Friday, May 15, 2015

Sweet Valley High #35: Out of Control

Aaron Dallas is totes out of control. He came home from school one day to find his parents waiting for him. After having an affair with a man, his mom decided to leave his dad for this other guy and move across the country with him. His dad kind of shut down after that. Aaron is now super aggressive and always in a bad mood.

That makes thing tough for Elizabeth, given that this is one of those Jeffery books and his best friend is Aaron. They go out on a double date with Aaron and his girlfriend Heather. Heather kind of seems like a Jessica clone, but for some reason, Liz can't stand her. She *gasps* talks during the movie and then wants to chat when they go for ice cream. Liz finally tells her that she's private and doesn't like to talk about herself (ha!), which leaves them sitting there in silence. It doesn't help when Aaron fights with some guy and Heather does baby talk to calm him down.

After another altercation on the soccer field, the coach tells Aaron that if he screws up again, he's off the team. This isn't good news since there's some huge game coming up. Liz sits down and writes an article that's all about how he's a screw up. Aaron goes off on her and makes it clear that they are no longer friends, and even Jeffrey wants to know why she couldn't take it easy on him. Liz stands by her article and uses the whole "I'm a journalist" line.

This leads to problems with Aaron and Jeffrey. They have a fight that ends with Aaron punching him before running away. Heather tracks him down and talks with him about all his issues. She convinces him to talk to the counselor. The counselor works out a deal where he'll come in for regular sessions and the coach will let him play. He then apologizes to Liz and makes up with Jeffrey before winning the big game.

Who cares about that story? This is the book where Jessica becomes a Tofu-Glo girl! She finds out that women who sell the products make thousands every month and borrows money from Liz to get the introductory pack. There's a skin lotion, shampoo, and some other stuff that is made from all natural ingredients.

Jessica throws a party at her house and tries to sell it to her friends. She even offers a money back guarantee. After selling to them, she goes door to door and makes a bunch of more sales until one woman asks to try the lotion. It sticks to her skin like a big oil slick. Cara then calls and says that the shampoo wouldn't come out of her hair.

Alice points out that she really should have tried the products before selling them. It turns out that she has all the same problems too, and then all her customers call and demand their money back. The company refuses to take back any of the products because each one had a label that said they needed stored in the refrigerator. Ned then finds out that there was a lawsuit against the company and a huge settlement. Jessica will get back all the money she paid and a little more too.

*Liz claims that journalists should always be neutral, but her article calls Aaron out a lot. It comes across less neutral and more like a story about him being a bad guy.

*Liz makes fun of Heather's baby talk to her friends, and they think it's so funny that they keep asking her to do it again. She doesn't feel bad until she finds out that it's the only way Heather can help Aaron calm down.

*It turns out that Heather is really into fashion and wants to go to design school. Liz kept making comments about all her fancy clothes and how she spends too much on clothes and then finds out that Heather makes everything herself.

*Jessica paid $150 for her starter kit and got multiple boxes of each product. Damn, that's a lot of stuff for a low price.

*Who would come up with something like Tofu-Glow? My bathroom and kitchen are on two separate floors, and there is no way that I would want to walk downstairs to grab shampoo every time that I wanted to take a shower.

*This book was so boring. The Aaron story was the same thing over and over again: Aaron gets annoyed and throws a hissy fit and then Aaron gets annoyed and throws another fit.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Goosebumps #47: Legend of the Lost Legend (R.L. Stine)

Justin and Marissa are stuck in the middle of an icy wilderness trying to find their dad. Their sled dogs take them out further until they see something glowing in the woods. They suddenly find themselves stuck on a piece of ice and floating off in the ocean. No worries though. It's actually just a story their dad is telling them.

Their dad is Richard Clarke, this super famous adventurist and writer. He brought his kids out into the middle of nowhere to search for the lost legend. He won't tell them much about it except that if they find it, they'll never need money again. When they fall asleep that night, the kids hear something in the woods. It turns out that it's a silver dog.

Marissa freaks out and tells him not to touch it because it might be a wolf. Since Justin loves animals though, he starts petting it. The dog has a note tied to its collar that says to follow "Silverwolf." They run to tell their dad about it, but they can't wake him up. The dog takes off into the woods, and in a move completely unlike any other Goosebumps books, they just go to sleep instead of following it.

After talking for what seems like way too long and hearing the dog howling in the woods, they eventually do go after it. They wind up lost in the woods though because they followed a wolf instead of the dog. This leads them to fall down a massive hole and Justin to scream about it being a bottomless whole when they actually only fall down a few feet.

They then wind up finding this random cabin in the woods. Silverwolf is there with some woman who introduces herself as Ivanna. She feeds them soup, shouts that it's actually poison, and then laughs it off as a bad joke. After a few more bad jokes, she tells them they need to complete a test in the Fantasy Forest if they want to find the lost legend. Before she can tell them anymore, a furry black creature runs in and attacks them.

Ivanna introduces the creature as Luka right after it attacks Justin. In a creepy twist, it's a dog covered in black fur with a man's face. She lets them know that it will be their guide when they go to the forest. They go to sleep and wake up in the middle of the woods. Marissa winds up almost lost but finds her way back.

They don't go too far before they come across a bunch of weird blobs on the ground. Turns out that those blobs are eggs. Luka gets distracted by a squirrel and runs way, right before they find a note from Ivanna warning them not to let him out of their sight. The eggs then hatch a bunch of mice, which attack the kids. They get away just in time for an earthquake to hit and a tree to drop on Marissa.

Turns out that the tree is just fake. They see a ton of bats flying at them that are also fake and make it to a stream. Their boots get stuck in the mud, and Marissa sees a big plug holding the water in the stream. When they finally get out, they get attacked by a bunch of giant cats. Luckily, Justin has some wind up/mechanical mice in his backpack, which he uses to distract them so they can get away.

They find their way back to the cabin and see Silverwolf inside. They also find Ivanna, but Justin sees something sticking out of her back. Apparently, Ivanna was some wind up toy. Luka then goes crazy, runs into the center of the room, and stands up on his back legs. Luka peels off his fake fur and reveals that he's a real guy who created a bunch of fake creatures in the woods to scare off those looking for the treasure. The kids passed his tests, so he gives them a silver chest and sends them back to their dad with Silverwolf.

Not long after leaving the cabin, Justin realizes that someone is following them. They run away but find out that the noises they heard was the sound of their dad looking for them. All three get excited about the chest until they open it and find an egg inside. Silverwolf leads them back to Luka, who apologizes and says he thought that was the treasure they wanted. He then gives them directions to the lost legend.

Their dad leads them to a tiny village that looks deserted, and they start shouting for someone. A bunch of guys in brown robes come out and get excited when they ask for the legend of the lost legend. They hand over a silver chest and everyone packs up and runs away. Inside the chest is a warning that whoever finds it will be lost forever. They suddenly look up and realize that they are now the lost ones.

*Seriously, they don't follow the dog? Don't the kids in these books love running off and doing stuff without their parents knowing?

*Would you really want to go into the deep woods with a creature by your side that just bit your leg?

*So apparently Luka wears a fake dog suit and runs around on his hands and knees. That takes some serious skill and seems pretty painful too.

*How long have those people been guarding the lost legend? They have a whole village they built, which they completely desert, and they seem pretty comfortable living there too.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fear Street: Missing (R.L. Stine)

Cara and Mark are throwing a last minute party when she takes the time to think about things. Their young, very young as she keeps saying, parents are computer specialists who always accept jobs in new cities and then join a bunch of clubs to meet new people instead of spending time with their kids. They had a fight that morning because they thought Mark spent too much time with his new girlfriend Gena.

A random cop shows up on the doorstep in an unmarked car. He acts a little shifty when asking about her parents and says there was a robbery a few houses down. After giving her his card and asking her to call anytime, he gets in his car which barely makes a sound, and leaves. Cara figures that's the perfect time to end the party.

Both think it's weird that their parents aren't home and didn't call until they find that the phone is out. They then a hear footsteps upstairs and freak out until their cousin Rogers walks out. Turns out that he moved in and that they keep forgetting he's there. That must be hard on his ego. Cara goes upstairs and flips out because their parents bed is unmade and they always make it, while Mark is just disappointed that he didn't ask Gena to stay longer.

Roger shows up long enough to scare them again with a black box in his hands. He claims it's his Walkman and that he forgot his headphones before shoving it in his pocket and running back to his room in the attic. Right before they leave, Cara finds something on the bed. It's a little tiny skull made from ivory. She thinks it's weird because it feels cold in her hand, but Mark just laughs it off.

Mark wakes up in the middle of the night, stubs his toe, and sees the little skull staring at him, but he can't remember taking it in his room. Later, he looks outside and sees a black van on the street, which he saw earlier in the night. He then sees Roger climb inside. After falling asleep and waking up again, he sees the van still there and the skull in a new spot.

The next morning, he tells Cara what he saw. Since Roger left for the day, they sneak up to his room and go through his stuff. They wind up finding a loaded gun hidden in a drawer, and Cara finds that he hasn't used any of his books and never wrote any notes despite supposedly being a college student. Cara then goes to their neighbor's house. The woman is a smoker, which we never see in YA books anymore, and asks a bunch of probing questions about her parents before saying that the place where they work has a lot of government contracts. Cara calls the phone company to come out and check her line, and when she gets home, she finds her parents' car, which they use to get to work, in the garage.

Cara and Mark skip school to see where their parents work and to get some help. They see the same van sitting outside, but the guy driving it says that he doesn't know a Roger. Mark doesn't believe him for some reason. They get to the place where their parents work and meet a bunch of people who never heard of them before. The CEO even comes down and tells them that no one by those names work there or ever had worked there.

Mark stops to call Gena and talk to her, but she acts really weird. When Cara gets home, she finds Mark sitting in the dark. He says that Gena dumped him and that she said she had to break up with him. He went over to her house to talk to her, but her dad answered the door and said she was so upset over something that she had to stay home from school all day. Nice dad to let her stay home for no reason. Cara then calls the cop from the other night and he agrees to investigate her parent's disappearance. When she hangs up though, she realizes that Roger was listening in on an upstairs extension.

When Roger comes downstairs, Cara accuses him of spying on them. After she brings up him being suspicious and the gun he has, he accuses her of spying and says that the gun belonged to his dad, who was a cop. He died a few days after giving it to them. He also claims that he too saw the van but never ever got inside it.

Cara doesn't believe him, and when he leaves, she decides to follow him. Mark stays home and gets a call from Gena. She cries and tries to tell him something, but when he presses her, the phone disconnects. Since he's a hormonal teen, he goes right to her house and cuts through the Fear Street woods. Something starts following him, which turns out to be an enormous dog.

Mark manages to break its neck before realizing that the dog was specifically trained to sneak up on people without making a noise. The dog also had a collar with a skull on it that looks just like the one they found in their parents' room. He then gets to Gena's house, climbs up a trellis to her window, and slips and falls.

This is one of those annoying books that bounces back and forth between two different characters using first-person, so we go back to Cara. After tracking Roger to a coffee house, she sees him sit down inside with the guy from the van. Roger sees her, accuses her of spying again, and then introduces him as his college adviser. Cara makes up an excuse to leave, sees them talking all secretive, and then starts heading home, only to find someone following her.

Turns out that it's Captain Farrday, the cop from before. He tells her that he hasn't found out anything new about her parents but that they'll show up. She then tells him all about her weird cousin, and he agrees to look into both him and the professor. As an added bonus, when she brings up the skull charm, he asks if he can see it. Luckily for her, probably, she can't find it. Right after he leaves, she hears another car pull up. It's only a friend from school though.

Mark manages to keep himself from falling off the trellis and gets into Gena's room. It looks completely clean and like no one had been there all day. There's a noise in the hall and her dad rushes in with a gun in his hand. He calms down when he sees that it's just Mark. Gena's dad tells him that she was so upset over their breakup that she took off to stay with her cousin, but Mark notices that she left behind her book bag.

Cut to the next day or a few days later, with the two talking about everything that happened lately. Cara suddenly remembers Wally, a friend of their parents who works with them. They look him up in the phonebook and head to his house. Through Wally, they find their parents listed in the work directory, call, and get their voicemail, so they know their parents really do work there. When they get home, they find Roger dead in his room as Captain Farraday bursts through the door.

Farraday accuses Mark of killing his cousin and marches them downstairs. The guy from the van bursts in, Cara shouts out who he is, and Farraday shoots him three times point blank. He then grabs the phone and calls the police station to report it. Since Mark just saw two dead bodies, he really needs a drink of water. When he heads into the kitchen though, he finds out that the phone is dead again and that Farraday called no one.

He keeps trying to find a way to warn his sister and then just snaps and calls out the other man. Farrday knocks him down and waves his gun around while shouting about how he was a cop until their parents did something and how he hates them. Before he can do anything, Gena rushes in with a hunting rifle. She keeps threatening Farraday and fires a shot at the wall behind him. They lock him in the garage, and she runs into the woods, telling them to follow her as she babbles about having to get there before the meeting starts.

Turns out that her dad belongs to some weird cult named the Brotherhood and the CEO of the company is the leader. They all put on robes and sneak into the meeting, where they see their parents in the center. Though they think their parents are the leaders, the group actually plans to kill them. Mark distracts them, which lets his dad jump up and reveal himself as a member of the FBI. After arresting a few people, they take their kids home and explain what happened.

They are apparently top secret FBI agents bringing down subservient groups, which is why they move all the time, and both Roger and the professor were agents. Farraday was a cop they busted in the past who came back for revenge. As an odd footnote, there's literally no mention of what happened to him after they locked him in the garage. They come home, drink cocoa, and talk.

Their dad tells them that all their covers are blown now and they have to move. Gena stops by to tell Mark that she's moving to Detroit to live with her mom while her dad is in jail. They kiss goodbye, Mark says he'll call, and she gives him a gift before leaving. It's a copy of the skull with a note inside that says she loves him and has her phone number and address in Detroit. Ah, it's a classic story of teenage love mattering more than the federal government.