Friday, August 31, 2018

Sweet Valley High #141: A Picture Perfect Prom?

Despite the fact that she made the decision to dump both Todd and Devon, Elizabeth can't stop moping around about how she's lonely and misses them both. She joins the prom planning committee to take her mind off things, only to find out that Todd also joined. They start spending a lot of time together, which leads to weird moments like Todd wanting to kiss her ankle and telling her she has perfect ankles while holding a ladder. Liz realizes that she really misses him and all the time they spent together.

Jessica and Lila get so caught up with finding the perfect dresses that they completely forget about finding dates. They decide to rank the hot guys at Sweet Valley and write down lists of their best and worst qualities. For example, Aaron has really sexy legs but is also cranky. Bruce kisses like a live jellyfish, and Peter DeHaven is cruel because of how he treated Johanna.

Liz rushes off to a meeting and can't find her notebook, so she takes Jessica's book. The ranking falls out, which Winston picks up. He then takes control of the school intercom system and reads some of the pages before saying that he has copies for anyone who wants one. All the guys decide that the girls need some payback and agree that no one will date them.

When they head to the Dairi Burger, they have some bad experiences. AJ actually turns up his nose at Jessica and asks Suzanne Hanlon to be his date right in front of her. Heather Malone interrupts Jessica talking to Aaron to say he does have great legs before sitting on his lap as he kisses her neck. Pretty bold move for a gay man. They are mortified and have no idea what to do next.

Penny found her prom date through a personal ad because her boyfriend will be out of town. Jessica and Lila put ads in all the local school newspapers, except for Big Mesa because Jessica says they already dated all the cute guys from that school. They then have a big tryout at Lila's house. The first guy they see is hot but “sharky” and got accepted to Yale. Both girls go crazy over Jordan, the third guy they see. Lila is ready to take him as her date, but Jessica tells her to wait.

That lasts for approximately one day or something. Lila calls him, asks if he remembers her, and he tells her that she was the gorgeous brunette. When she asks him to be her date, he hesitates just long enough for her to wonder if he preferred Jessica before he says yes. He even asks if they should go out beforehand, but Lila waits to wait and show him off at prom. Jessica then goes to his house and asks him to be her date. After a minute, he says yes and then tells her that she needs to leave before closing the door in her face. This will end great.

Enid has no date and no prospects except for Tad “Blubber” Johnson. He starts coming around all the time, calling her at home, and basically acting like a love sick puppy dog. Since Enid doesn't date “big guys” and has no interest in football, she wants anyone else to ask her to prom. She mopes and whines about him a lot.

Maria quickly grows tired of Liz and Enid being huge downers because, I assume, she never actually spent any time with them before. She makes them do their hair in funny ways and go to bad horror movies to cheer them up and even points out that she doesn't have a date and doesn't care. That changes when she and Enid go dress shopping and stumble across a prom runway show. Maria sees Tyson, the hottest new male supermodel, walking the runway and recognizes him from a photo shoot they did as kids. He recognizes her too and automatically agrees to be her prom date.

Devon learns that Todd and Liz were the IT Couple in high school until he came along and starts picturing them together at prom. He then joins the planning committee to get close to her but mainly to get her away from Todd. When she asks Todd to work on something for her, Devon assumes that she just wanted to get Todd out of the way to spend time with him.

Todd picks out his rental tux and chooses a pale cummerbund and tie that he thinks will match Liz's sense of style. He thinks this will also help him get on the ball and ask her to the dance. While leaving the mall, he sees her trying on a dress that perfectly matches his cummerbund and assumes that it's fate. When he shows up with flowers in his hands to ask her to prom, he finds Devon kissing her hand and vows to get back at her.

Devon actually kisses her hand because she somehow managed to cut her finger when cutting decorations. Just as he thinks that he's close to winning her heart again, in comes Todd with Courtney in tow. Elizabeth almost immediately bursts into tears and makes an excuse to leave. Devon decides to find out who she really loves. He'll ask her out and then send her flowers from Todd to ask her out for that same night to see who she will choose.

Elizabeth spends a good portion of the book worrying about Todd and what will happen to them, but when Enid asks if she wants to get back together with him, she denies it. When she's with Devon, she wants to be with him, but when she's with Todd, she wants to be with him. She tells her friends that she'll go to prom with whoever asks her first. After seeing Todd and Courtney, she cries all over again because it's proof he moved on and did so with the one girl who would hurt her the most.

After agreeing to go out with Devon, Jessica rushes in with flowers from Todd. There's an apology note that says he only saw Courtney to make her jealous. Devon watches from the street as she gets in the car and drives away. He follows her and sees her go to the beach, which is where “Todd” said he would be, which is proof that she never loved him or something.

After waiting on the beach for an hour, Liz finally gives up. She then reveals that she only came to meet him to give him back his freaking ring and to say goodbye. Yeah, right. When she goes to leave, she sees someone come out of the shadows and feels her heart skip a beat because it's Todd. It's actually Devon though, and he is not happy...

*You have to love Lila in this book. She says that Lisette's is “totally 80s” and mentions that the Jessica and Bruce relationship was like something from three decades ago.

*The girls say that AJ's worst feature is that he's so pale, he looks bleached. He takes offense to that, which I love.

*At one point, Todd is working with Maria when she asks if they should serve chicken or fish for prom dinner. I thought it was weird because my prom had no food. Everyone went out to restaurants beforehand. Later on, Amy says that Barry is working extra shifts to save up for dinner at Chez Sam before prom, so it gets even weirder...

*Maria complains about how the Hollywood life sucks so much and how much she hates everything about it when she sees the runway show. I thought she only did like one movie and was best known for being the toilet paper kid?

*How would Tyson recognize her? It's been like 10 years since they worked together!

*Devon sees Jessica at the mall and goes all crazy because it's the love of his life. Even after seeing her with Lila, it takes him like five minutes to figure out that it's not Liz. Oh yeah, man you totally love her.

*Lila also tosses in a slam book reference when mentioning that the guys may not be happy if they hear about the list.

*Enid eventually does say yes to Tad because he shows up with a pink rose and she doesn't know how to turn him down.

*Maria and Enid are both really bitchy about the list and how Jess and Lila deserve everything they get. How is them writing down their thoughts any different from Enid constantly moaning about how Tad isn't her type. She basically calls him fat and a dumb jock!

*The reaction to the ranking is absolutely ridiculous anyway. You going to tell me that the guys at SVH don't sit around and talk about the girls like that? Bruce is the only one who doesn't seem to care, probably because Jessica upgraded his from kissing like a dead jellyfish to a live one.

*Jessica's choice for prom dress is a white dress with rhinestones that shows off a “sexy amount of shoulder.” It also hugs her curves and has a slit all the way up the thigh, which sounds totally appropriate for a high school prom!

*Liz falls in love with this princess style dress that is in Todd's favorite color. She then looks at a short black dress with a halter neck that Devon would love.

*One thing I hate about this book is that Liz is clearly not over Todd. The fact that she bursts into tears at the sight of him and another girl is a clear indicator. Having her randomly go to the beach to meet him and then wait for an entire hour just to tell him to move on makes absolutely no sense at all.

*Someone pointed out to me that Devon is exactly like Conner in SVSY, which might explain why I hate them both with the passion of a fiery sun. I will, at some point, get around to doing the whole SVSY series. There's only like 10 more books that I need to track down.

*Enid jokingly suggests that she rent a tux and go as Liz's prom date. I need to do my own SVC where she comes out as a lesbian.

*Jeremy Frank is hosting the runway show that Maria and Enid watch. Enid claims he's shorter in person than he looks on television. Hasn't that dude been in like multiple books and met everyone in SVH by now?

*Penny needs a date because Neil, her boyfriend, has a summer internship that starts early and he won't be in town. Um, excuse me? Isn't Neil a senior and about to graduate? So he's just going to skip all that to start an internship, and the place he's working for doesn't care that technically he hasn't graduated yet?

*Lila mentions in a roundabout way how some of the guys talk about Jessica. When Jessica pushes her about what they say, Lila feigns deaf and then says it's nothing. Love her!

*Todd suggests a shipwrecked them for the prom and that everyone wear jungle clothing. I guess he forgot that (A) Jessica and Winston actually were shipwrecked at one point and (B) Jungle Prom did not go so well.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sweet Valley High #139: Elizabeth is Mine

Todd is all in shock that Jessica would accuse his beautiful and wonderful girlfriend of cheating on him for the 400th time and kind of refuses to believe it. She tells him exactly where to find them and then throws herself at him. In her eyes, it's the perfect payback to her twin stealing her man. Todd turns her down and tells her to help herself to the feast he made for Liz before leaving. He drives around town before heading to the school, and after seeing Liz and Devon still going at he, he just takes off.

Jessica devours the lobster salad and all the other stuff Todd made for her twin while fuming to herself. After eating way too much, she decides to get back at Liz.

Liz and Devon are still freaking making out until it starts raining. She heads home while feeling like she's walking on air, only to find Jessica waiting for her. Jess makes a few comments and then tells Liz she looked for her. Liz keeps making up excuses until Jess drops the news that she saw them together and that Todd now knows. She also makes Liz feel like the hose bag she is by telling her all about how Todd made huge plans for an anniversary that Liz herself even forgot.

Though she feels bad for hurting Todd, Liz tries to avoid him and not think about him so she can focus just on Devon. That lasts until Todd confronts her in school. He gives her the ring and tells her that he wants her to have it because he bought it just for her. Liz feels like a lying cheating whore because Todd is so awesome and knows her so well but she just can't keep her mind off Devon.

Mr. Russo, the chemistry teacher responsible for AP chemistry who is still giving them elementary school assignments, announces a last minute science fair. Despite the fact that they have no time, they have the option of entering a science fair in like two weeks. He then tells Devon that he already signed him and Liz up. Devon gets all super cool and tells him no and then won't tell Liz why he won't enter. He does make her a rock candy crystal though, which amazes her because she's never seen anyone do something so smart. I guess she missed it when we did that project in sixth grade.

Jessica comes up with a revenge plan that consists of two steps. The first is to make herself available, er more available?, to Devon and win him over. She'll also hook Todd up with Courtney Kane to show Liz how it feels when someone steals your man. Courtney goes along with the plan because she secretly still likes Todd. They dress her up to look more like Elizabeth, which seems to work.

The first time they see each other, Courtney is super demure and quiet. She practically ignores her, which leaves him interested. Todd then thinks that dating Courtney would be the perfect revenge. When they hang out together though, she actually seems like someone he might like. They talk about old times and get along really well. Jessica cements the plan in his mind when she walks by dressed like Liz and shows him his ring on her finger. He thinks he's making Liz jealous and that she'll come back to him.

Jess then arranges for Liz to pick her up at the Dairi Burger and for Courtney to meet Todd there. Liz walks in just as they start heavily kissing and runs outside in shock. After crying and feeling like a mega bitch, she decides that it's good for Todd to move on. She even tells Jessica that she wants to give him back the ring so that he can move on like she did.

Devon keeps acting super secretive about why he doesn't want to enter the science fair, and Liz tries not to push him in a way that pushes him to tell her the truth. Did he cause an explosion that burnt a girl's face off? Did he take a serum that made him into the dullest man alive? Nah, he was just so good at science that winning all the time turned him off or something like that. Liz is super understanding and promises not to tell his secret to anyone. What secret? He feels bad at her missing the science fair and agrees to enter.

Jessica's plan for winning Devon involves asking him for help with her science homework. Devon actually makes a rude comment about how she can't compete with Liz and about how Liz is smarter, which makes me think he should check their SAT scores. Jessica explodes at him and storms off. She later tells him she forgives him and decides to enter the science fair. Since everyone else already has a partner, she picks Bruce.

Bruce and Jessica make a big-ass volcano that actually explodes. Devon and Liz make some musical instrument. Both projects sound more appropriate for kids. People love the volcano but care more about the instrument, so Jess borrows wire cutters from Bruce and disappears. She then comes back and adds more dry ice to the volcano, despite his warnings, just as the judges arrive. The volcano literally explodes, in a bad way, and takes away Jessica's dreams of winning the fair and winning Devon's heart.

Liz tries to play the instrument, realizes something is wrong, and finds that “someone” cut the wires inside. Devon is totally fine with it because he didn't really want to win anyway. Liz is okay with it too because she has Devon. She isn't that okay with seeing Todd and Courtney together again though.

Todd quickly remembers why he stopped seeing Courtney in the first place. Once she has him back, all she can talk about is the crap her daddy buys her, her horses, and all her upcoming trips. Todd loves knowing that Liz is jealous but hates spending time with Courtney. That's why he gets really excited when Liz calls and asks him to meet her at the Dairi Burger.

When she tries to give him the ring back, he points out that he saw her wearing it and realized it was a sign they belonged together. They then put things together and realize Jessica was up to her old tricks. She then rushes in with Devon right behind her. Devon flips out at seeing Liz and Todd holding hands and throws a fit. Todd then thinks it's the perfect time to get down on one knee and propose to her.

This leads to Devon and Todd having a knock down drag out fight. Punches fly, Liz tries to get in the middle, and someone hits her in the face and then in the ribs. Three football players have to come over and drag Liz out of the fight and pull the guys apart. All she can think about is her broken heart and hurting body as she runs away. Meanwhile, Courtney is pissed and ready for some real revenge.

*Nan knows perfectly well that Liz has a boyfriend and yet still encourages Devon to go after her. Nice parenting.

*Maria and Winston make a working paddle wheel for the science fair, Amy and Lila make a robot that actually models clothes, and Enid and Maria submit a solar energy project they worked on before the science fair. Any of those projects deserves to win over what Liz and Devon do.

*Devon and the whole science thing irritates me. It's multiple mentions of him not wanting to talk about it and making a huge deal about why he doesn't want to enter. His reason for not entering is so lame, and I hate that Liz thinks he's so compassionate or some other bull shit for stepping back and letting someone else win.

*Todd and Courtney went on a date one time that involved sneaking into the office where their dads both worked, but they accidentally interrupted a black tie party. Todd's dad now sends him an invitation to each party with a note on it that he's not invited. LOL

*Jessica explains that she's so upset because Devon is the first guy she cared about since Christian died. Let's go down the list of soul mates she's met since then, shall we? There was Paul at camp, that thief guy in France, and Cameron at the magazine. I feel I'm missing some others too...

*Jess gets a hilarious scene where she thinks about telling her mom what her other daughter's been up to lately. I kind of feel like Alice would just get confused that Jessica wasn't telling a story about herself.

*Todd tells Liz that they can pretend the kiss never happened and just go back to being normal, but she tells him that kissing Devon wasn't a mistake. They do not break up though. Devon asks her later, and she just tells him that they pretty much broke up.

*Devon talks to Nan about how he feels bad for Liz because he knows she had a long history with Todd. Shouldn't there be a welcoming committee that's just like, “dude, she cheats on Todd all the time, but they always wind up together. You should just date Jessica. She'll get bored and dump you within a week.”

*Todd is truly disturbed when Jessica throws herself at him on the beach and wonders why she would think he'd want her. Maybe because of all the other times you made out with her or dated her?

*Liz wants to give Todd back the ring so he can give it to Courtney. Can you imagine her reaction if he tried to give her jewelry he bought and gave to someone else first?

*Despite Courtney ending the book with revenge on her mind, I totally read the last book in this series and do not remember her in it at all.

*As I come close to the last of SVH, I only have a few books left after this one beyond Earthquake and Aftershock, which I cannot find anywhere, I find myself really hating the series. These later books are really hard to get through. The first two chapters, and sometimes three, just go over everything that happened in the last book. Then there are a bunch of references to the last book later on. I also hate Devon so much that I'm glad he wasn't in SVSY.

To see how this shit storm of a miniseries wrapped up, you can read my recap of the last book here :

Monday, August 27, 2018

Sweet Valley High #138: What Jessica Wants...

Have I mentioned yet exactly how much I hate this Devon kid? I thought I could never despise anyone as much as I despised Sam in Sweet Valley University, but here we are.

So, in case you missed it, Devon is totally in love with Elizabeth Wakefield after seeing her exactly once. Lucky boy gets assigned to be her lab partner in chemistry, and by the way, Liz is in AP chemistry, which is something I think no one ever mentioned before. He wows her on the first day by mixing different chemicals together to make a mixture that is the same color as her eyes. Liz gets all blushy and flustered because no one guy has ever been so attentive to her. Excuse me while I go give Todd a hug.

Jessica hears through the grapevine about the hot new guy and decides that he must be hers. She sees him once and decides that he's her new boyfriend. She rushes home to interrupt Todd and Liz on a date just to talk about the new guy. Todd basically rolls his eyes and feels bad for the guy. That's my boy.

Devon and Elizabeth continue their disgusting flirting every day in class. While she feels bad for flirting with someone else, she doesn't say anything. Devon eventually leaves her a message written in invisible ink and asks her to find it. It's a message from him asking her out. She gets all awkward and then decides to tell him that she has a serious boyfriend. Devon acts cool with it but decides that he'll win her heart anyway.

Good old Jess becomes obsessed with Devon. He at first flirts with her because he thinks that she's Liz. He then tries to avoid her and goes out of his way to ignore her whenever possible. As he tells Nan, he could date Jessica because she looks just like the woman he loves but it just wouldn't be fair to her. Jessica asks Liz to talk her up to Devon and make him realize that he loves her.

Since Devon rides a motorcycle, Liz tries to warn Jessica away. Her twin is totally okay with accepting rides from a hot guy with a bike though. That freaks Liz out, though I don't know why since she's obsessed with him and literally almost died on a bike. I bet you anything that when she and Devon wind up together that she tells him to give up the motorcycle!

Jessica decides that the key to winning a guy is shared interests, so she learns all about motorcycles. She then dresses up in her best dominatrix look, complete with knee-high black leather boots, a black leather mini, and a matching leather jacket. When she approaches him though and literally puts her boot up on his bike so he can admire her legs, he just makes up and excuse and takes off.

Devon convinces Liz that they should have a study date on Friday night, conveniently the same night that Jessica just invited him to a big party. She turns him down and tries to make plans with Todd. Liz thinks that she's feeling out of sorts because Todd hasn't had time for her lately, which really means the last week. He turns her down in favor of hanging out with his parents. Liz thinks he might be cheating on her and freaks out before agreeing to go out with Devon.

The reason Todd hasn't been around is because he's planning something big. It's apparently the first anniversary of Liz's first article in the Oracle and he wants to help her celebrate. Though he has big plans for a fancy chocolate cake with raspberry truffles inside, focacia with fancy toppings, and other stuff, he keeps messing up. Enid comes over and helps him make a chocolate and raspberry trifle and some other stuff for their big date on Monday.

Todd also gets Jessica to take a break from her stalking to help him pick out a present. They wind up getting Liz a silver ring shaped like two pencils touching with an actual diamond in the middle. And yes, they're still in high school. He also gets a copy of her article from Mr. Collins and frames it for her.

While on their not a date, Devon arranges for a fireworks display. He then tells Liz that she can't deny the fireworks they have. Gag me. Devon tells her that she knows how he feels and that he'll be at the Box Tree Cafe the following night to meet her. Jessica gets pissed off at the party because Devon never showed and everyone made fun of her. She comes home crying, and Liz feels so bad that she tells Jessica to meet him at the cafe the next night.

Jessica shows up the next night and sees Devon with stars in his eyes. She thinks he's finally ready to admit that he likes her, but then he calls her Liz. Instead of telling him the truth, she just goes along with it. Devon thinks things are a little off but figures that she's just nervous about their being alone together and what she'll do about that Todd guy. They start making out and after like 20 minutes, Devon realizes it's Jessica. He storms off, after telling her that he could use her and leave her but he won't, which makes him a real winner. Jessica runs home and lies to Liz about how they had an amazing time.

Cut to Monday afternoon. Liz is so upset over what happened with Devon that she can't concentrate, so she goes outside and hides behind the softball field to cry. Devon naturally finds her, tells her he has no interest in her twin, and then makes out with her. Jessica planned with Todd to get Liz to the beach for his surprise. After waiting for her way too long, she finds that her twin went outside and catches the two of them kissing.

Bill Chase, a name we haven't heard in quite a long time, volunteers to help Todd with his surprise. He takes him to the beach, helps him set everything up, and even helps him get a CD player going with Liz's favorite music. After Bill leaves, Todd waits around until the food grows cold and starts worrying about his girlfriend. That's when Jessica rushes to him and tells him what she saw, setting up the next book, which is apparently a fight to the death over Elizabeth's heart.

*Devon is super duper smart, which we find out when he meets with the guidance counselor. He was in all AP classes at his old high school, but the counselor only signs him up for 3-4 classes and tells him he can pick whatever else he wants to take. What the hell? Does California not have requirements over what classes high school kids take like every other state?

*And of course he's secretly brilliant because Liz would never date someone who isn't smart. I have a hard time believing that she's in AP chemistry though, especially since it's the middle of the year and they're still doing experiments on bases and acids.

*Sweet Valley High clearly has no dress code at all. Jessica constantly wears belly shirts and itty bitty skirts. She also wears a lime green tank top with a matching mini and high heel sandals with lime green patent leather stripes. That sounds disturbing but not as disturbing as her dominatrix outfit!

*Liz seriously thinks Todd is cheating on her. She goes to his house and thinks he's hiding a chick behind the front door when he doesn't let her in right away. Yet, she spends the whole book pining over another guy.

*I bet Devon is the type of guy who would date Liz and then when she cheated on him, cry to all his friends about how he never saw it coming. If she cheats with you, she'll cheat on you, dude. Plus, this is like the whole Nancy Drew thing all over again. Why do guys go crazy after the Wakefield twins after finding out they have boyfriends? Are there no other single ladies in Sweet Valley?

*Devon actually likes Lila and thinks she's beautiful. When she starts asking him questions about Connecticut though, he makes up and excuse to leave. He later says that she seems like a cool girl and someone he could hang out with. Why not ask her out then?

*I actually felt bad for Todd in this book because he wants to make their anniversary so special. The set up for the next book literally says that the two will fight over her. I feel like he should just try dating someone who doesn't have a twin.

*Devon spends the whole date night with Jessica and never once picks up on the fact that she's not Elizabeth until after they kiss, and it's not like he figures it out right away then either. I'm thinking that if you can't tell the girl apart from her sister, it's probably not love.

*Todd messes up the cake because he puts in one centimeter of sugar. Enid has no clue where he got that measurement from until she realizes the recipe called for a cup. I love that he's such a doofus to make a mistake like that and if I were Enid, I would never, ever let him live it down.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Nancy Drew Notebooks #57: The Carousel Mystery

Carson decides to take Bess, George, and Nancy to his clients' house for a holiday party. Mr. and Mrs. Gangi have twin daughters, Jo and Mia, and invited family and friends to their party. He tells the entire group that his grandfather had a special carousel horse built for the grounds but that it later went missing. The twins found the horse accidentally, and he wants to reveal it to everyone as a special celebration. Before he can though, the girls suddenly start screaming.

It turns out that Mr. Gangi wanted to let the kids play and try to grab the brass ring like carousel riders did in the good old days. Someone stole the brass ring though and left behind a note to leave the horses alone or face big trouble. It was signed TG, which are the initials of the owner's grandfather. Bess volunteers Nancy to solve the mystery, which the adults agree to for who knows why.

Nancy notices Brenda there, but Brenda refuses to explain why she didn't follow the screams like everyone else did or why she keeps writing in a little notebook. She also acts super haughty about how her dad knows all the important people in town and how he knows more people than Carson does. Jo and Mia convince Nancy that the thief is Brad, their cousin. Their only other suspect is the ghost of their dad's grandfather. When they go through Brad's bag though, he shows up and stops them.

After a sleepover with Bess and George, Nancy wakes to find an article in the paper by Brenda. Apparently, her dad gave her a column in his paper. They go to the ice cream shop to talk to her and find her eating six different sundaes to cover another article. She brags about how she's an awesome writer and starts to tell them how she knew stuff no one else did but stops. Realizing that they just wanted her help to solve the mystery, she screams at them that she'll solve it and write an article about it herself.

They then go back to the Gangi house and meet with Mia and Jo. All they find is that someone carved the initials TG in the bottom of each carousel horse and that each horse matches one of the 12 Days of Christmas verses. They also find a really old music box in the basement that plays the same song. When the music box starts playing on its own, they notice muddy footprints leading up to it and a TG left in mud next to the box.

While Bess distracts Brad, Nancy and George sneak around. They find a pair of his shoes covered in mud and a CD player with a copy of the 12 Days of Christmas inside. When confronted with the evidence, Brad claims those aren't his shoes and that lots of people have the same CD. Nancy gets all disappointed because she thought it was proof he set up the music box.

Nancy tells Carson what she learned and gets permission to do some internet research. She finds and article about how Thomas Gangi always put a secret compartment in his carousel horses, which helps her come up with an idea to catch the thief. She gets all the suspects together and tells them that her dad found the other brass ring that TG made. Nancy says she'll hide it in the house to keep it safe.

The girls then hide and catch Mia trying to run off with Nancy's backpack because she thought the ring was inside. It turns out that Mia didn't want her dad to fix up the horses because she knew he would donate the carousel to the local park. Since he would only give away a complete set, she stole the ring to make him keep the horses at their house. Mia winds up getting a lecture from her dad right before he donates the whole carousel to the park. Nancy gets the first ride on it with her friend and catches the brass ring, but we sadly don't learn what she gets for it.

*Jo and Mia are clearly Jessica and Elizabeth. One wears her hair pulled back in a ponytail, while the other wears purple barrettes with streamers.

*I like to think that adults in these books just humor Nancy most of the time. Who expects an eight-year-old kid to solve some big mystery?

*Brenda brags about how she's this great writer, which is why her dad gave her a column. Um, sure that's the reason. And, who the hell wants to read an article written by a kid in the third grade other than her parents?

*Nancy uses a program called “Kidsearch,” which allows kids to do a safe internet search. It's nice to know Carson pays attention :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Babysitters Club Mysteries #Dawn Schafer, Undercover Baby-sitter

Dawn is still in Stoneybrook but getting ready for summer to end and to head back to California. While at a BSC meeting, they get a call from a Mrs. Cornell who needs a sitter. They then get a call from a Mrs. Keats for a sitter. Both women ask for a different sitter but have the same address. Kristy and Dawn get the jobs.

The two head to Livingston Place, which is a Mansion that makes Watson's house look like my house. They meet John, the Butler, and then the two clients. Each woman leads one of the girls to a separate wing. Dawn notices a super ugly portrait of a man on the wall. John tells her that it was Mr. Livingston and that they're are more like it around the house.

Richard comes to pick Dawn up, and she finds him outside with Mrs. Iorio, a fellow lawyer. She explains that she's the executor of the estate. Apparently, Mr. Livingston was quite the asshole in real life. He pitted his kids against each other all the time. When he died, his will left the entire estate to just one of his three girls, whichever one is the smartest. There was also a son who died in the past. Both the women are sisters, do not get along, and claim their kids can't get along either.

Things change though because they eventually hire two sitters to watch all the kids together. I'm not writing out all their names and ages. All you need to know is that they're are five of them and that they're all like 10 or younger. Dawn finds out that the dad left each girl a clue that would lead to a code. Whoever gets the code to the executor first wins his estate.

Amy, the youngest daughter, tells them her clue, which is about the first being the best or most important. She thought it meant a book and started her search in the library. Abby hears from one of the kids that her mom's clue was something about how the signature tells all. Her and Dawn take the kids on a treasure hunt that they use as an excuse to take notes about everything with a signature on it. Dawn also finds a check with the signature A. Livingston on it, dated within the last month, which is proof that the old guy is still around.

The sitters, the kids, and Amy all head up to the attic and go through the room together. Dawn finds some of the man's clothing folded and put away, which is more proof that he's still alive. The kids eventually figure out what's going on and confront their moms. Their moms then reveal all three clues. The last one says, “I didn't do it. I was ----.” No one can figure out what it means.

Dawn has a whole list of suspects. She thinks it might be the lawyer because she saw the woman in the house one time. The lawyer claimed she was there to deliver some papers but left without talking to anyone and without any papers. Dawn also suspects John because he's conveniently around all the time. He also knew when they had a treasure hunt, even though no one told him.

After having a dream one night, Dawn gathers the whole family together in the house. She realized that all clues pointed towards one of the paintings and the oldest one. The oldest painting is the ugly one she saw on her first trip, which Mrs. Livingston painted after taking a class. She thinks she sees they eyes on another painting move and then hears a sneeze. Out comes good old John.

As it turns out, John was the presumed dead brother. He and his father fought all the time, and his dad eventually cut him off and just told everyone he was dead. Amy and John stayed in contact, and she promised him that if he helped her solve the mystery, he could have half the estate because he wanted to buy a house and start a business. The other sisters hug him and come to an agreement that they'll split the estate four ways equally.

Mrs. Iorio compares the code on the back of the painting to the one he left behind and declares the mystery solved. Dawn finds an explanation for the weird stuff she experienced. John didn't have enough clothing and was wearing some of his dad's old stuff, which she saw in the attic. The signature belonged to Amy and was a check she wrote to a utility company.

Since Dawn is heading home soon, anyone and everyone wants to see her. She's suddenly best buds with people like Erica and Emily. They stop by or call her to make plans with her, but she keeps double booking herself, which usually ends up with Mary Anne on the outside. She finally sits down and sets out a schedule that has all her sitting jobs listed and all her other commitments. That lasts until her mom comes up with an idea of her and Dawn having a mother daughter day.

Dawn plans a Friend Day as a way to say goodbye to everyone at once. The only person missing is Kristy because her family just left for Hawaii. They spend the early part of the day with charges like Jamie, Jenny, Haley, Matt, and the Pikes. All the kids get to play their favorite games before eating. The big kids then come over for a teen party, and the night ends with a BSC sleepover.

The next day is Family Day. She makes a huge breakfast for everyone and then exchanges goodbye gifts with Mary Anne. They each get the other a pinky ring, which makes me cringe. The two then go shopping before splitting off, so Dawn can have lunch with Sharon and MA can meet up with Logan. She takes a bike ride with Richard and then has dinner with the family.

On one of her last days, the Livingston brood invites her over for a swimming party. She shows up with Mary Anne and gets to check out the “guest house,” which is like five times the size of my house. The swimming pool rivals any she saw in California too. Amy tells her that John will stay in the guest house until he decides what to do and she'll stay in the main house but may move to New York for work. The family decided to keep the house too just for family parties and stuff like that, which totally makes sense given the amount of taxes on it.

*Claudia wears yellow overall shorts with a tie dyed shirt and jelly shoes that let you see her “scarlet” toenails through the plastic. There are times when I seriously miss those shoes...

*Dawn eats ice cream (Ben & Jerry's to be specific) and says she likes to splurge sometimes. Since when? Dawn would NEVER eat processed sugar!

*She makes tofu sausage for her family and says they taste just like the real thing. The only people who say that are the people who never had real sausage before. I've even hand long-time vegetarians tell me that it's a good substitute but nothing like the real thing.

*Dawn plans a special trip to the pool with Matt and Haley, which makes no sense. She has no special connection with them like she does with the Barretts.

*There's also a mention of her playing Marco Polo with them in the pool, which also makes no sense. I'm not trying to be mean, but how does a deaf kid play that game?

*I get the ghostwriter suddenly giving Dawn all these random friends she rarely talked to before to show that Stoneybrook is still kind of home to her. The problem is that it makes her moving to California seem especially shitty. When she moved back the first time, she really only had the WLK club and a few regular charges. This book makes it seem like she has way more friends and charges in Stoneybrook than she has out there. Plus, Stoneybrook has her mother who actually wants to spend time with her unlike her father who seemingly only cares about getting his you know what wet.

*Dawn brags about this new organic face mask she bought and how it uses all natural ingredients and even has a recycled paper label. Does anyone else see her as one of those MLM women in real life who tries to sell and use anything with an organic or healthy label?

*Dawn doesn't understand why MA is always so unhappy with her, but she literally keeps forgetting that they made plans and then blowing her off for other people. She also doesn't understand why MA wouldn't want to go along with her new plans. They have met before, right?

*The Livingston “guest house” is two stories with three bedrooms, a full kitchen, a game room with a pool table, and two bathrooms. Amy says that John will stay there because it's cozier. Cozier than what, the White House?

*Kristy has a surprise for Dawn: Watson worked it out with her dad that they'll have a layover coming back from Hawaii and will spend the night at their house. Since when does their house have room for like eight extra people? Also, I totally want to read a Kristy book about what she did in Hawaii and what happened at Dawn's house.

*Unlike other reviewers who were sad about this book because it's the last Dawn book, I'm kind of glad. I know Ann wanted to bring in a new character and that she claims it made sense for Dawn to leave, but I never felt like it did. There were SOOOOO many books where she talked about how she could never leave her mom and how selfish Jeff was for leaving that her doing the same thing seemed really awful. I'm also not a fan of her dad...

Monday, August 20, 2018

Nancy Drew Files Case #16: Never Say Die (October 1987)

George is somehow suddenly so good at cycling that she makes it into the junior championships. Steven, the local owner of a successful software company, volunteers to be her sponsor. He not only pays for her new wind suit and for private lessons, but he also pays to have a new velodrome built just for the competition. Her trainer BTW is her boyfriend Jon who hooked up with her in a book I never read before. George is too scared to ask Steven for anything else, even though she needs a new disk bike.

That makes it super awesome when he shows up and presents her with one he just bought. His assistant, Peter, seems way too excited to take it from her and adjust the seat and isn't too happy when Jon does it instead. It takes about an hour for weird things to start happening. First of all, someone knocks the concession stand tent down when George is the only one there and sets it on fire. The list of things done to her includes:

-Someone tries to run her down in the middle of a parking lot and then tries to break into her car and steal her bike
-The person tosses a radio in the swimming pool before George jumps inside. Nancy manages to save her before she can touch the aluminum ladder and electrocute herself
-Someone cuts a massive flagpole down, which almost crushes George and a reporter doing a story on her
-George gets trapped by two guard dogs who attempt to rip her throat out
-The same person sneaks into her house one night, but Nancy hears them and gives chase. They then find a photo of George outside with a butcher knife stuck through it.

Both of George's parents naturally beg Nancy to get her to drop out. Nancy does talk to her, but George refuses to just stop and laughs it off like someone trying to murder her is funny. Nancy quickly comes up with a list of suspects:

Monique: Monique was the grand champion in this event before George came along and isn't happy when George breaks her world record. Though she's always around when things happen, she gets cleared when she freaks out after a friendly poodle tries to kiss her face. It turns out that she's been petrified of all dogs since she was a kid.

Tatyanna: Tatyanna is from Russia and quickly makes friends with George. She does tell her that her coaches are actually KGB agents. The two keeps shouting at George for distracting the other girl and act like she's a horrible person.

Debbi: Debbi is Jon's ex-girlfriend who randomly shows up. She keeps threatening George for stealing her man and saying that she'll ruin her. All it does is break Jon and George up because he sneaks out to see Debbi without telling George.

Steven calls Carson because they're good friends and asks him for help. The night after George got her bike, someone broke into his office and stole his new program. They then called and demanded a $1 million ransom and asked Nancy to deliver it. She agrees and winds up going a long goose chase around the city that ends with the thief literally pushing her into a shark tank at the aquarium and running off with the cash. It turns out Steven only put half the money in the bag though, so the thief calls back.

George and the girls catch Jon kissing Debbi, but he claims she came out of nowhere and kissed him. She explains that they were both on Olympic teams, had tons of articles written about them, and even planned on marrying. Jon got hit on the head and developed amnesia. Though most of his memories came back, he never remembered what he had with Debbi. George winds up ending things with him but letting him stay on as her coach. Both Bess and I think this is bull shirt.

To keep the thief away from her bike, George comes up with a “brilliant” plan to just leave it tied up out in the open. Somehow, no one ever notices it. During a longer race, she gets lost in the crowd. Nancy and Ned find her passed out off the course after someone hit her over the head. The person took off when they saw she was on her old bike. George goes to the hospital and recovers.

Nancy somehow puts all the pieces together and realizes the one trying to hurt George and the person who stole the program are one in the same: Peter, Steven's assistant. She heads back to the track and finds Peter trying to steal the bike. They fight over it, he pulls out a gun, and she knocks him down. Since she somehow can't grab the gun two feet away, she hops on the bike and takes off as he shoots blindly at her.

Just as she gets to the exit, he pops up and tries to shoot her in the face, but she literally runs over him with the bike. Ned then shows up with the cops who drag him off. They recover almost all the money Steven originally paid too.

Nancy then goes to George. George confesses that she didn't want to drop out because of Nancy and Bess. They are supposedly so good at everything that it made George feel like crap. This was the one thing she was good at, which is why she didn't want to quit. She then admits that she still loves Jon and misses him, so Nancy convinces her to get back together with him. Bess and Nancy both tell George that they love her just the way she is.

*George tells Nancy that she can't compete with the other girls because her bike is so old, and Nancy thinks it's so unfair until Steven shows up with a new bike for her. It's a little unfair but also totally unrealistic. How could George make it into the championships with a shitty bike? It's not like they just let anyone compete who walks in off the street.

*Steven says he knows the thief is an outside threat because the person asked for a ransom. He says an insider or freelancer would just take the program to another company, show the work, and get a job. Say what now? I don't know about you, but I would much rather have a million bucks now than a job where I had to work my ass off to make a fraction of that.

*Why am I not surprised that Nancy would convince George to stay with a guy who not only never told her he was practically engaged to another woman but also sneaked out and lied to her about being with the other woman all night?

*Ned has such long “basketball player legs” that he can literally get to George from 10+ feet away before the flagpole can collapse on her.

*Nancy is all relieved when she comes back to the velodrome and sees them putting a chain link fence up around the concession stand. Yup, if there's one thing that will stop a murder, it's a chain link fence.

*I really don't like how this story comes out of nowhere. We know George is super athletic, but there's a big difference between being athletic and being one of the best junior cyclists in the world.

*I'm also not sure why this is the junior level competition either. George and several other girls are 18, so it doesn't seem fair that they would compete with girls who haven't yet gone through puberty.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Sweet Valley High #93: Stepsisters

You might remember Annie Whitman from such books as that time she tried to kill herself because life isn't worth living if you're not a cheerleader and that book where her boyfriend treated her like crap because he started taking steroids. She's now back to remind us that she's a character best suited for the background and B-plots in books.

In case you forgot, Mona, Annie's mother, is a huge model. She's recently been spending a lot of time in New York on assignment. When she comes back, she starts telling Annie about how she met this really nice guy Walter and how they've been spending a lot of time together and talking a lot. Annie asks if it's serious, to which Mona reveals that Walter actually proposed. He and his daughter Cheryl are moving to Sweet Valley...and they're black.

Annie gives it some thought and decides that she's okay with having a black stepdad and stepsister. That doesn't mean she wants to tell everyone about them though. Mona conveniently buys the house right next door to the Wakefields, and Jessica drags Elizabeth over to check out the new neighbors when she sees them. In turns out that Jessica read an article about Walter and saw Cheryl, which she pointed out to Liz, so the two of them already know that the Thomas – that's their last name – are black.

To introduce Cheryl to Sweet Valley, Annie decides to throw a huge party. Instead of inviting just her friends though, she invites a bunch of random people because they're black or Hispanic or whatever. Not because she's racist, oh no no no, but because she thinks it will make Cheryl feel more at home. Things get off to a rough start when they first get to town though. Annie makes a huge beef curry dish without knowing that Cheryl is a vegetarian, and Mona then forgets to set up an air mattress for her. The moving trucks also have some problems that leads to her things never getting there.

Cheryl is beautiful and super musical, playing the piano like a pro. She has no interest in football or cheerleading and doesn't know how to drive. Annie tells her all about PBA and urges her to pledge and takes her surfing and on different trips around town to show her off. Their party ends with Annie crying in the kitchen to Robin because she keeps trying to focus on Cheryl being from New York and knowing famous people instead of letting people actually get to know her. It doesn't help that everyone is all surprised that Cheryl is black because Annie never told her.

Another big story here is that Annie and Tony broke up because he cheated on her. He literally started dating someone else when they were together and didn't confess until she confronted him. Robin thinks she should give him another chance, and all her other friends start pushing her to talk to him. He keeps calling and trying to get her alone, but she keeps pointing out that she doesn't want to see him.

At the next PBA meeting, someone nominates this chick Staci Cabot and then Annie puts up Cheryl. Some people, namely Lila and Suzanne Hanlon, are not on board. Suzanne gets Annie alone and starts dropping hints about how she'll go along with Cheryl as a member if someone could help her cater the big PBA swimming party at her house. Annie grudgingly agrees to make all the food and even pay for all the ingredients. Cheryl initially refuses to go to the party but agrees to go if Annie calls Tony and invites him. Argh.

Tony approaches her at the party and tries to act all sad about being a lying cheating jerk face. Cheryl told Annie about her last boyfriend and how he was seeing someone behind her back, but when she confronted him, he pointed out that they never said they were exclusive. Annie tells him that she wants an exclusive relationship but that she also wants to know that he doesn't want to see other people. He swears that she is the only girl for him, until he starts using drugs again or sees someone cuter in a tighter sweater.

When they make an announcement about the new nominees, Staci gets up and gushes about how PBA is the best thing ever. Cheryl gets up and makes a Rosa worthy speech about how the girls are awesome but she has way too much going on in her life so she's taking her name out of contention. Annie explodes on her for ruining everything, so Cheryl points out that she wants to make her own friends and that she never even agreed to rush. The two basically stop speaking.

In the midst of all this, Cheryl bonds with Steven while he's yet again home from school. They sit next to each other at a football game and bond when he explains the rules to her. He then offers to give her driving lessons and take her to get her permit. It seems as though he's super upset over Cara moving to England and could use a friend.

The two are outside chatting as he helps her start the lawnmower when Annie rushes out with some horrible news. Her mom passed out at the caterers and was rushed to the hospital. If you think she might be pregnant like I did, no such luck. She actually has appendicitis. Annie keeps freaking out about how her mom is going to die, but Cheryl is there to hold her hand and keep her calm. They make up and decide that being stepsisters isn't that awful.

*Annie mentions worrying about her mom because she hadn't had anyone special in her life since Johnnie. Oh, you mean the guy who kept giving you the side eye and was one step away from dragging you into a dark ally? Yeah, I can totally see why you'd be upset they broke up.

*Walter and Cheryl actually move into the new house with Annie and Mona a month before the wedding. The book makes a big deal about them being an interracial couple but makes no mention of the fact that they're living in sin! As someone who lives in sin, I have no problem with this, but it seems like it should be a big deal in Sweet Valley.

*One thing that really irritates me with this book is that Cheryl already knows about Mona before the engagement and actually met her and hung out with her multiple times. Mona doesn't even tell her own daughter that she met someone until after he's proposed and she's said yes. What kind of mother does that?

*These books made cheating in a relationship seem completely normal. None of my teenage girl friends would have ever told me to go back to a cheater, but all of Annie's friends keep telling her that he just made a mistake or that he learned from his mistakes and deserved a second chance. Why is everyone on his side?

*Jessica tells her to just give him a second chance and let him know that if cheats again, it's over for good. Oh yeah, like Jessica Wakefield would date a cheater.

*Robin points out that even the best relationships have problems and points out how Liz and Todd broke up and got back together in the past. Todd and Elizabeth are NOT a good example of a positive relationship. Robin being on Tony's side actually makes sense though since she was George's side chick for so long.

*One thing I always remember about this book is that Annie won't pick a bedroom until Cheryl gets there. Annie wants the smaller room that gets more sunlight and has flowered wallpaper, but she takes the larger room with a window seat because she thinks Cheryl wants the other room. In the end, they both hate the rooms they had and switch.