Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sweet Valley High #23: Say Goodbye



Todd Wilkins is moving to Vermont! Yeah, don’t get your panties in a twist because he’ll be back in a few books. He and Liz have a long talk and decide that they’ll stay together because neither can face being away from each other. Everyone, including their parents, Enid and Jessica think that they’re crazy. Jess decides that the best thing to do is involve Nicholas Morrow in everything because god knows he hasn’t been through the ringer with Liz!

Anyway, they spend the last week together and then he leaves. They share a tearful goodbye and then Liz spends the whole time moping over him. Jess goes to Mr. Collins for help and he assigns Liz an article on the boat regatta. Nicholas calls and asks her to go with him and watch him race, at the urging of Jess and Liz agrees, as long as they remain friends.

Liz actually ends up having a great time with him, but she feels uncomfortable when Bruce shows up and starts talking about her and Todd. She feels even worse when Nicholas asks her to a party later and then another party at his house the following day. She keeps spending more time with him, but then feels crappy because she’s still in love with Todd. The next time Todd calls, Jess answers the phone and makes him think that Liz is throwing away her life because of him. He feels so bad that he just stops calling her and writing her.

This sets Liz off (of course) and she decides to go full throttle with Nicholas. They spend even more time together and everyone warns her that it’s just a rebound relationship. She considers it herself, but then decides that she kind of had feelings for him before and he makes her feel good, so everything is fine. Naturally she feels guilty every time she thinks about Todd or Nicholas comes anywhere close to kissing her.

Todd actually comes back to get the rest of their stuff, but doesn’t tell Liz. He drives around town, thinking about how much he loves her and wondering if she still wears the necklace he bought her before leaving. He decides not to call her and just randomly show up at Lila’s next party and surprise her. Of course he finds her dancing with Nicholas and looking all happy, so he runs off.

Liz takes off too and drives all over town looking for him. She realizes that he probably went home and finds him sitting in his old backyard moping over her. They have a long talk and realize that it was crazy to expect everything to stay the same, when they’re so far away from each other. They both decide that they aren’t ready to see other people, but break up. Todd asks her to hold onto his necklace and think of it as a bond of friendship and not something tying her down.

The other story is about Jess and how she charged a $100 outfit to her mom’s account. Ned and Alice man up and make her pay them back by getting a part-time job. She starts working at a dating agency and finds a few women for Steven because she thinks he needs to get over Tricia. The one woman never calls him and the other one calls him all the time, but is in her forties and freaks him out. She also sets herself up with one guy, but it’s a total bust.

The last woman shows up and tells Steven she got his name from the agency. She’s a total punk rocker and he flips out, sends her home and goes off on Jess. Later he stops to help someone stranded on the highway and it turns out to be Cara Walker. They talk, go for coffee and he realizes that she’s changed a lot. They dance a few times at the party and get along really well. When the book ends, Jess discovers that after they left the party, Betsy Martin went off on Steven about forgetting Tricia and he ran away from the party, leaving Cara there alone.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller: The Ghost in the Bell Tower



Our favorite pre-teens apparently have a great-aunt Helen, who’s never mentioned before or after this book. She just inherited a fancy/old hotel from an old friend and requests that the kids come and help her clean up. She even lets Steven bring Joe Howell along for help and she’s also invited their other cousins Robin and Stacey. Steven and Joe have been playing a bunch of tricks on the girls, trying to make them believe in ghosts. Jess always falls for it, but Liz is never fooled.

The boys get to clean out the old boathouse, while the girls work on the attic. Liz finds an old diary and it’s the diary of her aunt’s old friend. She was born in the house, but moved away as a young girl and refused to go back. Jessica meets a worker named Bill, who keeps popping up and giving everyone advice. When she finds a bunch of old clothes, he points out that one of the pieces is a wedding bonnet and has a sad look on his face.

Weird things start happening and most of it is centered on the twins. The portrait in their room changes and when Liz tries to show it to Jess, it changes back. They hear odd noises and start seeing things, but Liz is constantly suspicious. The boys announce that they found a secret cave and the girls try to find it. They wander into an abandoned gold mine and see a ghost, but Liz still isn’t fooled.

She goes back, finds footprints and compares the sizes against everyone in the house, discovering that the girls and guys are working together. She confronts the boys and they agree to help her prank the other girls. They set up a raft on the lake, with a white figure on it. Bill shows them how to do it, but when they pull it off, the figure explodes in a bright light. Jess freaks out and Liz finally tells her that it’s all a prank. That same night though, they see letters on their mirror and a ghostly figure. It’s their cousin Robin sneaking through a hidden passage behind the mirror, but she swears she didn’t do anything with a face.

There’s some kind of old mining festival going on in town and Liz meets the town historian. He tells her about the ghost that supposedly haunts the hotel. Her aunt’s friend Alexandria fell in love with a poor working guy, but her father didn’t approve. He demanded that she marry a rich guy and set up their wedding. Her ex-suitor showed up, rang the bell in the bell tower during the ceremony and promptly died of a broken heart.

Liz refuses to believe that the hotel is haunted. Then she finds old pictures and sees a worker that looks exactly like Bill! They go to the foreman and he reveals that he has no one by that name working for him. Robin decides that they need help from the guys, but the guys think it’s a big joke to make them look stupid. They finally agree to sneak into the bell tower and look for clues.

Just as they get to the door, all of the lights in the house go out. They go inside and find Bill waiting for them. He reveals that he did a bunch of tricks and pranks, in the hopes of keeping them away from the tower. He tells them that he loved Alexandria and when she never came back for him, he grew angry.

There’s a big and boring confrontation between the two sides and then Liz pulls out the diary. She reveals that Alexandria had planned on calling off the wedding and announcing to her father that she loved Bill. He died before she had the chance. He gets all sad and then asks the girls to ring the bell one last time and let him get some peace.

A few days later, their parents all come back to pick them up. Jess sees something and points it out to Liz. They see Bill’s ghost and suddenly Alexandria’s ghost meets him and they walk off into the sunset together. Jess makes a comment about whether she believes in ghosts and Liz tells her that she believes in true love. Oh and apparently the Wakefields have a mini-van in this book, but I’m pretty sure they never had a van before and never have a van later!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Baby-Sitters Club #99: Stacey’s Broken Heart



Stacey and Robert are out on a tennis date and sitting together, just relaxing. Suddenly Andi shows up, one of the girls from his old group. She starts telling him a story about another friend and he cracks up. Then another friend Shelia turns up and Stacey starts to feel left out. The girls want Robert to play with them, but he opts out because of her and she thinks that he really wanted to play.

They go back to her house and play a computer game together. The phone rings and it’s Mrs. Walker from New York City. She wants Stacey to sit for Henry and Grace for a week, while she gets ready for a gallery show. Stacey agrees, but Robert seems kind of put off because it’s their last week together before school starts. She promises him that they’ll have lots of time together before she goes.

Things don’t go the way she planned though. Robert starts acting shifty and nervous. She calls him one day and his sister said he went to play basketball with some friends. She goes to the court and he’s nowhere around. Later he says he was playing with another guy who he’s never really mentioned before. And then, he starts spending a lot of time with Pete Black.

Erica Blumberg calls the BSC during a meeting, with news for Stacey. She saw Robert and another girl eating Mexican food together. Stacey tries to keep calm, but then decides to stalk him with Claudia’s help. They follow him to the mall and see him going to the movies. She sees him with Pete and then sees two other girls going in the theater. They go to an action movie, hoping to catch them, but the guys actually went to a romantic movie. Robert explains that she’d be out of town when it stopped playing, but then makes up an excuse to not hang out with her that night.

The day she leaves, Robert promises to come over, but he’s nowhere to be seen. He finally shows up with a bouquet and sees her off at the train station. She’s still hurt and confused and her dad lectures her about them being too young to go steady. She helps out the Walkers and meets this cute guy Ethan. They have a lot in common, he loves kids and they have a lot of fun together.

Then Claudia calls with some big news: she saw Robert and Andi together, kissing. Stacey is heartbroken and actually talks to her dad a little. Then she gets to spend some more time with Ethan and realizes that if she and Robert stayed together, she wouldn’t be able to hang out with Ethan. He gets her number before she leaves and says he wants to see her again.

As soon as her mom pulls in the driveway, Andi comes walking down the street. She tells Stacey that they didn’t mean for it to happen, la-di-da and Stacey kind of forgives her. Then Robert calls and comes over. He’s surprised that she knew what happened and surprised that Andi already talked to her. He wants to be friends, but she asks him for some time. The book ends with her being glad that she’s single, but still hurting.

The other story involves Abby taking over as president while Kristy is gone. She decides to organize a Mexican festival, to raise money for an orphanage that her sister works with. She spends a bunch of treasury money, demands the other girls give her money for supplies and then spends some of her own money.

Everything goes horribly wrong because she keeps letting all the kids do the work, without any real supervision. They hold the festival in Mary Anne’s yard and Abby doesn’t even get the stands built before it starts. They have to get a bunch of help from other people. Abby finally admits that maybe Kristy is a better president.

*Nice callback to the Stacey quits storyline: Kristy gets pissed because she took the job without consulting them and it’s going to make them short a sitter. Kristy can’t really talk though, given that she’s taking off for a week long trip to Hawaii.

*I don’t think I really mentioned him on here before, but I was dating/living with a guy for about a year and a half. He actually found me a few BSC and SVU books at random book sales and stuff. Anyway, we broke up not long before Christmas and I was in the middle of reading this book at the time. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best choice for me.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Goosebumps #8: The Girl Who Cried Monster



Luc y is the type of girl that Stine loves: cute and sweet, but loves scary stuff and has a dark side. She loves teasing her little brother, making up stories about monsters sneaking around. When the book opens, she’s telling him a story about toe bitters, monsters that eat your toes. He gets all freaked out and her mom yells at her for tormenting him again.

Luckily her best friend Aaron shows up and she convinces him that there’s a monster in the tree. He doesn’t believe her, but she gets so freaked out that it rubs off on him. She tells him that she’s going to sneak up and try to scare it. She knocks something out of the tree and Aaron freaks out, until he realizes that it’s just a bird’s nest.

It’s summer and she’s in a reading program at the local library. The library is in an old, scary house and she has to go once a week and meet Mr. Mortman, the librarian. He assigns her a book, she has a week to read it and then she has to answer a question on it. He gives her the next book and when she leaves, she accidentally forgets her skates. She sneaks back in to get them and finds the librarian turning into a monster and eating bugs.

Of course when she tries to tell people about it, they don’t believe her because of all her lies. She sneaks in again and sees the same thing. This time she decides that she has to get Aaron to see it because he never lies and if he sees it, everyone will believe them. He promises to go and then blows her off. Mr. Mortman keeps sneaking around, acting like he knows something without really saying anything.

Lucy and Aaron finally go to his house and she peeks through the window at him. She sees him change again and runs to get Aaron, but he ran off and hid. Mr. Mortman catches her and seems to believe her story about stopping by to ask him a question. Aaron reveals that he ran off, not wanting them both to get in trouble and he didn’t see anything.

This time she decides to sneak into the library and get a picture of him changing into a monster. She hides in the library and gets a picture, but he sees her and chases her around. She finally gets away and convinces her parents to take the photos to a one-hour lab. Sadly the photos show nothing. She convinces Aaron to sneak into the library with her again and this time he sees it.

They run back to her parents, who naturally believe her now and decide to invite Mr. Mortman over for dinner. He comes, but he acts really suspicious. Finally her parents announce that the librarian is for dinner, turn into monsters and swallow him whole. Lucy reveals that she and her brother haven’t yet gotten their monster teeth yet and her parents explain that it was the first monster in town for over 20 years.

*What the hell? This was an insane little book! Apparently her parents loved the town so much that they didn’t want to share it with any other monsters, hence the not believing her.

*I love that her parents didn’t believe her, but naturally believed Aaron right off the bat. Kind of seems like they should have paid attention or something.

*I don’t think Stine ever read Frankenstein because he has Lucy (12) reading it and talking about the monster the whole time. I think they both watched the movie.

*There’s no way this library program would work in real life. How could any librarian read every book he assigns to a kid and remember it enough to quiz them on it later?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Goosebumps #24: Phantom of the Auditorium (R.L. Stine)



Brooke and Zeke are best friends, who love horror movies. When their teacher Ms. Walker announces the school play will be scary, they both audition and land starring roles in the play, called The Phantom. One of their classmates Tina resents Brooke for getting the starring role and makes rude comments about the origins of the play. That’s when the teacher decides to tell them the true story of the play.

When the school was first built, someone found a copy of a play called The Phantom. They decided to perform it with the kids and even built a trapdoor in the stage. The boy playing the Phantom mysteriously disappeared and supposedly the play was cursed. They destroyed all copies of it, except for one and their class is the first to put it on. Just then, someone runs in dressed as a monster and scares the crap out of everyone, but it was just Zeke being an ass.

Zeke convinces Brooke to break into the school with him and check out the trapdoor, even though their teacher warns everyone not to mess with it. She even gets caught on the trapdoor herself and almost breaks her leg. Of course they do it anyway and find themselves trapped in the basement of the school. The two start fighting and get the lever to rise, taking them back up to the stage. They come across the night janitor Emile, who warns them about doing stupid stuff like that again.

The next day Brooke meets a new student by the name of Brian. He wants to join the play and ends up working on the scenery. Someone dressed as the Phantom ruins their rehearsal and everyone blames Zeke, except it wasn’t him; he actually had a dentist’s appointment and missed practice. Weird things keep going on around the school and everyone blames it on the phantom and on Zeke because they think he’s taking his role in the play too seriously.

To clear his name, the three kids break into the school again. This time they discover that someone painted over the scenery with a warning to stay away from “my home.” Ms. Walker pops up and blames all three for what happened. They keep trying to explain about the phantom and after awhile, she starts to believe them. They find a trail of red paint, follow it and it ends at Zeke’s locker. The teacher tells his parents, he’s kicked out of the play and grounded. To make matters worse, they also discover there is no night janitor and no one named Emile works at the school.

Once again the kids break into the school, hoping to clear Zeke’s name. They take the trapdoor downstairs and find a room filled with furniture, food, clothes and books. The trapdoor goes back up, leaving them stuck and then the door slams shut behind them. They get out, only finding Emile standing there. It turns out that his dad worked in the school years before and told him about the rom. He lost his job and house, so he just moved into the room. He was so worried about the kids finding him that he pulled all the pranks and did all the stupid stuff. They get away from him and the cops investigate, but discover that he’s already cleared out.

The play finally goes off, but as soon as Brooke sees the phantom, she realizes that it isn’t Zeke. The guy in the costume is the real phantom and reveals that when he disappeared, he actually fell through the trapdoor and died. He leaps through the door again and she hears him scream all the way down. Everyone applauds, thinking it’s part of the play.

Afterwards, Zeke tells Brooke that someone hit him over the head and stole his costume. He walks her back to her locker and she finds it open, with an old yearbook inside. She opens up the book to a page about the original play and the actor in the starring role. She gasps and shows Zeke that the original actor was Brian…

*How does someone live in a school for six months and no one notices anything?

*Better question: how did the school have a mysterious trapdoor that no one knew about? Their teacher explains that it was forgotten about, but it’s always there! It’s not like you can miss a huge trapdoor in the middle of your stage.

*This is the first Goosebumps book I ever read. I can’t believe I made it 30 years without reading a single one LOL.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Baby-Sitters Club #29: Malloy and the Mystery Diary



I didn’t intend to recap two books in a row that featured Buddy Barrett. It just so happened that I started reading this one right after the last one, mainly because I remembered bits and pieces of this one.

Mrs. Pike makes a tuna casserole for Stacey and her mom, figuring that they don’t have time to cook and unpack at the same time. Mallory runs it over and finds Claudia there. They take some stuff upstairs and find a bunch of stuff there. Both girls fall in love with a locked trunk and Mrs. McGill lets them have it. Claudia lets Mallory keep it, since her house is closer.

The triplets help her take it home, but get bored because it’s locked up. It drives everyone crazy, but she doesn’t want to open it because it will ruin the trunk. Eventually she decides to let the triplets break the lock and they find that it’s mainly full of clothes. She does find a diary/journal in the bottom and decides to read through it.

The journal belongs to a 12-year-old girl named Sophie, who once lived in Stacey’s house. Her mom died after having a baby boy and her grandfather Hickman hates on her dad a lot. She explains that a painting of her mom went missing from his house, he blamed his former son-in-law and people in town turned against them. Sophie swears that she and her dad won’t rest until the mystery is solved, making Mallory wonder if the house is haunted.

Buddy enters the picture because he’s having a lot of trouble reading and his mom needs to hire a tutor from the club, so Mallory gets the job. Of course Mrs. Barrett can’t be bothered to help because she’s too busy hanging with friends and still looking for a part-time job. He hates reading, so she shows him some fun reading, like comics and Encyclopedia Brown. Then she tells him about the diary and he wants to see it.

When Buddy reads it, he wants to investigate the trunk. His hand gets caught and when he pulls it out, she finds a hidden area with a bunch of papers tucked inside. The papers are actually a confession from Hickman and it’s the same Hickman from the cemetery (Old Man Hickman). He confesses that he loved the painting, but couldn’t handle seeing his daughter every day. He hired someone to paint over it and then hung it back up in his house. When people asked about it, he claimed it mysteriously disappeared.

Other people started blaming Sophie’s dad and he just kind of went along with it. They figure out that he stuck a bunch of papers in the trunk and then died. His nephew just randomly threw things from the big house into trunks and boxes, then moved them over to the smaller house, which Hickman also owned.

Mallory and Buddy tell Stacey the story and then tell her mom too. They go upstairs and find the original painting, which she finds by seeing a ringed finger under a painting of ships. Mrs. McGill takes the painting to a restorer, who takes off the top layer and they hang the painting back up.

*This is a little picky, but Sophie was writing in 1890 and she was 12. We’re supposed to believe that her mom went 12 years without having kids and then randomly had another? That’s not very plausible.

*What’s up with the single moms in Stoneybrook? Was alimony really that great? Stacey’s mom, Dawn’s mom and Mrs. Barrett all get great houses and have tons of money, without having a job or while working part-time.

*Seriously, Mrs. Barrett is a fucking wreck. She explains that she works from home in the morning so she can spend time with Marnie, but can’t be expected to have time to take care of the kids and help with homework too. What the hell is wrong with her?

*Mallory keeps calling Jessi with updates about the diary, until Mrs. Ramsey says no more calls for the night. I totally remember doing stuff like this with my friends.

*Mallory wants contacts, but can’t have them until she’s 12. I had glasses from third grade on and didn’t even think about contacts until high school!

*Mallory helps Buddy make his own comic book. I thought this idea was so cool that I tried to do it myself when I was a kid. Yeah…that was a little more work than I wanted to do.

*The girls do a séance at Stacey’s house and Kristy wants to be the madam. She dresses up and makes everyone call her Madam Kristin, but then cracks and ruins the whole thing.