Saturday, December 24, 2011

Goosebumps #1: Welcome to Dead House

Amanda and her little brother Josh are moving into a new house in the town of Dark Falls. Mr. Dawes, the real estate agent explains that their dad had a long lost uncle that died and left them the house. Both think it looks like a haunted house and Amanda is sure that she sees a boy looking down at her from upstairs.

Things are pretty weird from the moment they move into the house. Their dog Petey hates Mr. Dawes and keeps growling at him. Amanda thinks she sees people in the house, usually kids. Someone keeps rearranging the clothes in her room or leaving clothes sitting out and her dad thinks she’s just imaging things until she gets used to the move.

The two meet a neighborhood guy named Ray, who says he used to live in their house, but moved. He introduces them to some other kids, including Karen and George. The kids pretty much play baseball and chill for most of the book. Then Petey disappears one night and they can’t find him anywhere. Josh sneaks outside and Amanda follows after him.

They run into Ray, who starts acting weird. He leads them into the local cemetery and shows them a huge amphitheater where the town holds meetings. They find Petey, who won’t come near them and smells awful. Then they find a headstone, with Ray’s name on it. Ray reveals that he’s dead and all the other kids step out of the woods.

They explain that they all lived in their house, until they died. They keep inviting a new family every year, to get new blood and it just so happens to be their year. Josh accidentally shines his flashlight on Ray and he dissolves into pieces. Of course he also explains that they take the dog first and Petey is dead.

The kids chase them out of the cemetery and Mr. Dawes comes out to rescue them. He explains that since he recently moved to town, they came after him too. He saved their parents and now he wants to take them to find them. He takes them through the cemetery and they find his tombstone. Josh tries to shine his flashlight, but it stops working. He hits him with it and he crumbles. They track down their parents, but the whole town is surrounding them and sun is starting to come up. Amanda figures out that the dead people die when they get hit with light.

One tree is blocking the area from sun, so they work together to knock it over. The sunlight comes through and everyone dissolves, but not before Karen thanks Amanda for saving her. They save their parents and luckily they never sold their old house, so they can move home. Just as they get ready to leave, they see a car pull up and kids climb out. They’re talking about moving into the house. Amanda turns back and thinks she sees Mr. Dawes on the porch, but believes that it can’t be and walks away.

*Nice of her to not even try to help the other family get out of Dark Falls. She pretty much just walks away and doesn’t say a word.

*Dark Falls was, according to the book, a regular town that had a factory. Something happened at the factory and yellow gas poured out. Somehow that turned everyone into weird ghost things.

*Josh went into the cemetery multiple times throughout the book and never once saw anything weird, yet suddenly they walk in and find dozens of tombstones with names they recognize.

*I love that their parents never once questioned inheriting the house. Her mom says she doesn’t remember him mentioning his uncle and he admits that he didn’t know he had one, but they don’t find it even slightly weird.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sweet Valley High #4: Power Play

Robin Wilson is fat-fat. I know this because the ghostwriter told me approximately 1700 times over the course of 150 pages. She also believes that she is Jessica’s best friend, which just goes to show how little she knows about that bitch. Their friendship mainly consists of her doing random things for Jessica and being her servant.

Jessica is now the president of PBA, which is amazing given that she just became a member three books ago. Mrs. Wilson asks Liz if Jessica plans on nominating Robin because her daughter is contemplating dropping out of school. Consider what that school is actually like, I suggest Robin run for the hills. Robin worries about the nomination too and Liz finally decides that she will put her name up for nomination.

Jess is shocked because Robin is fat and can’t possibly make the sorority look good. She breezes through their next meeting, trying to finish before Liz arrives from a newspaper meeting, but she gets there in time. She nominates Robin, pointing out that she is Jessica’s best friend, so of course no one wants to say anything bad.

Jess, Lila and Cara create the three challenges that Robin must do before becoming a member. Liz finds her crying because she has to wear a bikini at the beach. Liz, Enid, Todd and George take her to the beach and help her feel better. I wonder if George remembers this later when he starts fooling around with her.

The next task involves running five times around the track every day for a week. A bunch of people show up, including Bruce Patman, calling her fat (I told you) and generally picking on her. The last task devised by Jess herself, requires Robin to take Bruce as her date to the next big dance. Robin cries constantly because she just can’t do it.

Liz goes to Bruce and makes a bunch of comments about his skills as a tennis player. At first her thinks she’s Jess coming back for round two (tee-hee) and then thinks Liz is hitting on him (tee-hee again). She promises to write him up and get a picture in the paper if he takes Robin to the dance and he agrees. Robin is shocked that he agrees, but goes all out on the night.

Bruce is a complete and total dick, of course. He walks Robin is, calls her Shamu, tells someone else to take her off his hands, and points out that he promised to take her, not stay or dance with her. I hope you remember this moment when he goes down on you Liz! Robin runs off and Liz grabs Allen Walters, the paper photographer to follow her, while she yells at Jess. Allen runs outside, Robin snaps at him and then feels bad because he’s an outcast too. He convinces her to go back inside and dance with him.

Everyone votes on Robin and all the PBA girls are petrified because Robin is Jessica’s best friend. When Jess opens the ballots, she finds a ton of white marbles and one black, meaning someone blackballed her. Liz accuses Jessica of using Robin and Jess claims Liz made her think she had a chance, when she never really did.

Robin is heart-broken at first, but then something changes. She puts up a wall and keeps to herself, not even talking to Liz. She runs around the track every morning, starts watching what she eats and in roughly two weeks goes from fat-fat to the object of everyone’s eye. The cheerleaders host open auditions and not only does she nail a spot on the squad, but she also gets voted co-captain.

I have to ask, how the fuck does this cheerleading squad work? Did Jessica always have a co-captain and she just randomly left? Or was she doing such a bad job that they decided she needed one? Plus, when the series started, Jessica was already a cheerleader and they had a squad, so why did they suddenly need new girls? Don’t forget that they hold auditions in book ten too.

Anyway, it’s around homecoming time and everyone has to vote on Miss Sweet Valley High. Jessica assumes she has it all wrapped up, but then Robin throws her hat in the ring. She puts up a notice saying that the PBA said no one outside the sorority could win and suddenly everyone hates PBA. Jessica has half the football team on her side, but the other half go for Robin.

Bruce is crazy about Robin because he isn’t fat-fat anymore and he follows her around all the time. At the big football game, they announce that Robin won. She skips the traditional limo ride around the field and asks Bruce for his Porsche. He runs to get it, but when he comes back, she announces that Allen is her escort. Bruce has to drive them around the field, which I really love.

The B-plot is all about Jessica showing up with expensive jewelry and clothes. She keeps saying that Lila got it all from her aunt, but Lila doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Liz learns at the mall that someone keeps stealing from stores and stealing the same stuff Jess has. Before she confronts her sister, she sees Lila stealing something.

Jessica gets busted instead of Lila and Liz rushes to the mall. They let Jess go, but make Lila wait for her dad. Mr. Fowler asks Liz for advice and she suggests he spend more time with his daughter. She goes to court as a character witness for Lila and Jess pitches a fit because they won’t tell her anything about what happened. Lila acts super nice to Liz, but reveals that her dad is going back to his old ways, which explains why she stays a lovable bitch throughout the books.

Oh and Jess gets over her heartbreak at losing the Miss Sweet Valley High title pretty fast because she meets a cute college guy. The book ends with Liz wondering if her sister is getting in over her head. Nope Liz, not at all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #4: The Unicorns go Hawaiian

Jessica gets reprimanded for making a terrible potato salad in school. That night, she’s hanging out with Mandy, who sees an ad for a pineapple recipe contest. They joke around and make a potato salad with raw potatoes, pineapple, anchovies and green food coloring. She submits the recipe and forgets all about it.

Suddenly it’s months later and the twins are getting ready to spend Christmas break with their grandparents skiing. Lila bursts into school, excited because she accidentally read a magazine belonging to her maid and Jessica won the pineapple contest. She wins a trip to Hawaii for her and two friends. She decides to invite Mandy and Mary, which pisses Lila off.

That night she goes home and tells her parents the news. Unfortunately they grew a pair overnight and decide that she can’t go to Hawaii without chaperones. She’s skiing and that’s it. Then Lila calls and reveals that her dad offered to take her and the rest of the Unicorns to Hawaii over break. Somehow he agrees to take all the girls and act as their chaperone.

Once they get to Hawaii, everyone goes their separate ways. Mr. Fowler spends all of his time with his new girlfriend Bambi. She bought Lila a cheap bracelet for Christmas, which he makes her wear and she wants to be an actress. Mandy and Mary overhear the two talking about her being scared to be a mom and suspect that he’s about to propose.

Janet meets two guys on the beach that tell her she looks like a Hawaiian princess. They warn her that if she leaves the island, she’ll upset the volcano goddess Pele and she’ll cover the island in lava. Janet spends the whole book attacking random people and demanding that they think she looks like the princess.

Jessica thinks it’s weird that she won the contest. It gets even weirder when she takes a factory tour and they call her Miss Wakely. She finally realizes that someone else won the contest and accidentally awarded it to her. She meets the same guys Janet did and they warn her that if she lies on the island, the island will get revenge. She falls off a boat and does some other stupid shit that seems to prove them right.

Lila finds a ring buried in the sand and starts wearing it, telling everyone that she bought it in an antique store. The same guys pop up and tell her that it’s a cursed ring. She blames everything that happens on the trip on the ring, including her dad and his girlfriend. She does try taking it off, but the ring seems to be stuck to her finger. The guys give her and Jess advice on ending their bad luck.

Mary catches them both trying to do the spell reversal thing and starts laughing. She makes Jessica call the company and gets the ring off Lila with butter. It turns out that the company only got bad recipes, so they picked the worst recipe and named it the winner. There was a slip up in the memo, but she really did win.

The girls tell Lila that Bambi and Mr. Fowler are engaged. Lila snaps at her and they learn that he was just helping her audition for a role as a step-mom on their favorite soap opera. Bambi also steps in and helps them get back at the guys. She dresses up as Pele, they invite the guys out and she basically scares the crap out of them. The guys apologize and invite them to a beach party, where they meet a bunch of cute guys. And, Bambi gets the role.

*I love Lila. Her dad makes them go on a glass bottom boat tour and Jess tells her that she’ll learn all about fish. Lila tells her that all she cares about is that they come fried, baked and stuffed. Love her!

*Jess falls off the glass bottom boat and freaks out, thinking she’s drowning. Then she thinks they’re warning her about piranhas, but it turns out that she’s just stuck in three feet of water.

*Mr. Fowler’s only advice for the girls or rule is to avoid buying shoddy merchandise. He really doesn’t get the whole parenting thing, does he?

*He buys Bambi a pearl ring, takes her shopping constantly and thinks it’s acceptable to buy Lila a coral necklace and take her out to dinner once.

*He and Bambi are sleeping in separate rooms. I thought the point of having a hot actress girlfriend involved things you do in the same room.

*I love that Alice and Ned won’t let her go without a chaperone, but then after one talk with Mr. Fowler, they decide that he’s the perfect chaperone for them.

*Why would Jessica even assume that she could go on a trip like this by herself or just with her friends? She still has a flipping curfew!

*Were there no rules or anything for this contest? Supposedly it was in some homemaking magazine and I can’t see a lot of kids reading that. Wouldn’t it be only open to those 18 or older?

*I’ve read some of the Sweet Valley Twins books lately and this is the first one that really creeped me out. These girls are 12 years old and checking out lifeguards, plus wearing bikinis to the beach and wearing makeup. It’s way, way too mature.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Goosebumps #13: Piano Lessons can be Murder

Jerry and his parents are moving into a new house because that’s how most Goosebumps books start. He’s a pretty big practical joker and within the first few pages, he manages to convince his parents that clumps of gray dust are actually mice. After deciding to investigate the attic, he comes across a gorgeous old piano. Within a few hours, he and his parents decide that he should take lessons.

They hire a guy named Dr. Shreek since he’s the only one listed in the newspaper. He looks like Santa Clause, complete with a red face, white mustache, and big belly. At their first lesson, he gushes about how Jerry has perfect hands and that after a few lessons, he can start coming to the music school. Jerry starts hearing the piano playing at night, but no one believes him.

He meets this girl Kim from his school and once she hears where he’s taking lessons, she runs off in a panic. Jerry keeps hearing the music playing and one night sees a girl ghost sitting on the bench. Each time he hears the music, he finds the piano bench warm, but his parents think that it’s an elaborate prank.

Dr. Shreek finally invites him to the school and he’s stunned by the number of students practicing and pianos playing every day. He sees a “monster” chasing him through the halls, which turns out to be a floor cleaner. Mr. Toggle, the janitor, admits to making the cleaner and putting a face on it because he’s really good at electrical stuff. Before his next lesson, Toggle shows him some of his other inventions.

Jerry eventually runs into Kim again and invites her to his house. She admits to hearing weird stories about monsters in the basement of the school. After he explains about the cleaners, she tells him that kids have a habit of going to the school and never coming out. Then he sees the ghost, who shows him that she no longer has hands and warns him about taking lessons.

After breaking down one too many times, his parents send him to a psychiatrist. Then he breaks down again after seeing the ghost and they decide he can stop taking lessons, but he has to take one more class to be sure. When Jerry tells Dr. Shreek that he’s quitting, the teacher flips out and chases him. Screaming for Toggle, he runs into the ballroom and finds a shocking sight.

Dozens of pianos are in the room, with an instructor beside each one. But, the only thing playing the pianos are hands, no people. Shreek attacks and Jerry screams for help. Toggle rushes in, hits a switch and he stops moving. Toggle explains that Shreek was just another of his inventions. When Jerry tries to leave, Toggle explains that he can’t because he has perfect hands.

Toggle perfected human looking robots, but he can’t figure out the hands. He keeps kidnapping students to get their hands and shows Jerry his future piano. The ghost suddenly appears and shouts at the hands, which quickly attack him. She explains that he once lived in his house, until they took her too.

Jerry manages to get out and get help. He explains that he made new friends, his parents sold the piano, and he started playing baseball. Everyone thinks he’s perfect for the game because after all, he does have perfect hands.

*Okay, so his parents are so worried about him that they send him to a shrink, but keep forcing him to play the piano? If my kid only freaked out when he came within 10 feet of a piano, I’d probably worry.

*The shrink thing shouldn’t even exist in this book. His mom suggests it, he goes to one session and it’s never mentioned again. The story feels like filler to me.

*Their house has three extra bedrooms on the second floor and no plans for those rooms. Yet they move the piano down to the living room. Why not turn a room into a music room?

*Jerry wants to use one of the rooms as a Nintendo room. That kind of cracked me up.

*How is the police not involved in all this? If dozens of people went missing and each one was last seen entering the same building, don’t you think they would investigate?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sweet Valley High #25: Nowhere to Run

Emily Mayer is feeling down in the dumps. Her mom left town and she told everyone that she died. Her dad remarried a rich, bitchy woman named Karen and they now have a baby Karrie. She’s crushing on her bandmate Dan, but even he doesn’t seem to realize she exists. She volunteers to write an article for the paper, at the behest of Karen, which leads to a friendship with Liz.

No matter what Emily does, Karen doesn’t approve. Even though her dad supported her drum playing, Karen thinks it’s a waste of time. She refuses to let her practice anytime Karrie is in the house, which is always, and her dad sides with his wife. She invites Dan over to practice because Karrie has a doctor’s appointment. Karen comes home early and explodes. She calls Emily’s mom a tramp and she runs off in tears.

She goes to the Wakefield house and they try to help, despite never suffering a bad day. They convince Emily to call her dad, but he sides with Karen again and demands she come home. The next day, Emily pretends that nothing happened. She puts her drums for sale in the paper and Dan buys them, saying it’s for a friend of his. Her dad kind of blows it off, saying she overreacted even though Karen refuses to let her practice. Karen also imposed a new curfew and she can’t rehearse with the Droids anymore.

Then Karen gives Karrie a doll that is way too old for her. Emily tries to take it away, but Karen snatches it from her and gives it back to the baby. While she chatters on the phone, Karrie pulls off one of the doll’s eyes, puts it in her mouth and starts choking. Emily saves her life, Karen freaks out and her dad walks into the room. He explodes and hearing her babble about the baby, he freaks out and accuses Emily of hurting the baby, while Karen just cried. Emily runs to the Wakefield house.

Ned’s parents have been visiting and Alice apparently remembers she has children. She keeps worrying because they don’t have time for her and don’t want to spend time together. Their grandparents take them shopping, for a hot air balloon ride and out for Chinese, where we hear for the first time that Ned is allergic. The twins finally pick up on her feelings and get her involved in helping them plan a going away party for their grandparents.

Emily shows up, planning to run away to Chicago where her mom lives. She calls her mom, only to learn that she remarried and moved to Mexico. Liz talks things through with her family and decides to call Emily’s dad, which leads to Jess calling her a rat. I love it! Grandma Wakefield goes upstairs to fuck with the Wakefield family tree.

She explains that her husband had an 11 year old son named Bob when they got married. His first wife died in a train crash and Bob didn’t like her. It took them a long time to start getting along, but eventually she learned to love him and now regards him as a son. So much so, that he wasn’t mentioned in the family history.

Emily goes downstairs and finds her whole family walking inside. Karen apologizes to her in front of everyone. She explains that she was jealous of her because she was so put together and perfect. Her dad apologizes for never siding with her and despite threatening her with boarding school throughout the whole book, promises to not send her away. To make things even better, Dan shows up and gives her back her drums, while also asking her to do a duet with him. Aw.

Oh and there’s a short plot about Regina coming back from Switzerland. Liz sees a classmate that delivers groceries and swears he saw her. She talks to Bruce and he refuses to believe it because she never called. Duh-duh-duh.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Point Horror: Nightmare Hall #12: The Whisperer (Diane Hoh)

Shea did a really, really bad thing. She stole a copy of her upcoming test from her professor’s office. When the book opens, she’s sitting with her roommate Tandy, friend Diane and Diane’s boyfriend Sid. They introduce her to a new guy Coop and they hit it off right away. Professor Stark is nearby and they all talk about how much they hate her. Shea gets a mysterious phone call at the restaurant from someone warning her that they know her secret.

At the end of their next class, Professor Stark announces that someone stole a copy of her test. She has proof because she had a camera recording the room. She decides to show the tape at their next class. Shea decides to just admit that she stole the copy and goes to her office. She finds the teacher face down on the floor and runs off in fear.

Apparently someone hit her over the back of the head and took off. The teacher is paralyzed and can’t move her legs. Shea freaks out, wondering if she left behind fingerprints or other evidence that links her to the room. Then she gets several phone calls from the whisperer, warning her that they know her secret. The whisperer asks her to meet him in the woods behind Nightmare Hall.

Shea goes and gets weirded out because the voice stays in the shadows and doesn’t give her any information. She starts suspecting everyone around her, especially Sid. He sucks major ass and treats Diane like crap, but she keeps going back for more. The voice tells her that it wants her to pull a prank. She has to sneak into the animal lab, steal a snake and drop it in a dorm room.

Shea refuses to do it, but the voice tells her it will turn over the video of her in the teacher’s office to the cops. She finally does it, but one of the girls in the room has a heart problem and almost dies. Shea feels terrible, but the voice leaves her the tape. When she plays it, it’s nothing. The voice wants her to do more and wants her to cut off her vain roommate’s hair. Shea refuses to do it because Tandy loves her hair.

The next morning, Tandy wakes up, looks in the mirror and screams. Someone snuck into the room and chopped off all of her hair. She and Diane both think she’s behind it because her scissors were in the bed. They aren’t sure about her, but still agree to go to a party with her at Nightmare Hall. The voice tells her that it left the real tape in the off campus dorm.

Shea manages to find the tape, which was hidden in the VCR. She asks Diane about finding a VCR to watch it and she tells her to go the library. As soon as she puts it in, Diane shows up. It turns out that the tape shows Diane stealing the test. Apparently Sid taught Diane how to steal and cheat, instead of studying. Now he keeps threatening to turn her in if she tries to breakup with him. I guess she thinks he can prove that she cheated in school for years and at two different campuses.

Diane thinks Sid is behind the calls, but someone comes in and hits her over the head. Shea runs off and the voice follows. The voice finally steps out of the shadows and it’s Professor Stark! Frankly it’s kind of boring and makes no sense, but she’s crazy. Her mom bred into her that it wasn’t right to cheat and so she trapped her students. She hit her own head and then stalked Shea. She had her help her “punish” the bad students. Diane calls the cops and they arrive before Shea can get hurt.

The book ends with the whole group going out to dinner. Diane finally broke up with Sid and is now dating a new guy. Shea and Coop are a happy couple and Tandy has adjusted to her new short haircut. They have a new professor and Stark is getting the help she needs.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

13 Tales of Terror: “The Doll” by Carol Ellis (Point Horror)

A fisherman stumbles on a black box stuck in the side of a cliff. A few months earlier, Abby and her sister Lindsay moved to a new house after their parents’ divorce. After moving into the creepy old house, she decides to clean out the attic. Upstairs she finds an antique porcelain doll in an old leather case. Her mom thinks the doll might be valuable, but she thinks it is pretty enough to display in her room.

Her friend Erin spends the night and thinks the doll is just creepy. Abby has a dream that she’s a little girl hiding in the hallway. Then she hears a scream, wakes up and finds that Erin almost fell down the stairs. Erin swears the someone or something tripped her.

Mark, the hot guy in school, asks Abby out on a date. He comes by the house and Lindsay shows him the doll. She tells Abby that the doll was sitting in the middle of the hallway. Mark thinks it’s cute that she has a doll and that while pretty, the doll is not as pretty as her.

Abby has another dream. This time she pictures the little girl running out in the middle of the road. She gets a call that Mark was in an accident. He hit a curve and crashed into a tree. They rushed him to the hospital, where he swears that he swerved to avoid hitting a little girl.

She runs upstairs, looks at the doll and swears the doll has a glint in her eye. She shoves her in the old case and drives off. When she gets to the edge of the cliff, she hears the doll beating her hands against the case. She tosses it over the cliff and leaves in a hurry.

The fisherman opens the case and sees the expensive looking doll inside. After a few seconds, he closes the case and smiles. Christmas is coming up and he has a little girl that just loves dolls.