Friday, December 12, 2014

Point Thriller: The Window (Carol Ellis)


Sasha and Cal are twins and friends with Kate, who invited Jody, our main character, on a skiing vacation. Kate couldn't go at the last minute but she pressed Jody to go without her, even though she doesn't really know anyone else. Along for the ride is the hunky Drew, his friends Billy and Chris, and Ellen who has a crush on him. This is way too many people to introduce in the first three pages of a book!

Jody makes a comment about the town being smaller than she thought, which causes Chris, who turns out to be a girl, to snap at her. They finally get to the cabin, and Drew does a little flirting with her. Apparently Chris has the hots for him, and this sets her off too. I get the feeling these two won't like each other very much.

After telling everyone that she planned a party, Sasha takes them all out on the slopes. She comes up with this crazy game where she leaves an orange peel in the middle of the slope. They all have to ski down and try to grab it with their poles, but they all end up knocking it around and give up. A woman suddenly comes down the slope and snags it. They all whisper about Leahna but shut up quickly.

Later that day, Kate calls to check on her. When she hangs up, Ellen comes in the room. Even though she thought Ellen wanted Drew, she actually has a crush on Cal, who apparently has a thing for Leahna. Also, Leahna and Drew once dated. Ellen talks about how she once stole an essay she wrote for some state contest and submitted it on her own. She refused to tell on her, but she does make it clear that Leahna will get what's coming to her. Well okay then.

At the party, she finds Billy on his hands and knees cleaning a rug. He spilled something on it and Sasha flipped out because it was an authentic Navajo rug. They talk for awhile before heading to the party in the living room. Sasha wants to play a game called Truth. Someone stands in the center of the room, everyone writes down something about that person, and the person has to admit if it's true or not. Billy goes first and after answering a few truths, he reads a card that says he hates Sasha. He freaks out, says it's not true, and runs from the room after asking Jody when she would do that to him.

Jody goes to find him to tell him it wasn't her. They're really making this too big of a deal. He says that he kind of does hate Sasha because she constantly lies to him and makes him feel bad. She even lied to him about the rug and made him clean it just to laugh at him. They make up and go back to the party to find Ellen in the center of the room. One of her cards says she loves Drew and one says Cal. Cal tries to change the subject and pulls out the next card, which says that she hates Leahna.

Later that night, Jody hears someone wandering around her room and flips out, but it's just Chris. When Jody went to sleep, everyone at the party took off for the slopes, and Chris wants to go too. After she leaves, she wanders over to the window and sees Leahna at her cabin across from them. Someone goes up to her, they fight a little, the person grabs her, and then leaves. Jody ducks down before Leahna sees her and thinks that she needs to be careful about the way she treats people.

After a trip the cafeteria the next day for lunch, Chris ditches her and Drew disappears. She goes skiing by herself, loses her balance, and falls down. Leahna finds her and goes for help, and Sash then shows up. Turns out that she sprained her ankle and might have a concussion but they let her go home after Sasha promises to take care of her.

Despite making that promise five minutes ago, Sasha immediately gets ready to go to some party that everyone else plans to do to. Drew brings her some magazines, Billy brings her some food, and they all take off. They do agree to call her every hour to check on her, which I guess is just as good as someone actually staying there with her. She hears from Ellen, Sasha, Chris, and pretty much everyone else.

The pain pills the doctor gave her knocks her out for a bit, and when she wakes up, she sees someone moving in Leahna's house. She sees the two fighting over a piece of paper, gets distracted by a noise outside, and looks back to see the figures gone. She tries to call Kate, who is supposedly sick with the flu, but she doesn't answer, and Cal pops up long enough to scare the crap out of her.

When she wakes up the next day, she notices a weird red stain on Leahna's house that almost looks like blood. She tries to find out if she was at the party the night before but no one can really remember or really answer her. Hm, I wonder if this will end like Freeze Tag did. Kate calls, gets super defensive about why she didn't answer the phone, and claims she knows nothing about Leahna. Jody gets so down that she contemplates taking the bus back home. The others talk her out of it because, hey, there's another party and if she's lucky, she can hobble over there on her crutches.

Then comes the part that really annoys me. Drew rings her some flowers and asks for her phone number so he can call her when they get home. The whole group then goes to the lodge. Drew calls to see if he can bring her back something to eat and acts super concerned about her. Then Kate calls, and Jody hears someone listening on the phone and hears the same person downstairs.

She gets so scared that she ends up sleeping on the couch. Drew comes back four hours later and seems surprised that she doesn't want the food he brought her. Gee, thanks for bringing me ice cold ribs? He was also the last one to leave, which means that if someone got in, they got in because he left the door unlocked. He kind of tries to apologize the next day, but he also leaves her completely alone on crutches again. These are some awesome people! Leave a poor girl who is absolutely terrified alone in a house. Oh, and did I mention that a storm came through and knocked out the phone lines?

Jody really wants to go home, but the storm knocked out the roads. Only emergency vehicles are allowed out. While trying to calm herself down, she turns on the radio and hears a report that law enforcement found the body of a dead teenage girl the night before. When she looks out at Leahna's house, she suddenly realizes that if she saw the killer that night, the killer saw her.

The phone starts working again, but just as she gets hold of an operator, the line goes out again. Then Chris shows up just to scare her before leaving again, and she finds out that someone drugged her tea. Sasha pops up and after like four pages of her being super annoying, it turns out that she was the killer. It was something about how she didn't like how Leahna treated her brother, ugh.

Cal shows up and tries to stop her, but she has a knife and attacks him. She tries to attack Jody, who tries to hit the knife out of her hand with a pair of binoculars. Jody actually ends up whacking her in the head, but she keeps coming. Suddenly the whole group pops back up. Billy pins her to the ground and holds her down while everyone else just kind of stands around in shock.

Drew gets her a blanket, and they all wait for the cops. The next day, Chris gets a ride from someone else, kind of apologizes for being a bitch, and takes off. Drew arranges for a friend of his to take him and Jody back home. He tells her that he would understand if she didn't want to see him again because he's a reminder of what happened. Even though he was kind of an ass to her, she has stars in her eyes. She tells them that he's a good reminder, they kiss, and I vomit.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ghosts of Fear Street #5: Stay Away From the Tree House







Dylan and his brother Steve live on Fear Street but somehow have never had any weird experiences, which annoys Dylan because he really wants to see a ghost. After talking about it with his brother, they hear a strange crashing sound outside, which turns out to be their dad cutting down trees to make room for a new swimming pool. With the trees gone, Dylan can see the outline of a tree house in the woods.

He convinces his brother to go with him into the woods to find the tree house. They notice that the boards are black and that it looks like it went through a massive disaster. As they walk home, Dylan also notices that the temperature suddenly gets warmer the closer they get to their house, which is proof that the tree house is haunted. It doesn't help when they see a weird light near the tree house later that night.

They head out to investigate and come across sisters Betsy and Kate in the woods. They are supposedly visiting from Connecticut, but I totally don't trust them. Betsy makes a cryptic comment that makes Dylan think it's haunted, but then the two run off before they can ask any more questions. While this might make me run, it makes Dylan want to renovate it. He bribes his brother to help him take down some of the old boards and restore the tree house.

Dylan has a few weird experiences there. While climbing up the ladder, he thinks he runs into the ghost and that it tries to choke him, but it's actually just a spiderweb. Then he and Steve are working on the house when he goes up the ladder and almost gets hit in the face with the hammer. Though he thinks that it's his brother, Steve went back to the house earlier.

Later that same day, they run into the sisters again, and Betsy finally decides to tell them the story. A bunch of kids built the tree house years ago and spent the night there after finishing it. Lightning struck the tree and set fire to the house. They were stuck inside and died. Every since then, anyone who tried to fix the house suffered bad luck. Duncan was one boy who spent the most time out there. He got hit in the head with a hammer, and his family left town without telling anyone if he lived or died. That seems a little odd.

None of this dissuades Dylan though. He heads back to the tree house to do some more work. He ends up nearly falling and cracking his head open when a rung on the ladder breaks. When he finally gets to the tree house, he sees that someone carved Stay Away in the tree.

Yet that still doesn't stop him. He and Steve plan an overnight stay in the tree house to look for ghosts. Steve immediately falls asleep, but Dylan sees the floorboards moving. Just as he's about to scream, a head pops up and it's his parents looking for him. They take him home and he hears them talking about how they're worried about him and his obsession with ghosts. He and Steven then sneak out of the house again.

When his brother falls asleep, he sees a pair of glowing eyes in the woods and flips out. No worries though, it's just a stray cat. He then hears some strange noises and wakes up his brother. They both see a pair of eyes and freak out, but before they can do anything, they see another pair of eyes. Turns out that it's the sisters and they're the ones pulling all the "ghost" stuff on them. Steve makes him go home and acts like he always knew it wasn't real. Dylan decides that he needs to get back at the sisters right away.

After a few days of normal stuff, Dylan sees a light in the tree house. Thinking it's the girls, he convinces Steve to dress all in black, sneak outside, and scare the crap out of them. When they get out there, they find a real ghost standing in the tree house! Turns out that his name is Corey and he was one of the kids who died in the fire. He kept getting stronger with the more work they did, and he wants them to keep working. Dylan offers him a deal: he'll keep working if Corey helps them scare the girls.

The girls come over a few days later. Corey pops up and tries to scare them, but then they turn see through and fly up to meet him in the air. Yeah, so they were apparently his sisters and the other ones in the tree house. They somehow got separated after the fire and haunted different areas of the woods. The trio chase them out of the house and into the woods. They don't attack though, they just thank him for helping them come back together and disappear.

After all this, Steve really just wants to go home. He went into shock after seeing the girls and it took him some time to talk again. They start wandering through the woods, get turned around, and have no idea how to get home again. When they turn around again, they find a clearing with an old-fashioned swingset in it and a little ghost boy sitting on it. He asks them for help and Dylan sighs, thinking "Here we go again." Well dude, you're the one who wanted to see a ghost!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sweet Valley Twins #89: Jessica's Cookie Disaster


Jessica found out that if she can increase her grades just a little more, she can make it honor roll. While Elizabeth believes in her, she thinks it's pretty funny. That is until her twin actually does make the honor roll. The Wakfields suddenly want to take her out to dinner and make a big deal out of it, which makes Liz feel bad.

The two girls also argue over the television. Jessica wants to watch Lifestyles of the French and Famous, while Elizabeth wants to watch an interview with Amanda Howard. While they fight over the remote, Steven sneaks in, steals the remote, and turns it to a game. When they get to school the next day, they're still so mad at each other that they can't talk or work together, which leaves Jessica to whip up a batch of cookies on her own.

The teacher gives them a recipe but leaves out spices and decorations so they can make their own recipes. Jessica and Elizabeth start fighting again, and she accidentally knocks some random ingredients in the bowl. Since it looks so bad, she adds red and blue food coloring to make purple cookies. The cookies actually end up tasting the best, and the teacher gives her bonus points. It turns out that the teacher has a friend who works for Lifestyles of the French and Famous. She gives her some of the cookies, and she loves them so much that she arranges for her to appear on the show.

When the Unicorns learn of the news, they decide to take over. They start calling her recipe Unicookies and talking about how it's such great news for the club. Jessica gets pissed off because they're stealing her thunder, but then Janet points out that she's going to high school the next year, which means they'll need a new president. Lila calls a special meeting at her house where everyone keeps pushing her to call then Unicookies. She finally agrees on the provisions that they all help her make the 400 cookies she needs for the show and that she can put her name on the boxes.

The only problem is that Jessica can't remember the recipe and doesn't know what she accidentally put in the cookies. When she finally tells the Unicorns, they decide to experiment and find the right recipe because if she looks bad, it makes them look bad. They try dozens of ideas and nothing works. After a disastrous experiment in the home ec rooms that ends with everyone covered in batter, they give up and tell her that she's on her own. They even make her promise that if she does go on television that she won't mention them.

Elizabeth spends the entire book moping around because people make a big deal out of Jessica. She even has to interview her for the paper. She decides to try and make the principal's list, which is only open to students with an A+ average, but she forgets to study for a math test and forgets to turn in an English paper. After watching her sister struggle, she comes up with an idea.

Liz sets up the kitchen in the same way the home ec room was. She picks a fight with Jessica, which leads her to do the same accident again. Turns out that the secret ingredients are vanilla, almond extra, and ground almonds. Who knew? They tell their parents what happened and worry that they'll never make enough cookies in time. Ned, Alice, and even Steven pitch in to help. They stay up until 2 am to make all the cookies.

Meanwhile, Lila wants to make Jessica look bad. She orders gourmet cookies from some European company, tastes them all, and figures out which one is the best. She then orders enough to feed the entire crowd, with the plan that when Jessica confesses that she messed up, she can swoop in and steal the show. She picks out a new outfit and orders her driver to take her to the studio. She gets there and finds the door, but someone swings it open and knocks all the cookies down. Lila gets inside just in time to see Jessica on stage and everyone gushing over her cookies.

In the last chapter, Jessica gets a D+ on an assignment in home ec, which drops her grade down and knocks her off the honor roll. She decides that it doesn't really matter because she can focus more on her friends and shopping and less time on homework. Liz learns that her parents gushed over her to Mr. Bowman and made a big deal out of how proud they were of her so she's okay too.

*I totally thought Lila was being a nice girl and a good friend for awhile. She started thinking about how bad Jessica would look in front of the television chef and how she could be devastated, but then she reverted to Lila.

*It must be nice to special order cookies from Switzerland and have them overnight delivered to your house.

*She chooses European cookies because she worries that bakeries in California will get upset and try to steal her thunder once the Unicookies become a hit.

*I really hate typing the word Unicookies.

*The Unicorn Club is even worse in this book than usual. They pretty much just assume that since Jessica had an idea and is a member that they can roll right over her. Can you imagine Janet letting the whole club take credit for one of her ideas?

*Cookie combinations included pineapple and licorice flavors and orange, mint, and cinnamon.

*Elizabeth is kind of a pain in this book. She won't stop complaining about her twin getting credit for being smart, which is funny because Jessica looks forward to people thinking that she's smart.

*Um, this isn't how we did honor roll in my school. Honor roll and principal's lists were announced at the end of each "semester," once right before Christmas and once at the end of the year. In elementary and middle school, it was a once a month thing. Here, Jessica is only on honor roll for one week before losing her spot because of a bad grade. What's the point in having something like this if it changes every week?