Monday, March 27, 2017

The Baby-Sitters Club #68: Jessi and the Bad Baby-Sitter

Do you remember when Dawn went to California and swore she would be back for good? Well, that comes right before this one. With her gone, the club is short a member and has no alternate officer. They rely on Shannon and Logan more than ever and still need more help.

Luckily for them, Jessi has a new friend named Wendy. Wendy comes over and helps her watch her siblings, they hang out in school, and they seem to like each other. Kristy says to bring her to their next meeting. Since she apparently didn't get the memo about being late, she's super slow to get ready, but they still get there in time. It's so busy that no one really explains the rules of the club. Kristy decides to let her sit with Jessi to see how she does before giving her the job.

Sitting for the Barrett family goes pretty well. They have to relieve Claudia so she can rush to another job, and Wendy makes them get there 10 minutes late. She's good with kids though and becomes an official member. Unfortunately, Wendy doesn't really like all the BSC rules. She shows up late once because she took a job from a client without telling the BSC and shows up late again because she was playing video games with friends.

Wendy also comes late to sitting jobs. When they sit for the Pikes, Wendy doesn't show up, and Jessi has to call Mary Anne for help. Wendy admits that she was late because she once again took a job without telling the club. During the next meeting, she gets into things with Kristy and quits. Wendy takes the time to tell her that she gets told to do enough of the time without adding someone like Kristy to the mix.

Kristy flips out about how Wendy is completely irresponsible and how she can't believe Jessi would be friends with someone like that. Jessi feels bad because she thinks Wendy won't like her anymore. They eventually talk on the phone and decide that they can be friends, even if Wendy isn't in the club.

In other news, Buddy comes up with an idea to make a video play for Dawn to remind her how much they all love her. They decide to put on Snow White and the Seven Zorbs with Captain Planet saving the day. Buddy takes on Captain Planet, the Arnold twins play Snow White, Suzi plays the witch, and a bunch of other charges help out.

Dawn conveniently comes up with an idea to make a video for them too. She goes around with a camera, films some of the kids they met, and has everyone say hello. The videos cross in the mail, with both sides loving their copies. Oh, and Mallory is super tired all of the time, has no energy, and winds up skipping a bunch of jobs because she's so tired...

*Mallory's doctor says she's probably just anemic or fighting a virus. Bull shit. I had mono around the same age (12 or 13?), and when I went in with my symptoms, the doctor immediately took a blood sample and told me what she thought I had. Mallory just goes home with a prescription and says the blood tests will be in later.

*Claudia outfit #1: oversize white shirt, black vest covered in beads, black flats covered in matching beds, neon green leggings, an earring made of the same beads in one ear, and a green hoop earring in the other.

*Claudia outfit #2: hot pink stirrup pants, fuzzy pink sweater, and neon green pads and helmet.

*The girls all go skating, with Claudia wearing the above outfit. Stacey goes with jeans, a leather jacket, and a black helmet with silver steaks. Kristy wears rollerblades, but most of the other girls wear old-fashioned skates.

*Stacey gives them $30 to buy props for the video. Jessi and Mary Anne divide the money in half and buy way too much stuff for just $15 each. Jessi gets a bank shaped like a red apple, a blow up palm tree, green crepe paper, ears for all the “zorbs,” and other stuff for $15.

*Suzie recently watched a cartoon and keeps quoting, “think again buckaroo” all the time. I totally started saying that.

*When they go the store to buy supplies, Mallory begs off because she's too tired. Jessi and Mary Anne freak out because they can't control all those kids. It's really just Margo, Vanessa, Suzie, Nicky, and Buddy though. Is it really that hard?

*In a C-plot, Jessi sees Margo steal a troll ring from the store. When she confronts her, it turns out that Margo also took some gum and other trinkets. She and Mallory encourage her to tell her mom. Mrs. Pike then takes her back to the store, she gives what she can back, and pays for the rest.

*Shannon comes up with a solution in the end. She'll take over as alternate officer until Dawn comes back and will then step down. She makes a comment about all the stuff her family has planned, which causes Kristy to freak out because they might need her. Shannon just laughs and tells her they can deal with that later.

*I thought I never read this book, but I totally remember the whole play thing.

*All the girls are super excited about Dawn's video, but it kind of ticked me off. The BSC and their charges spend all this money and time on a script, props, and filming. Dawn comes up with the idea in a day and spends like 30 minutes filming.

*Wendy really hates the idea of giving up her regular clients to the club. She does have a good point though. One kid she sits for her is a baby who hates strangers. How would Kristy deal with that?

*At the beginning, Jessi asks if anyone wants hot chocolate and microwaves three mugs of chocolate milk. That is not hot chocolate!!!

*While sitting for her siblings, Mallory falls asleep while reading The Three Bears. Jessi finds Claire playing by herself, and Claire says Mallory fell asleep but she doesn't blame her because she thinks it's a very boring story. I kind of love this kid.

*Vanessa uses her mom's electric rollers to curl her hair for a pizza party. One set gets stuck, and Jessi has to cut them out. She then shows Vanessa how to braid the short side of her head to make it look better, which she does again later in the book. I literally cannot picture how this would look.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Sweet Valley High #75: Amy's True Love

The big talk around town is that Jeanie and Tom McKay just broke up. You might remember that she's some random cheerleader and that he's the big tennis star. Jessica tells Liz that she's getting tired of Amy. Apparently, Amy is now more boy crazy than ever and recently clam jammed Jessica at the disco over some hot guy. As the other cheerleaders crowd around to hear the story, Amy shows up all excited. Completely not sensing the vibe in the room, she asks if she can go after Tom now.

Jeanie rushes off in tears while everyone else just stares at her. Jessica, who would totally go after any hot guy with a girlfriend or not, freaks out at her about being such a bitch. She and Lila make her feel like a total whore and backstabber. The other two then decide to give Amy the silent treatment for a few days.

Amy isn't exactly having the best time ever though. Her sociology teacher warns her that she's in danger of failing and that her last paper on social work wasn't very good because Amy picked a topic she knows nothing about. The teacher suggests that she volunteer at Project Youth and write a new paper to get some extra credit.

On her first day, she meets Barry. He's on the tennis team with Tom but is a little too goofy for her to actually date. They bond a little as he trains her, and he quickly develops a huge crush on her. Barry keeps talking to her in school, but she keeps asking him for her to snag Tom. Tom barely knows she's alive and seems to be going through some stuff on his own.

Her parents are a little too busy for her too. Her dad just got a job to do a new book, and her mom is always at the station. When she tries to make dinner for them, she forgets to defrost the chicken. Amy tries to tell them a funny story about two guys fighting over her in art class, which they find not at all funny. Her mom then gives her a lecture about how college is coming up and it's time she buckle down and get serious.

The other big news is that Enid's cousin Jake is coming into town. He's super hot, so naturally Lila and Jessica plan to throw themselves at him. While coming up with ideas as to what to do with them, they manage to bring up how Amy threw herself at Lila's cousin and how he left her for Enid. Even Liz thinks it's cold, but Jessica points out that Amy did it to herself. I guess by acting just like Jess?

Jake comes to town and meets everyone at the disco. Though Jessica and Lila do throw themselves at him, he doesn't seem all that interested,. He does, however, seem interested in Tom. They play tennis together and have an earnest talk that leaves Tom feeling super confused. He keeps thinking about how he loves Jeanie but doesn't want to be with her and how Amy keeps turning him off.

Amy tries everything she can to snag Tom. She sneaks up on him in the library, follows him around school, and even asks him for tennis lessons. At the disco, she follows him to get a drink and keeps asking him to dance. He kind of pawns her off on Barry before running away. Lila and Jessica see and use it as an excuse to tease her.

Tom rushes out of the disco early and finds himself alone with Jake. He pours out his feelings, and Jake reveals that he's gay. Tom has no clue what to say and feels really awkward, so they walk away. Enid later confesses to Liz that Jake told her he was gay and that she had no idea what to say either.

Amy comes up with a final plan to win Tom, which involves buying tickets to a big concert. She asks him out in front of a group, and when he turns her down, she keeps pushing the issue. Kirk “The Jerk” Anderson calls her a dumb blond for not figuring out that Tom doesn't like her, and she runs away in tears. Jessica tracks her down, tells her that Barry stuck up for her, and that Kirk is just stupid. Amy tells her about working at Project Youth and how much she likes it and finds an apology note from Tom in her locker.

Liz just so happens to be doing an article on Project Youth and catches Tom with a pamphlet about homosexuality and teens. They have a short talk before he meets with a counselor. He later catches her and Enid, confesses that Jake told him a big secret, and asks for his address to write him a letter. Jessica and Lila break their silent treatment, and Jessica even reveals that she thinks Barry is a nice guy and kind of cute.

Amy's mom and dad admit that they've been way too busy lately and want to spend more time together as a family. Mrs. Sutton says that Liz called about doing an interview on the Project Youth thing, which leads to Amy telling them about how she did it for school but now wants to stick around. She then asks Barry to go to the concert with her. The book ends with her learning about the Miss Teen Sweet Valley pageant and Barry telling her that he thinks she can win.

*The whole thing with the teacher telling her that she needs social work experience to write a paper on it is BS. How are high school kids supposed to get experience like that?

*One of the guys “fighting” over Amy is AJ Morgan. I assumed after the whole Jessica debacle that he would avoid her friend group like the plague.

*I saw this book and totally though, hey! This is the one where Tom comes out of the closet. I wasn't sure I actually read it before or just read about it until I got to the part with her cooking frozen chicken on the grill though.

*Jessica bleaches her jeans, soaks them in hot water, and puts them on in the tub to make them as tight as possible. How did she get out of high school without getting pregnant?

*Amy is shocked that two almost front row tickets cost a whole 60 bucks. Me too because I paid more than that for nosebleed seats to a Vince Gill concert last summer!

*The woman in charge of Project Youth tells Amy that if she wants to stick around that they can find a way to pay her. Wait, what? I always assumed this was just a volunteer thing. Aren't all the teens working there volunteers?

*You have to love that Jessica gave Amy the silent treatment for doing the same thing she always does. If she had any interest in Tom, she would have gone after him even faster.

*I really thought that Tom came out out in this book. He actually just questions if he's gay and never says anything outright. Given how he talks about Jeanie, it seems like he's just an unsure guy after a break up and not really gay.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Nancy Drew Files #100: Dance Till You Die (1994)

It's the middle of October and extremely cold wherever River Heights is, but Nancy and George are putting on halter tops and short shorts to hit some new club. It features a different theme every night of the week, and the current theme is summer beach party. Bess will meet them there. She recently got a job at the club and wants to surprise them with both her outfit and her job, which makes me feel slightly uncomfortable.

While waiting in line, they see a nerdy guy with a camera trying to snap some shots. The bouncer gets extremely angry at him for no real reason and basically slams him into the wall and back in line. Though concerned, the girls ignore it because they make it to the front of the line. It turns out that Bess is some type of “host,” which means that she wears a skimpy mermaid outfit and lounges around on a fake boulder.

Bess tells them that the nerdy guy is Tom, some rando who keeps following her around and taking picture. True to form, he pops up to take some shots of her. While dancing, Nancy hears a scream that suspiciously sounds like Bess and finds her friend missing. She finds a fire door nearby propped open with a nonworking alarm and one of Bess's hair decorations on the ground.

Lonnie, the owner of the club, is quite concerned. He tells them all about Charity, the woman who previously held Bess's job and lets them into the dressing room. All they find is a flier for some underground show. Lonnie mopes about how these parties might kill his club. Kids show up, make a mess, and the hosts walk off with money and leave the “property” they borrowed completely destroyed.

Nancy and Bess go to the show and find Charity, but they unfortunately also find her boyfriend Gaetan. He's a complete dick and makes them feel like shit for even questioning him, but Charity seems upset that Bess went missing. Etienne, the DJ from the dance club, also shows up, which makes Charity and her guy take off. Etienne tells them that he and Gaetan planned on opening a club together but that the other guy took his investment and keeps ignoring him. Nancy finds it suspicious that despite the cold, Etienne doesn't wear a coat.

To investigate Tom, they go to the quarry where his dad works because he apparently works for his dad. Tom is shocked that Bess went missing and shows them to his darkroom, which is conveniently on-site. Nancy finds it weird that he has so many pictures of Bess and notices that some were taken months ago. Creeeeepppppyyy. He offers to give them a tour, walks off because he hears someone calling him, and the girls almost get crushed by falling boulders. His dad luckily saves them and sends them home while yelling at Tom for being so irresponsible.

In the hopes of tracking down Charity, Nancy looks her up in the phone book, how quaint. Though Charity wears all black, has eight piercings in one ear, and acts like a total rebel, she's actually from the rich side of the tracks. Her dad explains that they had a fight over her boyfriend, Charity ran off, and they haven't heard from her since. Her mom is so upset that she can't get out of bed, and her dad begs them to call if they hear anything.

While heading over to talk to Bess's parents, they randomly stumble upon a tied up Bess. She can't remember a lot except that the guy had a tattoo of a green eagle on one arm, which means he wore short sleeves. The cops come and take statements before leaving. Bess's mom makes a huge dinner and asks the girls if they can stay the night to keep Bess safe.

That turns out to be a good idea because someone tries to break into her room that very night. Though he gets away, he does leave shoe impressions behind, which Nancy deduces are a size 13. They head over to Etienne's apartment to check on him and ask him some questions but instead find his strangled body on the ground. Guess who has a tattoo of a green phoenix on his arm? One cop says it's a common tattoo on soldiers in Europe. Upon being questioned, Bess says that perfectly matches the tattoo she saw. We now have a kidnapper but no one else.

Nancy heads to see Charity. Though she's upset that Etienne is dead, Gaetan doesn't seem that surprised. He's more concerned over his immigration status and what this will do to him. He's the cops number one suspect and instead of talking to them, he ran when they showed up at his apartment. Charity isn't happy that her parents are worried but absolutely refuses to do anything without Gaetan and won't come home unless they change their minds about him. Oh yeah, this sounds like a healthy relationship. Nancy passes along her dad's card and warns Gaetan that he really needs a lawyer.

Nancy arranges for the cops to pick up Gaeten, which makes everyone think things are fine. Bess even makes plans to go to the Halloween party at the club, but Nancy makes her switch costumes with her. She finds out from the police that someone dosed Etienne with ether before killing him and that someone dosed Bess with the same thing. Though she tries to talk to Tom, he refuses to speak with her except to let it slip that he knows Etienne died, which is apparently not public knowledge.

To make things worse, a random car keeps following them. Nancy realizes that it's Lucas, the scary bouncer from the club. Lonnie says that Lucas wouldn't hurt a fly but does agree to talk to him. Nancy lies to protect Bess and says her best friend is skipping the party. Her detective friends pulls a report on Lucas and finds that he's a bad guy complete with a record for assault with a deadly weapon. He warns her to be careful, but she and George go to the party anyway.

While at the party, she finds a foreclosure notice from the bank for the club. Then, while looking for Lonnie in a back room, a valve explodes and nearly blows her face off before Lonnie saves her. He tells her it's a common problem he thought he fixed, which Bess backs up because she saw him working on it. Charity is also there to whine about her boyfriend some more, and Bess has it out with Tom after she hears that he's been telling people they're dating. Nancy tries to follow him when he runs away but loses him in traffic.

The girls then decide to hide out in the dressing rooms and try to find out what's happening. Lonnie and Lucas are nice enough to discuss their whole plan, which involves setting up the plumbing system to explode, collecting the insurance money, and splitting it in half. Etienne was once in on their plan too. They split up, but someone whacks Nancy over the back of the head and knocks her out. Hm, that sounds familiar.

She comes to with Bess and George locked in the dressing room with her. Lonnie confesses that they killed Etienne, who was behind the kidnapping, and went after Bess because she saw them in the pumping room once and they thought she figured everything out. He leaves them trapped in the dressing room with 30 minutes left behind the building explodes.

Luckily, George has her pocketknife, which they use to break through their bonds. They get outside and down the alley just as the building explodes. Nancy goes after Lonnie and actually finds him, but he has a gun that he turns on her. Since she's Nancy Drew, she hits him in the head with a telephone and then knocks him out with a kick to the face. The cops show up to arrest him, having already captured Lucas.

Charity and Gaetan come to see Nancy a few days later. They made up with her parents and agreed to put off getting married for a few years. Carson plans on helping Gaetan with his immigration plans so he can stay in the country. Oh and Gaetan is apparently a musician and already lined up a ton of work. Charity has to be all smug like as she claims that her future looks better than ever before.

*My copy says that it's a special collectors edition, though I don't know why. The only thing different about is it that is has gold on the title.

*Yeah, so the bouncer in the very beginning was way out of line. There was no reason for him to basically body slam a guy for taking a picture.

*Nancy describes Etienne as wearing an orchid color shirt. While I assume that's a shade of purple, it's just random because my local grocery store, of all places, sells like four different colors of orchids now.

*Nancy must not be that great of a detective because when she finds Bess, she immediately unties her and messes up all the evidence.

*So Bess is all discouraged at dinner and makes a comment about how she can focus on her diet tomorrow because kidnapping is a good excuse to eat. Nancy and George just laugh it off, but it kind of made me feel bad for Bess.

*I kind of, no I really hate, the Charity and Gaetan story line. She's an 18 year old girl who wants to marry some random guy she's known for a few weeks and is totally in love with, oh and the guy's a musician. She acts like everyone is against her one true love, but I want to smack her for being a stupid teen girl. It's also kind of BS that not only is he here illegally, but he somehow manages to keep finding work? I'm not trying to be political or anything, I think it's just a shitty B-plot.

*Tom apologizes to Bess in the end, and she says he's not such a bad guy. I am really glad it didn't end with her agreeing to go on a date with him. He's literally been taking photos of her for six or eight months now, keeps sneaking around her all the time, and tells all these random people she's his girlfriend. She should be calling the cops, not talking to him on the phone!

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Baby-Sitters Club #121: Abby in Wonderland

Abby wakes up one morning and wonders why she feels out of sorts before remembering that her family is heading to the Hamptons to spend 10 days with her grandparents and she didn't finish packing the night before. Anna wanders in as she tosses everything in her bag and complains that she needs to take her time so things don't get wrinkled. Their mom then gets a call that there's some work she needs to do ASAP. Since they can't leave until later in the day, Abby can squeeze in one last meeting.

While taking the ferry, she gets pissed because her mom does work and whines to herself about how her mom will probably spend the whole trip working. She also thinks about all the friends she had on Long Island that she doesn't talk to anymore. They take the time to drive by their whole house, which depresses just about everyone. Abby suddenly can't wait to get to the Hamptons.

Though her grandparents are older, they're both super active. Her grandma is planning a huge anniversary party with an Alice in Wonderland theme while working on her family history. Even though her grandfather had a triple bypass, he's back to being active and loves playing on the beach with her. Basically, everything seems perfect.

That all changes when she notices her grandma acting weird. Her grandparents keep arguing over who will do certain things, she gets a phone call about something that needs checked up on, and the woman seems upset that so many people aren't coming, especially her sister Leah. The two woman had a fight over something in the past and haven't talked in years, but no one will tell Abby what the fight was about.

Abby takes matters into her own hands and calls her great uncle. She tells him that her grandmother was so disappointed when she got his rejection letter because he's always the life of the party. He changes his plans around so he can come after all. She also calls her cousin who eventually agrees to try and make it and bring her kids.

When her grandmother asks her to grab something out of her room for her, Abby finds brochures about breast cancer and realizes that she's sick. She goes to the library and looks up information about it and wonders who she can talk to before deciding to keep it a secret. Abby thinks about telling Mallory who calls her and then Kristy but decides against it because it's not really her secret. Though she does keep waiting for someone to spill the beans.

Her grandmother has a friend who works on off-Broadway shows and brings a bunch of props and costume pieces for everyone to use. Kristy then comes to town for the weekend and for the party, as does her aunt Miriam. You might remember her as the woman who dumped her baby on their front steps without a word. Even Miriam picks up on the fact that this party seems really important to her mom.

Miriam eventually tells her what happened with Leah. Abby's grandmother joined Weight Watchers and asked her sister not to tell anyone. Leah then brought it up in the middle of a big party, the two fought, and stopped speaking. Abby decides that if she tells anyone about the cancer, her grandmother will stop speaking to her too for betraying her confidence. She instead calls Leah and tells her grandmother, which leads to the two women finally talking and Leah agreeing to come to the party.

The party is a huge hit, and her grandmother gives a short speech. When she doesn't mention the cancer, Abby runs off to cry until her grandma finds her. She tells her what she knows and learns that her grandmother found a lump, which the doctor removed for testing. She then tells Abby that she knows she can get through it because she has her family beside her, hugs her, and then tells her that she'll always have her family too. The end. WTF Martin?

In other news, the Pike family can't go to Sea City this year. Mr Pike needs a new fuel pump, which will take the whole vacation fund. After moping around for so long that Mallory wants to tear her hair out, Dawn comes up with a new idea while sitting for them. They can turn their yard into Sea City. They set up kiddie pools with water, play games, make beach snacks, and have a ton of fun.

It all lends up to one last vacation day. Stacey takes them downtown the same way they went downtown on vacation and arranges for them to meet the mayor and tour the fire station. A bunch of kids go back to the Pike house for a sleepover, but someone clogs the toilet, and they all have to go across the yard to the McGill house. None of the multiple sitters get any sleep, but the kids have a great time. Mr and Mrs Pike wind up so frazzled that Stacey thinks they'll never have another staycation again.

*Abby complaining about her mom working really annoyed me. God forbid your mom work on the ferry when there is nothing else to do or that she do some work while you're at the beach without her.

*She also throws a fit about the book on tape her mom listens to while driving and makes them turn it off to listen to music, even though both her mom and Anna were into the tape!

*Abby also makes a comment about how she always refers to Long Island as home but that she guesses Stoneybrook is her home now. The way she says it comes off as really snotty though, like she doesn't want it to be her home.

*Her aunt Miriam dresses as the duchess and puts her son in a matching pig costume. Abby points out how it's just like the story and is so cute, but I honestly do not remember that character at all.

*Abby's grandmother's mom had 12 siblings, but nine of them died in the Holocaust. It's meant to be this sobering and serious moment, but it comes across as really forced to me.

*Kristy sees Abby's mom lounging on the car and soaking up the sun when she first arrives and makes a comment about how too much sun is bad for you. Hm, let's see...who spends five minutes just sitting in the sun and who spends hours practicing with her baseball team in the sun and heat?

*Kristy also seems really appalled when the woman tells her that being too practical isn't good either. Abby says that Kristy doesn't believe there is such a thing as being too practical. Man, she is going to be a real hoot in high school.

*Her grandmother dresses up like the White Queen. The book has her in an outfit with a see through skirt, white piping around the inside, and matching bloomers. It clearly doesn't match the outfit on the cover.

*Abby naturally goes as Alice and flips out when Anna's friend brings over her four little sitters who all dressed as Alice too. She calms down when she realizes it will just add to the crazy Wonderland feel of the party. I think it's a little weird though. Did she think there were enough characters that everyone would come as someone different?

*So this is a whole book about a woman who has cancer, but then it turns out that she might not have cancer and everything gets summed up in two final pages. That pisses me off.

*Ann tells kids in her end notes that families will always come together and that if someone in your family is sick, you'll always have your family to turn to for help. I'm not getting into my personal/private life her, but she's a damn liar. Not everyone has a big happy family they can turn to all the time.

*The triplets accidentally blast Mrs Pike with water balloons, she seems super ticked, and takes her time coming out, but she actually attacks them with a Super Soaker before running back inside laughing. I totally want to be that kind of mom!

*Poor David Michael. He can come to the Pike house during the day because Kristy comes with him, but because she's in the Hamptons when they hold a sleepover, he can't come. Yet they have multiple sitters there like Stacey, Mallory, Jessi, and Logan. Could no one watch him at night?

*Claudia wears orange leggings with a yellow tunic decorated with beads, matching earrings made from the same beads and clay, and aqua shoes. Abby says she looks like a sunset, but I say she looks like she's color blind.

*Abby is so super active all the time that she can't even handle being stuck in traffic or sitting on the ferry. She also explains that sitting still is so way harder for her than other people.

*The Pike vacation thing didn't make a lot of sense to me because I'm assuming they already put down a deposit or even paid for the whole house. It's so close to when they usually go that I can't imagine they got a full refund.

*Abby is kind of smarmy about how none of them thought her aunt could handle raising a baby and how she guesses they were wrong. I'm sure she assumes anyone in the BSC could do a better job too.

*In case you couldn't tell, I really don't like Abby. I'm glad I only have a few more of her books to get through.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Unicorn Club #10: Mandy in the Middle

Lila like totally misses Mandy Miller. Ever since the Unicorn Club split into the Unicorns and the Angels. Mandy's been on the fence but seemingly spending more time with the other club. While getting ready for Earth Day at school, which requires that kids dress up, the other Unicorns borrow a bunch of her clothes, leave a huge mess in her room, and just take off without even bothering to help her pick out an outfit. She wishes Mandy were there to help.

Lila stops by a booth the Angels set up for Earth Day to sell sugar-free granola cakes to raise money to preserve the rain forests. Mandy is so into it that Lila buys their entire supply. She keeps going on and on about how the rain forests are so important. Lila even convinces the other girls to leave and check out the other booths while she stays behind and helps clean up.

In the hopes of bringing Mandy back into the fold, Lila convinces her to meet them at Casey's for ice cream. Not only does she offer to pay for her ice cream, but she gives her a pair of super expensive gold earrings. Mandy turns down the earrings because her mom put a pair on layaway for her and seems pretty uncomfortable with the gift. She's even more uncomfortable with the way they make fun of kids at school, especially Lois who for some reason thought it was a good idea to dress up as a whale. Mandy makes up an excuse and leaves.

Lila spots Liz and calls her over to chat. It turns out that Mandy isn't spending time with the Angles either. They actually thought she was leaning more towards the Unicorns. Lila follows Mandy one day and sees her go to the hospital. She runs inside to talk with a nurse because she's worried her friend is sick again but learns that Mandy is just a volunteer there and is smitten with a new kid.

Mandy started volunteering and met Randall who is seven. His mom lives in northern California and doesn't get to see him a lot because her boss won't let her take off much time from work. He and Mandy bond as he gets ready to have surgery to remove a tumor. They even come up with plans for an airplane that would let his mom come see him anytime she wants.

When Lila learns all this, she convinces the club that they have to help poor Randall. They bake cookies and go door to door around her neighborhood to sell them, but they only raise like $12. With permission from her dad, she donates another $3,000 and makes plans to take the money to Mandy. While on the way, Lila sees an adorable little house for sale, stops to look at it, meets the real estate agent who works with her dad, and agrees to buy it on the spot. Mandy looks at everything as Lila trying to buy back her friendship, flips out, and basically tells the Unicorns to shove it.

Lila feels so bad about everything that happened that she goes to the hospital to see Mandy. She instead meets Randall and ends up bonding with him over checkers. Even though it's the night before, Mandy gets stuck at home because her mom made a special dinner for the 50th anniversary of her great aunt and uncle. Lila stays with Randall until his mom gets there, but the poor woman can only stay for an hour. She then has to go home, get some sleep, go to work the next day, and then make the long drive back. Lila comes up with an even better plan. His mom can spend the night with her, take the Fowler private plane back the next morning for work, and then fly back on the plane that night.

Mandy shows up at the hospital the next day and learns what happened. It makes her realize that while Lila is a spoiled brat that she sometimes uses her money for good things. She also remembers all the fun she had with the club and goes to see them, only to hear Lila telling them all about how Randall is super cool and how they need to meet him. They all welcome her back to the club with open arms. When Mandy suggests maybe doing things with the Angels sometimes, they point out that there is no mixing of the two groups. Except you know, the twins who live in the same house.

*Poor Lila. Her friends leave her room a total mess, so she just uses her intercom to call the housekeeper and have her clean up for her.

*Inappropriate outfit for middle school #1: Lila wears black leggings with black ankle boots and a blazer to school.

*Inappropriate outfit number 2: Mandy pairs dangling earrings with a tie dyed shirt and a suede miniskirt.

*Mandy's mom is kind of a bitch. Her daughter literally breaks down in tears because this kid Randall is the only real friend she has now. She knows that his mom can't really be there for him before his surgery but refuses to let Mandy leave even 30 minutes early from their dinner. She also gets annoyed when Mandy gets upset that she missed visiting hours.

*Mandy reminisces about how Jessica was one of her best friends and someone she could always turn to before she joined the club. Say what now? Jessica was the one who would barely talk to her in public and ignored her because the other girls didn't think she was Unicorn material.

*Is it bad that I wish I had a friend like Lila who would buy me expensive gifts all the time and treat me?

*The sugar-free granola snacks she buys are so gross that Lila hides them in the back of the freezer until she can throw them away.

*I kind of want to know what happened to the house she bought. Did her dad make everything go away, or did he even notice she dropped a ton of cash on a new house?

*Mandy hates that the other Unicorns make fun of other kids and are so mean to unpopular kids. She can't even be around them for 20 minutes in the ice cream shop. I don't know why she thinks things will just go back to normal now.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Nancy Drew Files #73: Rendezvous in Rome

Back when I wrote a recap of Swiss Secrets, the first book in the Passport to Romance trilogy, I did not have this book. Here's hoping I manage to track down book number three!

Nancy, George, and Bess head to Rome on their European adventure to meet up with Claudia, a friend they made in the last book. Claudia immediately introduces them to her friend Massimo, a jewelry designer and huge flirt. He falls all over Bess and offers her one of his new necklaces that looks like an authentic antique as long as she will dance with him at least once while in town. They then head to the shop where Claudia works to see some of his other pieces. They compare Bess's necklace to one of the new ones before she puts it back on.

That night, Massimo asks where she got her new necklace and tells her that if she didn't like his, she didn't have to keep it. Bess says it's the same one as before, but he points out how different it is from his designs. Sandro, Claudia's boyfriend, seems a little shifty. That same day, someone tries to grab Bess's bag and run off with it, but they catch the people in time.

They get the chance to meet Fabio, one of the leading experts in antiquities. He looks over the necklace and offers them 25,000 lira for it. He then warns them about smuggling antiquities out of the country and claims the necklace is the real deal. Nancy makes up a lie about them figuring out what to do and takes off. The only thing they can think is that Bess must have picked up the real necklace at the shop.

Claudia claims her shop doesn't sell antiques but does agree to take them back. They meet her boss, Paola, who seems highly annoyed that they're there. She only agrees to let them look around after they name drop Sandro because she's close friends with his mom. Speaking of Sandro, they go to a party at his house. His mom loves the necklace and talks about how she has one similar in her own collection. When she checks her safe though, the necklace is gone! Since there are no signs of a break in, she decides to let Nancy handle it instead of the police.

At a dance club, we meet Karine, a friend of Massimo. She brags about how she was with him the night before and keeps dropping hints about them dating while shooting daggers at Bess. There's also a comment about how he plans on making her a necklace with beads to match her eyes because she's so special to him, not knowing that he said the exact same thing to Bess the night he met her.

Nancy starts feeling weird while at the club. Sandro tries to convince her to let him take her home, but she runs to the bathroom instead. She wakes up to Bess looking over her after finding her passed out on the bathroom floor. Ew. Sandro still wants to take her to the hospital, but she just wants to go back to her hotel. Nancy tells Bess that she thinks someone drugged her in an attempt to get the necklace out of her bag.

Someone breaks into their hotel room twice. The first time is just to leave a threatening note. The second time is to leave a note with a gargoyle replica, which makes them suspect Massimo. All the woman at the front desk can tell them is that the only people who can get inside the hotel are guests. She remembers someone new checking in, and her description matches Massimo. When they go to his room though, it's completely empty and unused.

A few more pieces of jewelry go missing, so Nancy sets up a sting. Fabio plans a huge party and tells everyone that it's to show off a new antique piece he found. He invites her friends and those on her suspect list to attend. After the party, Nancy goes to the hotel room where Fabio told everyone he would store the necklace. Someone sneaks inside and gets the necklace, but when she goes after him, he knocks her down. She runs outside just in time to see the robber take off on a moped.

Big news comes for Nancy. If you read the last book, she met a cute guy named Mick and instantly cheated on Ned with him. Claudia arranges for him to come to town as a surprise, and they pick up right where they left off. Taking a page from the Ned Nickerson playbook, he even offers to jump right in and help her with the case. Meanwhile, Claudia acts really shifty and is so not her usual self.

Claudia finally comes to Nancy with some big news, way bigger than Mick. She shows her a moped, which is the same one the robber used, and it belongs to Sandro. Claudia admits that she thought it was him for awhile now. Sandro admits to stealing not only his mom's necklace but all the other jewelry. He wanted to open his own computer business but didn't want to ask his parents for help, so he stole his mother's necklace to pawn it. Oh, it's totally okay though because he thought he could get it out of the pawn shop without his mom knowing.

Instead, he asked Paola for help finding a good pawn shop. She instead offered to give him a loan on it, but she then took the necklace and demanded that he steal more for her or she would go to the cops. With Mick's help and Sandro's help, Nancy thinks she can catch her in the act.

After following her around for hours, they see her go towards some artists, where she keeps stopping to see what Karine is drawing. Karine tells Nancy that her dad calls her every morning and tells her what to draw, which she doesn't find odd at all. Nancy puts it together that Karine's dad, who is conveniently an importer and exporter, is on the thefts. It probably helps when she actually sees the two of them together.

Since this book was kind of lame, I'm just going to sum things up. They use Karine to set up Paola. Karine draws something completely different from what her dad asked her to draw, which causes Paola to go to the wrong place. They manage to capture the importer exporter dad, but Paola almost gets away until Sandro comes out of nowhere and tackles her.

Nancy reveals that they let Sandro out on bail and that his mom got her necklace back because Paola couldn't bring herself to sell a friend's necklace. The cops let him out on bail, and if they can find the two still missing pieces, he'll probably get off on probation. Bess tells everyone that she is done with both shopping and romances from here on out. Mick packs his bags to take off with them, explaining that he let Nancy leave him once before and won't let it happen again. That might be sweet if she didn't have a boyfriend waiting for her back home. Mick then asks if she's done with romance too, Nancy smirks at him and tells him she's okay with just one more, and they kiss. Gr.

*Fabio offers them the equivalent of a little under $7,000 for the necklace. Is it bad that I would probably sell it?

*The girls all ride around town on mopeds, which I think is awesome. It does make me wonder though if you can really pick up riding one so fast.

*If you noticed that I hardly mentioned George, it's because she's never there. She makes friends with a bunch of thrill seekers who want to head to Greece. Since they weren't planning on going to Greece for at least a week, George decides to go ahead with them. Yes, she literally leaves for a foreign country with complete strangers and no one says a word or finds it odd. I see a horror movie in her future...

*Nancy spends an entire chapter chasing Fabio all over Rome because she sees Paola give him a package and assumes he's in on the thefts. It turns out to just be a belt she gave him from her shop.

*You have to feel bad for Karine when she realizes that she's in love with a guy who can't handle being with one woman at a time and that she helped put her dad behind bars.

*Nancy very briefly mentions Ned and says that they're going through a difficult time right now. Well, maybe if you stopped cheating on him every time you left the state, things might be a little easier.

*You might notice a sudden increase in Nancy Drew books over the next few weeks/months. My best friend and I were at a thrift store that had Nancy Drew books for 49 cents. I had no clue which ones I owned, so I just bought them all, and I'm trying to recap as many as I can before they go missing like all my other books. I seriously spent $27 on Nancy Drew, Unicorn Club, Sweet Valley Kids, and a few Point Horror/Thriller books. :)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sweet Valley Kids #33: Caroline’s Halloween Spell

So, it's Halloween again in Sweet Valley. Jessica can't wait to dress up as a cheerleader, but Liz isn't sure what she wants to be. While chatting on the bus, kids start picking on Caroline for seemingly no reason. Todd tells her that her hair is already orange and she should stop eating carrots. Their literally five seconds away from telling her that she has no soul. She later hears Elizabeth mention something about being a witch and bluntly tells her that she knows nothing about witches. Ah, poor poor Caroline, wait until high school and see if you still feel the same way.

Their teacher takes them to the library and asks everyone to pick out a book about Halloween to present a paper on in front of the class. Liz picks out a book on witches and decides that Caroline might be an actual witch. She has a cat, which they see her with outside, they hear her reciting a spell, the twins catch her standing over a large pot in her kitchen, and she can apparently predict the future. Caroline knows that their neighbor, Mrs. Frankel, who always puts up a spooky skeleton will use a ghost this year. They later see her hanging up a ghost decoration on her porch.

Since Liz is so “good” at sleuthing, she decides to dress up as a detective. The girls all get together and come up with a plan to prove that Caroline is a real witch based on the witch movies they know. Since the only one they know is The Wizard of Oz, they wait until she stands up in class in her witch costume and throw water at her. Seriously?

Their teacher freaks out until they tell her why they did it and then laughs, as does Caroline. She tells them she just dressed up as a witch and freaked out in the beginning because she thought Liz would go as one too. The spell was just a few lines from Macbeth her dad taught her, she was helping her dad cook chili in that pot, and her cat is just a cat. The only reason she knew about Mrs. Frankel was because she saw the woman throw out her old skeleton and bring home a new ghost. After laughing some more, they all go trick or treating together and start eagerly talking about Thanksgiving.

*Liz is super proud of her costume because she looks just like Sherlock Holmes. What kind of second grader knows Sherlock Holmes?

*They also think Caroline is a witch because they see her sweeping. Yeah, I can see why they were so confused. See, some kids actually have to do chores at home and don't get to do whatever the hell they want to do.

*While out at the mall, they see Caroline and her mom. Caroline gets snippy when Alice asks what she bought, so her mom yells at her. How about telling Alice to stop being such a nosy bitch and asking about what's in the box?

*Liz is such a little brat. She says that even though other people are mean to Caroline that she tries to be nice to her all the time, but she then just sits there when they say nasty things to her on the bus.

*Mrs. Frankel, who I swear is in a SVT book, lives in an old rundown house. Other kids are too afraid to even knock on her door, but the kids that do get these huge bags filled with big candy bars and stuff. I would totally knock on her door...