Friday, July 31, 2015

Sweet Valley Twins #56: The Wakefields Strike It Rich

The twins' Aunt Helen is coming for a visit, and since they just cleaned the house and don't want to clean anymore, they decide to go for ice cream. Since Steven is there too, they figure they can't all get in trouble for not coming home right after school. When the bill comes, Jessica realizes that she doesn't have any cash. Lila lets her borrow the $2 but only after giving her a lecture on how she needs to learn how to handle her money responsibly. That's easy for someone with an $8,000 a week allowance to say.

Helen had a cast on her arm that she won't talk about but gives the kids each an envelop with $100 inside. Ned suggests they pool their money or put it in a savings account for college. They hate his ideas, and even Helen tells them to just do something fun with it. Jessica calls Lila and brags about all her new cash, but Lila doesn't really care and tells her that she'll blow it pretty soon.

Jessica decides that this is the perfect opportunity to show Lila that you can be rich and generous. She takes most of the Unicorns out for ice cream and treats them all. Jessica then buys Kimberly a new bracelet, gives Ellen money for a poster she wants, and buys stuff for the other girls. She does see a shirt she really likes, but since it's $40, she decides to wait and see if she finds something else she likes better.

Every time they go out and do something, Jessica gets stuck paying. She finally sits down to count her money and realizes she only has $15 left because she spent all her money on her friends. Some of the Unicorns go shopping again, and Kimberly keeps hinting around about Jess buying her a necklace before getting annoyed. Lila realizes she's broke and tries to talk to her about it, but Jessica just shrugs it off and points out that at least she made her friends happy.

Elizabeth has been eying a new camera and now has the cash to get it. First though, she goes to the mall with Amy and finds out there is a new Amanda Howard mystery out. She ends up buying it even though she's never bought a hardback before and getting a Johnny Buck biography for Amy. Elizabeth also finds out that Amanda Howard is coming the next day to sign copies of her latest book.

Even though she's super nervous, she gets to meet her favorite author. They have a talk about where Howard comes up with all her ideas before she inscribes a special note on Elizabeth's book. Liz then starts wondering if there is a mystery in her own house surrounding her aunt. Helen still won't talk about what happened to her arm, and the adults keep changing the subject when Liz walks in the room.

Liz makes up a story about needing Helen's help picking out an outfit for a school dance and lets Amy snoop through her things. They find a picture of a man with a scowl on his face. They later watch a murder mystery at Amy's house, and Liz decides that her aunt is on the run from a murderous mob or something. She rushes home and tells her everything. It turns out that her aunt was really in a car accident and broke her wrist. Her insurance claims she never sent in her last payment and won't pay, so she's in town to get advice from Ned.

Steven is obsessed with this new girl named Jill Hale. He keeps trying to get her attention but doesn't seem to notice that she only has eyes for Joe Howell. When he gets his money, he decides to take her out for a special dinner at a romantic French restaurant. First though, he buys her a $30 pair of earrings and springs for a bouquet of flowers. He even gives Jess $10 because she helped him pick out an outfit and gave him an article on first dates.

She isn't ready when he shows up, so the taxi he rented charges $40 for the ride. Jill gets something cheap to eat but then orders dessert, which puts him over his limit. He gives her the flowers, she asks him to pin one to her dress, and he accidentally pokes her with the pin. He then steps on her feet while dancing, gives her the earrings that look just the ones she's wearing, and has to borrow money from her to pay for dinner. Jessica feels so bad for him that she actually gives him his money back.

The next time they all to the mall, Jessica runs into Liz picking out a picture frame for their aunt. It turns out the guy in the picture is her boyfriend who hates having his picture taken. Liz wants to give her a frame for her picture, and Jess gives her half the money. They then stop by the clothing store where Jessica saw the shirt she wanted. Liz agrees to give her the rest of the money in exchange for a sweatshirt Jess bought that Liz likes. Jessica then meets the Unicorns for ice cream and orders before she realizes that she doesn't have any cash left. Lila rolls her eyes but agrees to pay for her and tells her not to worry about paying it back.

Steven takes what money he has left to pay Jill back for dinner. He gets caught in a storm, but her mom makes him come in and sit down anyway. Jill comes downstairs with bitch face firmly in place, wrinkles her nose at the money, and pretty much shoots him down when he suggests they go out again before storming off, leaving him mooning over her.

*Lila tells Jessica that she has $100 and that it's not like she won the lottery. Of course it's not a lot for a girl with a big allowance, charge cards, and store accounts.

*Is it just me or does $40 seem like a lot of money on a shirt for a sixth grader? Then again, since I work from home, I can't remember the last time I bought a shirt that cost more than $20! LOL

*I also think $22 for a hardback book is a lot given that this book came out in 1992. I've gotten a few new hardbacks from Target and Walmart recently that were right around that price or even less.

*Would Helen really need Ned's advice? This was back in the checkbook days, so couldn't she just get a copy of her canceled check from the bank, send it to her insurance company, and wait for them to send her a check for the damages? It really doesn't seem too hard.

*Steven describes Jill as thin, blond, and green eyed. He knows nothing else about her but is in love. Nice to know he cares about what is on the inside...

*Lila is constantly talking about managing money in this book, which is ridiculous given the way she acts in other books. She'll buy an entire rack of dresses without thinking twice but then whines at loaning a friend a few dollars. If I had her dad's money, I'd treat my friends all the time!

*It might be because I read the next book first, but I really don't like Jill. She is such a little bitch. She talks about how her family travels all the time for her dad's work and how she lived in Europe and generally just acts like a spoiled brat. I would also like to point out that Joe, in a later book, acts like Steven went after Jill while they were together, but Steven did in fact ask her out first, so it's really Joe who went after his best friend's girl.

*When Steven goes to the jewelry store, the guy shows him a pair of $400 diamond earrings first, then $300 pearls, etc. Seriously dude? Do you really think a 14 year old boy has hundreds of dollars to spend on jewelry?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #4: Baby-Sitters' Island Adventure

As if we needed even more proof that the parents in Stoneybrook have no sense, here comes this book.

Dawn found out from Mallory that the community center offered sailing lessons and decided to sign up. So did Claudia, even though her family supposedly goes sailing every summer. They get to race against each other at the end of the session and somehow tie. Claudia isn't too happy and suggests a rematch. Since Jeff is coming for a visit, Dawn wants to take him on her boat. Claudia originally asks Mallory to go with her, but their family is going out of town, so she winds up taking Becca. Haley then hears and wants to go, and since they want even teams, Dawn agrees to take itty bitty Jamie with her.

The day before the race, Dawn is working out when Logan calls. He asks her to pass along a message to Mary Anne that he has to cancel their date because his parents rushed Hunter to the hospital. Jeff and her mom call, she gets distracted, and goes back to exercising instead of calling Mary Anne at her sitting job. Mary Anne comes home all pissed off, calls Logan, and tears into him before finding out what happened. It leads to a huge fight with Mary Anne telling Dawn that she never wants to see her again.

Cut to the day of the race. Dawn takes along a bunch of healthy snacks and bottled water, and Claudia brings Coke and junk food. Everything goes well until a storm hits. Dawn's boat starts to sink, so they have to toss all their supplies into Claudia's boat and swim to her. They finally reach an island but realize it wasn't the right island they meant to hit. When their boat washes away, they're all on their own.

Stacey is with her dad in New York City when she gets the news. Instead of letting her go back and help with the search and rescue, he refuses to change any of his plans. He makes her go out to dinners at fancy restaurants and go to Broadway shows. She sneaks out early Monday morning and leaves him a letter. Stacey is out searching with the Pikes when they find the remains of Dawn's boat. Her dad sends her a letter at the end to tell her that he and her mom will work harder to put her needs first and that he now understands how hard being a divorced kid is, thanks to her letter.

Jessi can't get in touch with her parents because they were on a trip together, so she calls her aunt Cecilia. Cecilia immediately rushes to town and blames the whole thing on Jessi. She takes over the house and becomes a huge pain. After they rescue the kids, Becca tells Cecilia that her parents gave her permission to go on the trip and she kind of smiles or something.

Kristy has yet another big game coming up between the Krushers and Bashers. She keeps worrying about what to do because most of her team is out on the beach and helping with search and rescue. After finally working up the courage to call Bart and cancel, he basically accuses her of being a wuss and says that she's only canceling because she doesn't want to disappoint her team by losing again, which causes her to hang up on him. He later calls and apologizes after watching the search on TV and realizing what she's going through.

Mallory really doesn't get much of a story. Her parents cut their trip short when they hear the news, and Mr. Pike takes a boat out to search pretty often. They find some wreckage from one of the boats but can't search anymore because another bad storm comes up. One of the triplets does get the idea to search some of the smaller islands along the coast though.

Mary Anne uses this as an excuse to cry a lot because her sister is the one missing and even though everyone else is super close, she makes it all about her. She and Logan have a second fight when he doesn't forgive her and because he still feels bad that she thought he stood her up. They eventually make up before they find everyone.

Claudia hasn't been having a great time lately. Her parents got on her case about her horrible grades again, they almost made her quit the BSC, and she really wanted to win the race. While on the island, she comes up with an idea for making a water catcher out of the boat tarp and some sticks. They catch enough water to help them stay hydrated, and she realizes that she isn't really as dumb as she always thought.

Dawn pretty much falls apart while on the island. Jamie gets extremely sick with a high fever, and she just doesn't know what to do. Claudia and Jeff are the ones who keep everything together. Jeff figures out a way to catch fresh fish, they ration the supplies, and even find a way for everyone to sleep comfortably. In the end, Dawn decides that she might not be as strong as she always thought.

The kids survive on fresh fish, some fruit, a few peanut butter (organic of course) sandwiches, and candy bars. Haley, Becca, and Jeff make a huge HELP sign on the beach that does nothing. They eventually find a broken mirror and use that to signal for help. A search plane sees them and sends they help. They get to go on a big ass ship before going back to Stoneybrook, where a doctor makes them all go to the hospital. They all recover pretty well, and the mayor gives them all medals for doing basically nothing.

*Mr. McGill is such an ass in this one! Stacey gets the news, and he's basically like, "well that sucks. Now let's get a move on. We've got a show to see!" He literally takes her to some fancy restaurant and show less than an hour after she gets the news.

*I also like that he puts some of the blame on her mom too. Yes, because she's the one who made Stacey stay in NYC while everyone thought her best friend was dead.

*Um yeah, so Jessi, who isn't allowed to sit after dark for anyone but her own family, is somehow responsible enough to take care of Squirt and Becca for an entire weekend when her parents go out of town.

*Claudia almost loses the first race because she wore baggy pants, a tank top, and a button up shirt, and most of her clothes got in her way.

*The newspaper runs a story about them and has a picture of Mary Anne and Dawn hugging and the whole BSC together. There's literally no pictures of any of the other kids. It really irritates me because as soon as Mary Anne hears there's a story in the paper, she wants to know if they printed a picture of her. She comes across as really selfish in this book.

*My book has two pictures reversed. Instead of showing Jamie running into the arms of Dawn and the whole group, it shows the group facing one way and Jamie actually running up behind them.

*What kind of community center lets teenage (young teenage) girls take sailboats out on their own? Even the smallest of lakes I visited as a kid required some kind of deposit and an adult. Apparently in Stoneybrook, as soon as you complete one class, you're good to go.

*Claudia and Dawn both talk about how the weather will be good for the weekend. Not only does a massive storm roll in while they're out on the water, but it rains all weekend both on the island and in Stoneybrook. How did no one see this coming?

*Dawn and Claudia are such great sitters that they can basically touch Jamie's face and instantly know that he's running a fever of at least 101 to 103. I call BS on that.

*Becca breaks down at one point when Dawn insinuates that they'll be on the island for another night. It was probably the most realistic scene in the book.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sweet Valley Twins #80: The Gossip War

After oh so many books, Ellen has finally grown a backbone. Her parents finally agreed to let her have her own phone line, as long as she pays for it out of her own allowance. Janet's birthday is coming up, and everyone wants to plan a big party. She uses her phone to call everyone and get gift ideas but claims she couldn't get through to Jessica because the Wakefield line was busy. Jessica has a few ideas but they all outvote her and decide to get Janet a gift certificate for a psychic reading.

Jessica really hates the idea of Ellen taking over and decides that they should throw the party at her house. She can't use the phone to call anyone though because Steven won't get off the phone with his girlfriend. Ellen calls everyone that same night and gets their support to have the party at her house. Janet then calls and asks her to host the next Unicorn meeting since she's busy.

Anyone curious why Janet isn't around so much? Apparently Janet has gone goth lite. Since watching a movie on beatnik poets, she turned into one herself. She now dresses all in black, carries around old poetry books, and pretends that she's a poet too and writes in a notebook. Two of the other members join her but the rest think the whole thing is ridiculous.

After seeing a commercial for three way calling, Jessica begs her parents to get it, thinking that she can make fewer calls and still outdo Ellen. They refuse, so she and Liz come up with a plan. They both go to their friends' houses to work on group projects. They then call home and ask Ned for a ride. He has to keep calling back and forth between both of them to make the arrangements. After like 10 calls, he gives up and adds three way calling to their line.

Ellen announces the meeting at her house, but Jessica can't go because Alice wants everyone there for a big meeting with her new client. Everything goes well until Ellen sees her dad in ratty old clothes and a hat with a stuffed lobster sewn to the top. He teases the girls, she gets super embarrassed and makes him leave. She then spends the rest of the meeting worrying about what they thought but winds up happy when they decide to have the birthday party at her house.

Alice's new client is a woman named Elvira who is opening a new vegetarian restaurant. The twins spend the night helping her make a vegetable lasagna for dinner. Elvira gets there and immediately shoots down all of Alice's ideas. She then announces that she doesn't eat dairy, has a dinner of plain bread and salad, and leaves extremely unhappy.

Jessica calls Mandy that same night and learns about the party plans. Mandy isn't too happy because the last time she ate at Ellen's house, her dad burned the hot dogs. Jessica then calls Lila and uses her three way calling to patch in Ellen. After hanging up on her, she makes a comment about Ellen's dad poisoning Mandy. Turns out Ellen was still on the line. She flips out, they start yelling, and Lila uses that as an excuse to get off the line. Jessica and Ellen almost instantly make up and laugh off the whole thing.

The next day turns into a huge game of telephone. Lila tells someone about Ellen's dad giving food poisoning to Mandy. It spreads from one girl to the next and eventually becomes a story about how he poisoned a teacher, went to jail, and is now on parole. Janet gets Ellen alone to tell her that they don't want to have the party at her house because of her dad. Ellen understands because she thinks it's because he was embarrassing, but then Janet tells her about how her dad is a criminal. They have a huge fight, and Ellen makes Janet call her dad to find out he isn't a criminal.

This causes a huge division in the club with Jessica right in the middle. Janet calls her a spy for Mandy's group, Mandy says she's spying for Janet, and they all stop talking to her. She ends up breaking down in the middle of the cafeteria and crying. Liz takes her to the bathroom, and they work out a plan to make everyone calm down.

Jessica calls her school group members, pretends to hang up, and then talks about how Johnny Buck is playing at Janet's party. Liz does the same thing with her group. The rumor spreads all across the school and turns into a story about how he made a special song for Janet, plans on giving her a birthday gift, and is moving to Sweet Valley. They all show up at her house for the party, and she reveals that all she said was he would be playing the party and that she didn't lie because she has his new CD. The other girls feel pretty stupid but decide to make up and become friends again.

*Ellen has one of those clear phones with the neon components. I totally had that same phone though I didn't have my own line.

*The group projects are about the Cold War. Jessica's group does one on the space race, and Liz's group does McCarthyism. That seems pretty advanced to me. I did a 30 page paper on the "red scare" but it wasn't until I was in high school.

*Janet being a beatnik is so out of left field. This is a girl who flips out when someone touches her makeup or hair brush, but she's suddenly wearing white powder all over her face and acting all depressed.

*I can't remember there ever being another reference to the Wakefield family having three way calling. They're the only family they know to have it other than Lila and her dad.

*The beatnik girls all drink java and go on and on about how it's so much better than coffee. Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't it just a certain type of coffee? It's also something seventh grade girls should not be drinking.

*Elvira makes Alice search all over for tables made a certain type of wood and then sends them all back because the wood is endangered. Isn't that something she should have known before ordering?

*Elvira also fires her. Jessica tells her mom she should just design a place with hay on the floor and candles in buckets on top of ordinary picnic tables. It turns out that Elvira hires a designer who does exactly that.

*I find it hard to believe that Sweet Valley never had a vegetarian restaurant before!