Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Fear Street Sagas #1: A New Fear

I actually went to a secondhand bookstore, Second and Charles, where I keep stocking up on the newer Nancy Drew books cheap and decided to check out the “teen” area. Imagine my surprise when I found eleven of the Fear Street Sagas books. After reading through the first two, I have to say that this series is pretty gnarly!

In case you didn't read the Fear Street Saga set, Nora Goode was a woman who fell in love with Daniel Fear despite their families being sworn enemies. The Fear Mansion caught on fire, a bunch of random shit happened, and everyone except her died. The cops show up, refuse to believe her story, and finally put her in the nut house until she agrees to tell them what really happened.

About a year later, Nora is still there and gave birth to her son, Nicholas. The head nurse comes in to remind her that it's bath time and leaves the baby with a 12 year old patient. Nora comes back and surprisingly does not find her son mutilated in pieces. He's perfectly fine, but the kid does say bye-bye to her son. The nurse then reveals that it's just not right to raise a child in an institution and that the doctor made arrangements for a wealthy family to adopt him.

That's the cover story anyway. The real story, which Nora just so happens to overhear, is that the doctor plans on killing the baby and burying him on the grounds. Maybe. Like two pages later, he's talking about how the baby is worth a lot of money to him. Nora's secretly been making a rope to escape from her room, but the doctor catches her and has the nurse cut the rope as well as her hair, since she used her hair to make it.

When they later show up to take the baby, Nora goes completely feral on them. She attacks the orderlies with her nails and even rips a chunk out of one dude's arm with her teeth. They finally get her under control, but the Fear amulet that she still wears suddenly gets really hot. Not only does the room catch on fire, but the fire spreads. Daniel then steps out of the flames to attack all the bad peeps and starts to attack Nora before realizing who she is. He then tells her to take the baby and leave. She manages to escape as the institution burns to the ground with pretty much everyone else inside.

Nora makes the mistake of sneaking her and Nicholas onto a shop, not even knowing its destination. A crew member catches her and tries to force himself on her, but the amulet gets hot again. Rats come out of nowhere and attack him, even ripping off his eyelids. His cabin mates catch her and think she's a witch. One guy is on her side until the others mutiny. They demand that she make this massive storm raging around them stop or they will make her walk the plank.

Since Nora is not a witch, she can't do diddly squat. Before they can throw her overboard though, which is their next plan, the storm grows wilder as the amulet heats up. As the wind whips people overboard and starts killing others, she gets Nicholas in a wood trunk, ties the trunk to her leg, and jumps off the ship. Nora wakes up on the beach with Nicholas perfectly fine but rips off the amulet and throws it out to sea. She decides that they'll now be the Storm family and that no one will ever know her son was a Fear.

Years later, 1919 to be exact, Nicholas is a poor young man living with his poor mother. He's in love with Rosalyn, a beautiful woman from town, but her father refuses to let them be together. Nicholas comes home and finds his mother dying in her bedroom. She tells his father left him a legacy and then dies.

Rosalyn tracks him down and tells him that he needs to leave right away. Her father arranged a marriage for her. When she told him she was in love with Nicholas, he threatened to kill him. Nicholas hears a voice tell him to go to Shadyside and books the first ticket out of town. Rosalyn shows up at the last minute to give him a very special gift that she found washed up on the beach: the Fear amulet.

Once he arrives in Shadyside, Nicholas quickly discovers that he is a Fear and finds what is left of the family home. Multiple people almost pass out because he looks just like his dead father. He meets Betsy, a cute blond, who introduces him to her mother who runs a boardinghouse and gets him a room. Nicholas assumes that his family is still super rich and learns that Mr. Manning is the richest man in town and tried to capitalize off the Fear name.

As it turns out, no one wanted anything to do with Fear Street after the fire. Though he put down the road and made some other changes, Manning never had a single home built. He tells Nicholas that all he really inherited was a bunch of back taxes but does offer him a job in his lumber mill. On his way back to the boardinghouse, Nicholas runs into a plain and quiet girl named Ruth. She's Manning's daughter and seems smitten with him.

After some time passes, Nicholas begins making friends. Ike, his closest friend, loses fingers in an accident at the mill. Jason, another coworker, hates him because he has a thing for Betsy. Betsy keeps making Nicholas lunch and showing up at the mill to see him. Manning then gets so sick that he can't leave his bed. After an encounter at the mill, Betsy asks him to come home early that night because she's making him a special dinner.

When he gets home, he finds that someone killed her. Not only did they tie her hands behind her back, but they shoved a wad of the special dough she made from him down her throat. Nicholas runs to see Manning who asks him to stay there for the night and keep Ruth safe. Manning dies relatively soon after, and Ruth says his last wish was for the two of them to marry. He turns her down though because he's still in love with Rosalyn.

Nicholas then heads over to Jason's house and accuses him of killing Betsy. Jason breaks down because she was his cousin and he loved her. The two men make up, but then Ruth rushes in and stabs Jason through the throat with a fire poker. She tells Nicholas that she did it all for him. Not only did she kill Jason, but she also killed Betsy and her father and set up Ike's accident. Ruth tells him that he can either marry her or that she'll go to the police and say he did it all. She even convincingly fake cries. Nicholas refuses but then changes his mind because he plans on killing Ruth and stealing her family's money.

They have a quiet ceremony in front of the minister and his wife before heading home. He poisons her champagne and keeps thinking about how he can't wait until she dies. She then shows him the amulet, which he gave her during their wedding ceremony, and tells him about the power it yields. Nicholas finally realizes that he actually had the power all along.

Rosalyn then randomly shows up on their doorstep. Nicholas begs her to leave and tells her to go to the boardinghouse, but Ruth catches them, reveals that they're married, and even shows Rosalyn the amulet before inviting her inside. The glasses get mixed up to the point where Nicholas doesn't know who has the poison. Rosalyn drinks her glass and almost instantly dies.

Cut to a few years later as Nicholas and Ruth cut the ribbon before construction begins on the first house on Fear Street. Ruth whispers in his ear that she's pregnant with his child as he tries to not feel repulsed by her touch. He then surveys the street and thinks about how soon everyone will know the name Fear Street.

*The last eight words are the same ones in the book. I totally admit to saying them out loud and then doing the crazy maniacal laugh after...

*Nicholas is so repulsed by his wife that he can't stand her even touching his face and yet somehow managed to knock her up. I sense a Gone Girl situation going on here...

*Nora sees people literally melting in front of her during the mansion fire and then during the fire in the institution. Add to that the whole fire poker through the throat thing and you can see why these are kind of gruesome.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #172: The Riding Club Crime (2003)

The gals all have some random friend named Elsa. Elsa works at Green Spring Pony Club, which Mrs. Rogers operates. I have no knowledge whatsoever about horseback riding, but I'll try and explain how it works. The clubs function like riding camps but select an elite team of kids to join a rally team at the end. That team competes against others for a prize. Mrs. Rogers established a scholarship program that lets kids who can't afford the camp come in and stay. She even provides them with horses and riding gear if they need it.

While riding with George and Elsa, Nancy's horse falls in a horse and nearly throws her. It becomes clear that someone deliberately dug the hole in the ground. Elsa then confesses that other things happened. Someone lost their gear, someone else had a minor accident, and a horse got spooked. Elsa volunteers to talk to Mrs. Rogers on Nancy's behalf and gets her and George jobs working for the club. They just lost a counselor and some campers because of all the strange stuff. Elsa even gets Bess an internship with some random equestrian newsletter that lets her cover riding fashions.

The first potential suspect is Clare, but only because they hear her threatening this kid Rafael and making fun of him for being poor. She actually tells him that he can't beat her and get a spot on the team because he doesn't have gear or a horse like she does. Mrs. Rogers warns her that if she isn't nice to the other kids, she might lose her spot in the club and never make the team.

Strange stuff happens right away. Someone writes a threatening note on Nancy's car, and she thinks it was Clare because the girl was supposedly in town and visiting with her brother at the time while they had an eye on everyone else. Someone spills oil all over the pool, and a girl almost breaks her arm when she slips on it. Rafael also finds that someone destroyed his saddle. Mrs. Roberts offers to replace it for free and sends Nancy and Elsa into town.

They get to meet Charlotte, the woman who owns the town's only equestrian store. She seems really nice and friendly but isn't a fan of Josh Bryant. He owns a pony club that is close to theirs but separated by a patch of woods. Charlotte offers to help Bess with a story on the latest fashions and kind of teases her about crushing on James, one of the counselors at the club. I only bring this up because it matters later.

Someone also called in a complaint that the horse barn wasn't up to local fire codes, which makes it a little strange when a fire breaks out. They save all the horses, but the fire department does tell them that the barn was totally up to code before. Nancy then finds a pen engraved with the initials JB on the side. Mrs. Rogers agrees to let them talk with Josh Bryant and even gives them directions on how to get to his house through the woods.

They follow the path but take a wrong turn and wind up trying to cross a raging river. If it were anyone else but Nancy, the person would die, but it's Nancy so she survives. They find a camper at the club who tells them all about how it sucks so much. Bryant doesn't help them or give them the advice that they need, he makes them spend all their time taking care of his horses, and he leaves them alone a lot.

The girls head inside and snoop around, but when Bryant comes home, Nancy hides in a dumbwaiter. He naturally finds her and accuses her of trying to set him up or of accusing him of something. Bryant tosses both her and George out of his house and tells them to never come back. He also makes it clear that he thinks he has the much better club.

Mrs. Rogers then gives Nancy permission to snoop around the club. That's when she finds a bottle of olive oil in Clare's dresser. Clare claims that she drinks a small amount every day to make her skin and hair look better, throws a massive fit, and demands they let her go. Since it's fast approaching the big competition of the summer, they let her go.

Whoever keeps doing all this crap continues at the competition. The person replaces markers on a path to make the Green Spring club go in the wrong direction and then hides some of their clothing. Nancy spots Charlotte in the crowd and sees her giving money to James. When she tries to ask her a question, Charlotte books it.

After a chase that lasts for way too long, Nancy finally catches her and gets the truth out of her. Charlotte's mom started the equestrian store and had a ton of money. She was also the best friend of Mrs. Rogers and thought her scholarship was just amazing. When she dies, she left half her fortune to the club. Her will stipulated that if the club ever closed, the money would go to Charlotte for her to open her own club and that if her club failed, she would get the balance.

Charlotte figured she could get the club to shut down, open her own shitty club, and get all the money when her club quickly closed. James's brother was at the other club, and James offered to help her because it would make his brother look better or something. Nancy tells the cops what happened and then Mrs. Rogers. They're all on hand to see her club win the big competition.

*Nancy laughs at George for saying she'd love to join the club because it's only open for 14 to 17 year old kids. Yes Nancy, because there's such a huge age different between a 17 year old and and 18 year old.

*Multiple people point out that there isn't any real difference in the clothing that riders wear during competition, so it doesn't make sense that the newsletter Bess works for has an entire column about fashion.

*Bryant is the owner of a pony club, but when his own club doesn't qualify for the competition, they agree to let him be one of the judges, despite the fact that he tells multiple people how much he hates Rogers and her group. How is that fair?

*The end reveal in this one was super disappointing. Charlotte is seriously only in that scene at her shop, and James is only in one other scene, though Bess does talk about him a little.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sweet Valley High #123: Elizabeth's Rival

The twins are all set to head off to Camp Echo Mountain, a random performing arts camp in Montana. Jessica goes out to pick up new hiking boots and comes home to hear Liz on the phone with someone and talking about how this will be the best summer ever. It turns out that Maria Slater from back in middle school is transferring back to Sweet Valley since moving to New York with her family. She also just so happens to be coming to camp as a counselor with her new best friend Nicole.

Jessica is all down and depressed because this takes place after Christian's death. She heads over to see Lila and help her pack, which mainly consists of taking out all her fancy beaded dresses and designer clothing before telling her that she made a pact for the summer: no more guys. Yeah, right. When Jess isn't looking, Lila pockets her gold lame bikini just in case. Jess is also a little upset that Liz will apparently spend the whole summer with Maria and Nicole instead of paying attention to her poor depressed sister.

Once they get to camp, Jess and Lila immediately put on bikinis and head out for some sunbathing. Liz decides to push one of the beds in the cabin away from the window so she can take the only desk for herself and assumes that the other girls will be fine with it because she needs to write the big play. She puts all her stuff out, including a photo of Todd, and then runs around acting like she should help get things together before deciding not to. She hears someone shouting about fighting and rushes in, only to find Joey, the acting counselor, rehearsing on his own. They do a little mild flirting before she leaves.

Later, she comes back to the cabin to find a girl removing all her stuff from the desk. She says that since she's writing the silly camp play that she needs the desk to herself. The girl then says that there's a contest as to who can write the best play the fastest and that she'll win. Oh, and Joey said he would rather slit his wrists then write a play written by an amateur.

In a nice fit of karma, Maria finally shows up and introduces her best friend from back home, Nicole. Nicole is not at all surprising the chick from the cabin. She and Liz pretty much argue over everything throughout the rest of the book. Nicole makes it clear that Maria is her friend and her friend alone, and she even sets it up so that Maria thinks Liz stole Nicole's diary.

Liz also falls head over heels for Joey and keeps wondering how she could ever feel something for a guy other than Todd. I don't know Liz, maybe because it's a Tuesday? Nicole makes it clear that she has her eye on him and that she always gets what she wants. Lila thinks the whole thing is ridiculous because Joey isn't even that cute.

Her big story is that she sees this guy at the campfire on the first night and falls in luv when he takes his shirt off. When he doesn't approach her, she runs after him. They get some cheesy moment where he strokes her cheek and says people call him Bo. Bo turns out to be super into the outdoors, so Lila pretends that she is too to win his heart.

She and Jess sneak over to the boys' side of camp and hang out with the guys. There's a noise outside, Bo throws himself under his covers while people laugh about it being a prank, and then comes out like nothing happened. Lila assumes that he was making fun of her and runs off in tears. She later gets him alone and makes him tea bark tree, but he freaks out at the sound of an owl hooting and then tells her that he won't sneak over to see her because he's worried about getting caught.

This makes Lila assume that he hates her and think she's silly, so she avoids him for most of the book. While hiding from him outside the big camp dance, Bo tries to find her and starts hyperventilating. It turns out that he's afraid of the dark and doesn't actually do any adventure sports like he said. Bo is the son of a self-made millionaire and is pretty much just like Lila. She tells him the truth about herself, and they fall in love or something.

Elizabeth is so distracted by the thought of Joey and even being in the same room as him that she keeps messing up. Jessica winds up with a group of younger girls who worship her and want to be just like her. Liz's group calls her Dizzie Lizzie and makes fun of her all the time.

During a campfire, Lacey tells them the spooky camp story. There was once a woodsman living near the camp who did odd jobs for them. He fell in love with her head counselor, and Lacey and her husband caught them together. They fired him and forbid them from ever seeing each other again. The girl was heartbroken, but the two wound up disappearing together. They still say you can hear the sound of someone chopping wood though.

Liz decides that this would make the perfect story for her play and skips spending time with her campers to work on it. This leads to Lacey wondering why twins can't be more alike since Liz is a huge flake and Jess is so committed to her own campers. She finishes her play, goes to take a shower, and comes back to find it gone.

While walking through camp, she hears people reading from her play, which Nicole claims she wrote. It turns out that she kept sneaking into the cabin to read it and telling Maria about her “writing” before stealing the finished thing. Liz says she wrote the play, but no one believes her. Joey suggests she write the program, which causes her to run off in tears. When Maria makes it clear that she doesn't know who to believe, Liz explodes on her and basically calls her a bad friend.

Nicole then goes out of her way to antagonize Liz at every turn and keeps bringing up how she stole the play when no one else is around. They get into a fight that causes a huge food fight. Nicole puts the blame on Liz, and Lacey acts all disappointed in her yet again. They have yet another fight over it, where Nicole claims she covered all her tracks. There's a noise outside but they never find out the source.

Jessica has her hands full with campers who want to be just like her. Tanya, one of them, tries to dye her hair blond like Jessica has with a bottle of peroxide. It just so happens to be the weekend of some big family party, so Jess has to go . with her when her brother picks her up. Paul winds up being super hot and not the big dork she assumed, but he explodes on her about being a dumb blond and letting her sister do something so stupid. He threatens to turn her in to Lacey and instead just leaves.

Tanya comes back with all these stories about Paul and how he couldn't stop talking about Jessica. This makes Jessica realize that she's in love with him and how he's the perfect guy for her. She remembers that one of her campers kept filming everyone and uses her video to see him again but then sees something different. Jessica makes a big production of bringing everyone to the main camp house to watch the video. They all see the Nicole and Liz fight and Nicole admitting that she stole the play.

Though Nicole tries to sneak out, Lacey catches her. She gets a whole two weeks of kitchen clean up duty and nothing else. Joey stops by and asks about Nicole before running off. Liz assumes that the two are still together and mopes around but does make up with Maria. Joey comes to her that night and tells her that he called around. He found out that Nicole stole plays from other people but was somehow never caught and that now he knows Liz is the one she's supposed to be with. The only problem is that he heard about this Todd guy. Liz tells him not to worry because she can see other people. Right before they can kiss, kids interrupt them, and he tells her they can continue it later.

Jessica borrows Lacey's car to sneak into town and goes to the family restaurant where Paul works. He explodes on her about how she's a terrible counselor and basically stealing from her boss, so she too runs off in tears. She gets a flat tire and freaks out until Paul shows up. He apologizes for being an asshole and says that she realized Tanya probably told her how he felt. Not only does he change her tire, but they then make out. What the hell?

Liz and Joey wind up together in the end. He sneaks over one night so they can head down to the lake and make out because teenage boys apparently love making out in the middle of the night when no adults are around and then stopping at the appropriate time. They go swimming the next day, but when they head back, she stops at the sight of a black BMW. Todd, who is right next to Nicole, suddenly looks up and tells her that they need to talk. Dunh dunh dunh.

*The camp cook Bernard is super friendly but described as being a terrible cook. Lacey keeps him on because he's so sweet and nice to the kids. Yet, their first meal consists of corn on the cob that he burned black, potato salad made with so much mayonnaise that it's runny and under cooked potatoes, and chicken that splinters when you cut it but is still bright pink and raw on the inside. How is that safe for kids?

*Lila gets concerned about Jessica's no boys this summer rule and explains that she went through several of her boy fads in the past like when she dated commoners instead of royals, two or more guys instead of one, or younger guys instead of older guys.

*Lila grabs the gold lame bikini because her father told her that a Fowler is always prepared for any situation and she never knows when a situation might call for her to be sexy. As an adult, the thought of teens trying to look sexy really creeps me out.

*The play thing makes no sense. The winner is whoever writes the best play the fastest. So, which is it? Is the winner the first play they get or what?

*The twins aren't the only ones with doppelgangers! Jessica gets paired with this counselor named Derek who conveniently looks exactly like Ken. He has a major crush on her, but she keeps freaking out about it.

*Jessica feels bad about her relationship with Ken ended and describes what happened as her meeting Christian and how they had a flirty friendship. Yeah, totally not what happened. Does she seriously not remember constantly cheating on Ken with him?

*Elizabeth literally thinks that she fell in love with Joey at first sight and wonders how she could ever fall for someone else when she's in love with Todd. I guess she forget the dozens of other times that she cheated on him with some other rando.

*How would Liz possibly get away with this? Both Aaron and Winston, one of Todd's best friends, are counselors. Does she expect Winston to just not tell him?

*Paul really really irritates me. He talks down to Jess and actually calls her a dumb blond, but she falls in love with him after one meeting. He then screams at her and says a bunch of rude shit to her, but she forgives him and makes out with him all because he says he wants to kiss her “devastating lips” later. Oh yeah, he's totally an improvement on Ken.

*Nicole is apparently not an amateur because she had a ton of plays produced at theaters in NY. It takes Joey like three calls to find out that she stole the work other people did. Yet somehow, no one ever had any evidence to prove it. Sure.

*Liz borrows an outfit from Maria to impress Joey, which is a stretchy black miniskirt and a silver silk tank top, and then she wears Jessica's hot new bright green bikini to swim with him. It kind of sounds like he's more attracted to Jessica then Liz!

*Todd and Liz go to makeout point at the beginning, and she keeps going on and on about how she's always felt like something was missing since Maria moved. Todd gets kind of ticked off, and so would I, especially since she hasn't mentioned Maria in 36 years. She also says that Maria was the only friend she could talk to about writing, but she had friends on the newspaper and Maria later got back into acting and not writing.

*Liz gets annoyed with Todd for doubting their love and thinking she might cheat on him at camp. She does remember what happened in the past every time he left town, she left town, or they spent more than 20 minutes apart, right?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #117: Mystery on the Menu (1994)

George and Bess apparently love watching cooking shows and reading cooking magazines. When one ran a contest for an original recipe for Valentine's Day, they had a bet. George entered a recipe for raspberry chiffon cake that her grandmother once made and won, so Bess owes her 20 bucks. Three winners get free dessert cooking lessons from some major cooking school. Since anyone else can sign up and pay for the same lessons, Nancy and Bess decide to go along too.

They quickly meet Sophie, the woman who runs the cooking school, and her head administrator, Baird. The girls also meet Paul and Lila, the other two winners, and Gloria, a woman who signed up for the classes, as well as Regis and Alicia, the two instructors for the classes. Regis has his own restaurant in NYC, while Alicia has a restaurant in New Orleans. Not only does Regis make it clear that he dislikes Alicia, but he also brings two yappy little dogs with him.

It doesn't take long before Nancy discovers that Paul is a terrible cook. He keeps messing up in class and doesn't really seem to have an interest in cooking. Gloria reveals that she's actually the author of several popular cookbooks and signed up for the lessons as a refresher before publishing her next book.

Regis complains to the head chef that he absolutely must have a green side salad at dinner and cannot go without one. That same night, he passes out in the middle of dinner, and Nancy realizes that he was poisoned. Someone replaced the edible flowers in his salad with inedible ones that made him sick. When he comes back, he claims that Alicia did it because she hates him.

Alicia tells Nancy that Sophie needs a new head pastry instructor and plans on offering the job to either one of them, which is why Regis wants to make her look bad. Nancy then catches Lila in a closed off area of the school. Lila claims she loves architecture and was just checking out the floor, but when Nancy brings up an architecture term, Lila thinks it's something different and scurries away. It turns out that this area is an office where Sophie stores a bunch of recipes left behind by former chefs and workers.

Nancy then catches Lila outside in the greenhouse, and Lila makes a comment that makes it seem like she knows more about the property. It turns out that Lila's family were once really wealthy and built the mansion where the school is now. Her dad lost the house and all their family money because he gambled too much. She came back just to check out the house and when Nancy found her in the room, she was looking for the initials she carved into the floor of a guy she liked when she was a kid.

She also discovers that Gloria's books no longer sell and that the store in town even put the books on the clearance shelf. Gloria throws a fit when confronted but then sneaks into the closed off room and leaves with a folder. Nancy breaks into the woman's room and accesses her computer to find that Gloria stole the recipes to use in her next cookbook. She begs Nancy to keep her secret and even though she isn't happy about it, Nancy pretty much goes along with her.

While talking to Regis about who would want to harm him, someone sneaks into the room and hurls a knife at his head, which barely misses him. When Nancy finds Alicia's scarf left behind, he claims it's proof she wants him dead. Someone then puts an aerosol can in the oven, which Alicia preheats for class. The can explodes and blows the door off, nearly killing her too. Regis claims that she did it on purpose and wants to make it looks like she's also a victim.

After reading a newspaper article about one of the biggest cooking schools in the country shutting down, Nancy starts putting things together. She talks really loudly at dinner about how she lost one of her earrings and will be going into the basement to look for it. When she does, the lights go out because of a storm passing through, but not before she sees Paul in front of her, as in Paul, the guy who can't cook.

Paul winds up being the one behind everything. His dad is the administrator at the competing cooking school. Paul thought he could come in and sabotage this school, which would make people want to study with his dad. Before he could really get his plan going though, his dad announced plans to shut down his own school.

Paul winds up chasing Nancy all over the basement until she races outside. He then chases her down, but Regis' two dogs come of nowhere and attack him. While he's distracted, Nancy knocks him down and then punches him in the face, which makes him literally just sit down until Regis and some other guys come outside, carry him upstairs, and lock him in his room.

In the end, Sophie finds out that Baird was selling stories about the cooking school behind her back and trying to make it look like she was inept so he could take over. She never does find out about Gloria and the recipe thefts though. Regis bets Alicia that his Mississippi mud pie is better than hers, and they hold one last contest. The server brings him out a slice, he takes a bite, and then he declares that no one could make one better. That's when the server reveals that there was a mistake in the kitchen and that he actually ate Alicia's pie. Oops.

*If you had your own restaurant in a major city like NYC or New Orleans, why the hell would you want to move to the middle of nowhere and work as a cooking teacher? I can't picture any chef putting in the time to open a restaurant and then just giving it up.

*Lila is in her forties or around there, but Sophie says the house was a private home, then a boarding school, and something else before she bought it. Lila lived there until she was a teenager, so it really doesn't make sense that it would have been so many other things.

*George actually made a low fat and low calorie version of her grandmother's recipe, but I can't really see it beating all the hundreds of other recipes they got.

*Why is there even a room with a bunch of old recipes stored in it? This cooking school supposedly only opened five years ago, which isn't that long.

*Also, how does a cooking school develop such an impressive reputation in five years??? This school is supposedly so great and amazing that it has a waiting list, but schools that have decades of experience are closing down because no one wants to attend.

*Sophie explains that the school operates like a regular college and even has dorm rooms for its students. When they're on vacation, they use those rooms for students signing up for their shorter classes. That's nice and all, but wouldn't the students leave their stuff in their rooms while on vacation? I'd also like to know what vacation falls around the middle of February that lets them take a week off...

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sweet Valley High #36: Last Chance

You might remember Julie Porter, the girl who loved music and was one of Elizabeth's best friends back in middle school. She apparently had an older sister named Johanna. While Julie took after her parents with the whole music thing and was an amazing student, Johanna always struggled with her studies. After their mom was struck and killed in a car accident, Johanna gave up, quit school, and went to work at the Whistlestop, some random diner. She's now back and giving school the old college try again.

See, Johanna found her mom's old diaries and found an entry she wrote about how she hoped Johanna would one day go back to school. Her mom was the only one who ever really got her and the only one who really supported her. If she hadn't found that diary, she never would have found the courage to go back.

After running into some bitchy girls who act all surprised that she came back, she runs into Peter DeHaven, another kid we never heard about since middle school. Peter was once best friends with Johanna but got distracted by school, and he's now dating Amy. That surprises everyone because he's super smart: accepted early to MIT, up for a statewide science scholarship, teaches kids in middle school, and always getting straight As. In case you missed it, Amy is kind of a dumb chick.

Johanna knows that Peter is with Amy but really likes him and has had a crush on him for years. When he asks her to go with him to meet his brother's friend from college, she jumps at the chance. Julia points out that it's a little convenient he asked her out on a weekend when Amy is out of town, but she tries to ignore it. They wind up star gazing in the canyon after the visit and kissing.

Since Elizabeth is the only person in SVH capable of passing English, she becomes Johanna's tutor. Johanna tells her about Peter, and even Liz thinks she needs to move on. She doesn't bother telling her that though. Liz recommends that she do what she wants to do. Johanna later tells her that Peter wasn't that serious about Amy and that he made it seem like he would talk to her when she got back.

When Johanna tries to talk to him the next day though, he's surrounded by Amy and all her friends so he completely blows her off. He tracks her down in the library, apologizes, and tells her that he didn't realize Amy was really into him. Peter asks for another chance and promises to make things up to her.

Liz decides to tell Jessica about Peter and Johanna to get her opinion on whether Amy really likes this guy. Jessica promises to not tell a soul, so you know what that means.

Even though she went out of her way to hook up Steven and Cara, Jessica suddenly hates them together and thinks they're way too boring. She starts telling Steven all about how Cara goes out with other guys all the time and is always going out to parties. Cara gets to hear about how Steven dates other women at college and doesn't have time for her. They keep fighting to the point where Jessica convinces Cara to invite someone else to the big PTA dance.

While telling Amy all about her scheme, Amy gets disgusted. She apparently has never actually seen her bestie in action before. Amy kind of lectures her, which makes Jessica tell her how Peter is running around with someone else. Amy confronts Peter, who completely denies it. He then writes Johanna a brush off note that says they can't see each other anymore and leaves it in her locker.

When Johanna finds it, she freaks out, and goes off on Elizabeth since she and Julie were the only ones who knew about her and Peter. Liz denies it, but Johanna storms off anyway. Elizabeth then confronts Jessica who denies it and then confesses. She lies and says Amy already knew something was up and pushed her, which makes Liz forgive her yet again.

Cut to the PTA dance. Amy and Peter hardly speak but throw a joint party together at her house. At the dance, she makes a big deal about how much fun everyone had at her party and how she and Peter are the perfect couple. Lila makes a comment about Johanna acing a chemistry test, Amy says she must have cheated, and Liz puts her in her place. Liz then confronts Peter and tells him that Johanna really depends on him and needs his friendship.

Monday morning comes and Johanna is super depressed. She thought that Peter and Amy might break up at the dance and that he would come back to her. He does come back but only to ask if they can be friends. When he starts talking about his science competition project, she makes a suggestion, which he laughs at and blows off, causing her to realize that he's kind of an asshole.

Have you wondered what was going through Peter's mind in all this? As it turns out, he actually likes Johanna and likes her more than Amy. Amy is popular though and pretty. He literally says that he could have something serious with Johanna but that he doesn't want to give up what he gets out of being with Amy. I hate him.

Johanna finds out that she is really good at both math and science. Her teachers think that it she takes some classes during the summer that she can go into advanced classes in the fall. Once she sees Amy and Peter once again though, she kind of flips out. The two eventually break up, which causes Amy and other people to make rude comments about her in school. When she overhears two girls calling her dumb and saying that they can't believe Peter would cheat on her with someone so stupid, she throws in the towel again.

After a few days of working at the Whistlestop, Mr. Porter finally sits Johanna down. They talk through everything, he apologizes for not making her feel better about herself, and they make up. She writes a computer program that lets them play music on the computer to show them that while she may not understand music like they do, they still have music in common.

Johanna goes back to school and manages to avoid Peter for a few days. He finally gets her alone and tells her that he won the competition but only because he used the idea she had he laughed at. When he asks her out, she turns him down because she has plans with her family. He then asks her out the next night again, and she turns him down. Johanna has nothing to say to him when he says he messed things up between them except that she needs to focus on her studies. She then thinks about how someday she will find a guy who has time for her and her interests but that Peter only has time for himself.

And, Cara and Steven get back together. He brings some girl to the dance from college and keeps staring at Cara who came with Ken. Ken finally tells her to go over and ask him to dance. They talk and realize that Jessica set them up. When they go to confront her, Steven explodes while Jessica tells him that she was just testing them. Cara stops him and tells him that if they trusted each other more, Jessica's plan wouldn't have worked, so they forgive her! WTF??

*At the beginning of the book, Jessica is on a diet because she found the perfect dress but it was too small. She then buys the dress and keeps talking about how it now fits her perfectly. At the dance though, she wears a skimpy white tank top and a black leather skirt. Is it that hard to maintain continuity in the same damn book?

*Also, that is was too slutty of an outfit for a high school girl to wear!

*Cara's dance outfit is much more appropriate: black jeans and a sparkly tee shirt.

*At one point, Jessica tells Cara that her not going out with other guys is the problem because it lets Steven take advantage of her and asks Lila is she agrees. Lila's all like, “hm, yeah sure, whatever” and just goes back to her magazine lol.

*I love that kids keep talking about Johanna being dumb and why would Peter be with someone so stupid. They do know that Amy is pretty stupid, right? She and Jess are both constantly on the verge of failing something.

*Johanna apologizes to Liz for yelling at her because she realizes that Liz would never tell anyone about her and Peter, except that she totally did. Liz totally told Jessica, which is why Amy found out! Liz just totally accepts her apology like it was nothing when she was the one who did something wrong.

*Amy is awfully anti-cheating in this book and pro-relationship considering what she does to Regina and Bruce later.

*Johanna is sooo beautiful that she doesn't even need to wear makeup. There must be something in the water out there.

*Jessica getting away with the whole Cara and Steve thing really made me angry. Can you imagine her reaction if someone did the same thing when she was in a relationship?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #57: The Triple Hoax

Nancy and the gang are off to New York once again to visit with her Aunt Eloise. This time though, there's not a modeling show or anything. Her best friend lost a large sum of money and wants Nancy to help her get it back. Annabella is a rich widow and usually donates money to charity but recently gave a man cash to secure a trip around the world. He took her money and then disappeared.

Since there's nothing they can do that night, they decide to go see a popular magic show featuring the Hoaxters. Bess gets called on stage during the show and finds her purse missing. The same thing happens to a bunch of other people, but the magicians swear that they'll get their things back. Bess does get her purse back at the end of the show with nothing missing.

Suspiciously enough, she gets a call from a guy the next day who wants to offer her an amazing deal. Thinking it's the same guy who swindled Annabella, Nancy tells Bess to invite him over. She hides in the closet with a camera to take photos of him to show the older woman later. The man asks for $1,000 to join his travel club. Bess will get the chance to stay at this luxurious resort that isn't even built yet and he will guarantee her the same price on a room every year. When she says she wants to think about it, he leaves his card.

It turns out that it's not the same guy, but Nancy still finds the group a little suspicious. She heads back to the show and learns that they already left. Conveniently enough, a waitress in a nearby diner heard them talking about going to Mexico City. Nancy goes to the cops and tells them everything she knows. She convinces her friends to follow the group to Mexico City.

This is where the book lost me. They track down the woman at a performance, she gets called on stage, and Nancy warns her to watch her finances in the coming weeks. The woman calls them a few days later all upset and desperate because someone kidnapped her daughter. Nancy meets another woman who makes her own clothes who tells her about some great opportunity she has. It turns out the people targeted her after she went to a show and want her to invest in some new fabric that's not yet out.

Nancy and the gals hide in a closet and see the same guy from New York come in with another guy. He keeps trying to force the woman to invest in this fabric that will work in all climates and all weather conditions. When she turns him down because she needs to talk to her accountant, he suggests she take the money from her register. The man then notices Bess's embroidered purse, throws open the closet door, threatens them again, and then runs away.

The girls somehow learn that the Hoaxters left yet again and are now on their way to Los Angeles. When the airlines go on strike, they rent a car but get stuck at the border. Someone tipped off border patrol that someone stole an artifact from a Mexico City museum. The border patrol agent finds an artifact in their trunk, but Bess makes eyes at and then cries to another agent who lets them leave because they're “too pretty” to be criminals. Agh.

I strongly dislike this book but will try to wrap things up. Ned and the other ladies' boyfriends all come to Los Angeles and meet them. Nancy goes to the police who call the cops in New York and the ones in Mexico City to prove that she's a detective. They then offer her all the help she needs. Not only does she track down the Mexican lady's missing daughter, but she gathers all the evidence needed to prove that the leader of the Hoaxters is some most wanted fugitive. After the cops arrest the whole group, they ask Nancy to come to some random amateur detective convention taking place that weekend and give her some award.

*The grand total that Annabella lost? $3,000. First of all, even in 1979, a trip around the world would cost way more than that. Secondly, if she's supposedly so rich, would that small of an amount actually hurt her?

*The guy who visits Bess claims that he already talked to her mom and learned that she has more than enough in her savings account to pay for his deal and that her mom told him she has total access to her money. Bess's mom claims she would never say anything like that, which makes them realize that he went through the bank book she left in her purse.

*So there's this little story about how Annabella decorates each room in her home to fit a different time period. Nancy notices a bulge in the pocket of a costume she has on display and finds a vial of poison inside that Annabella claims she never saw before. They take it to a specialist who finds it's from the 15th century or something and wants to buy it.

*George is a bitch in this book. When they go clothes shopping, she literally asks the shop owner if she has any “chubby clothing” in stock to fit Bess. They meet some older women later who are all described as larger. She tells Bess that she would fit right in with their tribe because of her size. Cousin or not, she deserves a good slap in the face.

*Both Bess and Nancy carry pictures of their guys in their purses. Since George is far too practical for a purse, she carries a picture of her beau in her wallet.

*George has to ask her dad for a detective allowance, which is the money she can spend when helping Nancy on a case. She calls him later in the book to ask for more cash, and while he gives it to her, he tells her flat out that they should really charge for their services.

*Someone apparently calls the police in Mexico City to file a complaint about Nancy. The cops come and tell her that it's illegal to operate as a detective in Mexico without a license. She has them call the NYC police and the River Heights police to prove that she's an amateur.

*I kinda love how much money their parents spend to help them though. They literally fly to NY, then fly to Mexico City, book a rental car, and then drive 2,500 miles to LA, all on their parents' money.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Sweet Valley Kids #49: Jessica's Mermaid

Lila can't stop bragging about the trip her dad recently took to Hawaii for business. Not only did he promise her that he would take her when she turned 10, but he also brought her back a necklace made from seashells that you can't find anywhere else in the world. Hating that her friend is the center of attention, Jessica keeps claiming that she sees monsters in the school yard and on the road. Elizabeth eventually reminds her of the boy who cried wolf.

The kids are all excited because they're taking a field trip to a water preserve. While all the other kids wore practical and sensible clothing like shorts and running shoes, Jessica refused to wear anything but her new outfit, which consists of black patent leather shoes with slick soles and a blue sailor outfit. This limits what she can do and leads to her walking way slower than everyone else.

While looking at a pool of water, Jessica sees a figure with long hair and big eyes that then disappears. She runs off to tell her friends that she saw a real mermaid. Naturally, no one gives a crap or even believes her. They would rather pay attention to Ellen because she decided to find all the same seashells as those on Lila's necklace and make one of her own. Lila keeps saying she'll never find the same ones, but Ellen finds all but one and then finds that one too. This makes Lila pout more than usual.

No one believes Jessica, not even her own twin. Every time that they ask her to play or do something with them, she refuses unless they say they believe her. Liz finally says that she believes her twin saw something in the water and convinces her that she should tell their teacher. The teacher agrees with Travis, their tour guide, that they should do back and take a look.

This time, Travis does see something in the water and pulls out a sea lion cub. The hair Jessica saw was some seaweed wrapped around her. Travis says that cubs often get abandoned and that they can save and rehabilitate her. Jessica gets to cuddle with the lion for a few minutes. Travis says she can name the cub, and Jessica picks the name Mermaid, so she can really say that she saw a mermaid.

Their teacher takes her to the side and has a long talk with her about how you should always tell the truth. Jessica agrees, they share a brief moment, and then she runs off. Carolina gives her a pair of spare shoes so she can have fun with all her friends before they all go off on something completely different.

*Jessica puts out that 10 is a long time from now and that Lila's dad might forget about his promise. It's an ouch moment given how often he forgets about her later.

*You would think that the teacher might call the Wakefield house and let them know that their second grade child keeps lying all the time, but that might have stopped Jessica from becoming even worse as a teenager.

*I love that Ellen actually found all the same seashells and made her own necklace. It's nice to see her being a normal kid who everyone likes!