendous crime! Even the cover has echoes of another great master of the horror/suspense novel, Dan Poblocki. (Check out the cover of Nightmarys. And, no, I didn't start both of these reviews with a "Yes!" on purpose. Total coincidence!)
Weaknesses: There's a school librarian eating a hot lunch in the library before she helps students for the last half of recess, and a town librarian sitting and knitting! While I can almost believe some librarians don't just try to snarf down granola bars or apples that way, I can't imagine a librarian anywhere knitting at work! But I did appreciate the town collection on microfilm.
What I really think: How I missed this author's The Haunting, I don't know, but I put it on order right away. Supremely bummed that these are in paperback (prebinds ARE available), but adding them to a growing collection of great new horror by K.R. Alexander, Joel Sutherland, Lindsay Currie, and Daka Harmon. I wonder just how much Mary Downing Hahn and Betty Ren Wright Ms. Duga read when she was in middle school!

Carter, Ally. Winterborne Home for Mayhem and Mystery
March 2nd 2021 by HMH Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

April is back after the events of The Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor, with her friends Sadie, Violet, Tim, and Colin. They are now being cared for by Gabriel Winterborne, since his reappearance, and since Izzy has left and Mr. Smithers is conveniently on vacation. Gabriel is very sad that Izzy is gone, and not taking very good care of the children. They are very self sufficient, but this becomes a problem after Gabriel speaks at the museum and April ends up falling onto the stage from the balcony, as she is wont to do. This brings the group to the attention of Gladys Pitts, from Child Protective Services. Every time she stops by, the house is in chaos, whether it be a burnt cake and trashed kitchen, or Gabriel not coming home. This has April, who has spent a lot of time in foster care, very concerned. She is especially concerned when Gabriel no longer even cares if she orders groceries or buys clothes for Violet-- she knows that a guardian not caring at all is a bad sign. She is also concerned that Gabriel is going to be injured when he is on a mission fulfilling his family destiny acting as The Sentinel. To follow up one of these reports, the group visits Reggie Dupree, who seems to be fairly helpful. When April finds out that her mother, Georgia is alive, she must act quickly to locate her, since she fears that Gabriel might be dead. This takes her to Winterborne Island with the other children, including a very well prepared Colin (who brings extra hats, food, emergency flares and even a pool noodle-- Rebecca Behrens would be very proud of him!) While the group finds Gabriel, he is badly injured, and when Ms. Pitts visits again, she separates the children and sends them to new foster homes. Will April be able to figure out what's going on in time to stay together with her friends, who are now her family?
Strengths: There is plenty of action, adventure and mystery in this installment of the Winterborn series. We learn lots more details about the family, as well as April's past. This includes some surprising connections that I didn't quite see coming. We get more of a feel for the talents of each of the children, and they work together well as an ensemble cast. I'd like to see more of the quiet but talented Tim, although smooth Colin is fun as well. I worry that Sadie DOES needs more supervision! This is an excellent choice for strong elementary readers who want a fast-paced, multi-faceted read, as well as for middle grade readers who like mysteries. 
Weaknesses: I didn't see the appeal of Gabriel, and his pining for Izzy and his neglect of the children didn't sit well with me. I missed Smithers, who is a man after my own heart. We all need boxes of EMERGENCY TEA. Younger readers won't care as much about this and will enjoy the fact that the children are taking care of themselves 
What I really think: This definitely felt like a bridge to the next book, but I love Carter's work and definitely need the whole series. Thinking this will be three books, but don't have any information. This is a great introduction to Carter's work for elementary school students who might not be as interested in the Gallagher Girls. 

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