Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #2: The Curse of the Golden Heart

It's once again vacation time in Sweet Valley, but instead of being our 345th summer vacation, it's now spring break. Joe, Steve, Lila, Amy, Elizabeth, and Jessica all head to the beach to relax, and the twins decide to go snorkeling. Jessica is oh so tired of snorkeling in the same place and wants to go to Pirate's Cove, a cheesy looking place off from the main beach.

Though they agree to use the buddy system, Jess immediately heads off on her own. Liz is upset but gets distracted by all the cool stuff she finds in the water. After spotting something weird, she sees the water start churning. She manages to grab the barnacle encrusted object and toss it in her diving bag before getting out of the water. Liz hears the sound of a woman crying and starts freaking out until Jessica shows up. They see a grizzled old man watching them and Liz hears a woman's cries in the winds. Even though she swears she saw a shipwreck in the water, Liz doesn't want to talk about it with anyone else.

Steven is worried that the spring break will be lame but then finds an advertisement for scuba diving classes. They all head off to Pirate's Cove and try looking for the number advertised on the flyer; 1779. They don't see the number, but then Liz notices that a building number changed from 200 something to 1779. It turns out that the man teaching the classes is the same man they saw on the beach watching them. Everyone agrees to let their kids take a class taught by some man they never saw or met before, and the Wakefields even pay for their kids to rent new equipment.

Liz has a horrible dream where she sees a gorgeous princess-like woman standing on the bow of a ship with another man. She also sees a man with a thick beard come running up from the bottom of the ship. The waves start churning and the boat goes down. She wakes up worrying and wondering if the dream was real. Liz also throws away the object she found in the water because it looks like it will take too long to clean.

A few days later, both twins get a letter in the mail. It's a chain letter on old-fashioned parchment paper with a bunch of lines about the Curse of Carlotta. The letter says to send the letter to six people and keep searching to bring two lost items back together again. Liz refuses to do it, but Jessica immediately makes copies and passes them out to her fellow Unicorns.

Both Lila and Elizabeth refuse to send the chain letter. Elizabeth refuses because she doesn't believe in curses and Lila because her dad's secretary always does her correspondence for her and is out of town. That turns out to be a huge mistake when she has a series of unfortunate accidents. She trips, loses her favorite watch when the clasp breaks, falls again, spills ink all over herself, and keeps hurting herself. She finally decides to type out the letter on her dad's computer, but she makes a mistake that causes the computer to go crazy. It deletes a bunch of files, sends out copies of the letter to everyone connected with her dad's company, and her dad actually grounds her.

When they finally go to one of their classes, Liz gets tasked with tracking down their teacher Joshua when he doesn't show up. She stops by his office, sees him decked out in scuba gear, but when he turns, there's no one inside the suit and it hits the ground. She keeps having dreams where she sees a beautiful young woman and a gruff pirate on a ship. Later, she goes scuba diving with the group, taps on Joshua's shoulder, and passes out when he turns and there is no one inside the mask.

This whole book irritates me because it's basically Liz having nightmares about the ship for a good portion. She then spends most of the book alternating between blaming Jessica, Steven, or Lila. Lila shows up with an idea for Elizabeth to dictate the letter on tape and mail out copies that way. They hear someone on the tape talking about Carlotta and flip out, but Lila later decides they did it to prank her.

Some random dude named John shows up at their doorstep. He says he works for a company associated with Fowler and received the letter. His family has a connection to the story that he wants to show the twins. They show up on the beach the next day, and he takes them to show them this weird thing in the ocean. He says his dad took him there, his grandfather took his dad, his great grandfather took his grandfather, etc. and told them that they should never touch it or be cursed by Carlotta.

The twins show up for another class and are eating with their friends when Janet realizes she forgot her lunch. Everyone donates food to her, but when she goes to eat the sandwich that Liz gave her, Steven smacks her. He saw a scorpion climb out of Liz's lunch bag. This gives Liz one more reason to wonder if she's going crazy or if she's actually cursed.

Elizabeth finally goes to the library and asks for help researching the shipwreck. She sees something that blows her mind but tells no one. Another letter comes with a request to reunite the two hearts, and she then has a dream about the same thing. She learns that it can only happen on a star-less night, which she thinks must mean during a storm. Liz also realizes that the crusty thing she found in the ocean is one half of a heart necklace that Carlotte's love gave her and that the other half is the piece in the ocean.

After convincing Jessica and Steven of the truth, a storm comes in and they decide to head out. They manage to get the other heart when John shows up. He wants to reunite the two, which will make a map that leads him to some fortune relating to his family. Liz puts the two pieces together before he can attack and forms the map. Unfortunately, he grabs the necklace from her, accidentally trips, and drops it in the ocean.

Sadly, there's no real resolution. Everyone heads back home to talk about what happened. Steven points out that every time something weird happened, Liz was the only one who saw it. He also points out that she took calligraphy classes the summer before. Steven thinks that she heard the story in the past and made up the whole thing, which then suddenly became real or something. Jessica totally agrees with him too. Liz then tells them that Joshua's name was on the passenger list for the ship and that he was the one who caused the shipwreck. I guess he's just been hanging around ever since. Liz then has a dream where she sees Carlotte and her lover reunited again.

*They make a mention of them taking the bus to the beach, but they have TWO coolers and multiple bags of food and snacks. How did they get all that on the bus?

*Ned apparently took one scuba diving class, got claustrophobic, freaked out, and never went back. Jessica asks him to join their class, but he says he's too busy with some upcoming trial. Too busy to go to one class with your kids? Nice Ned, nice.

*The cover is totally misleading. Liz finds the heart while snorkeling, not scuba diving, and it's crusted over with barnacles, so she can't even tell what it is.

*I love that Lila can't even write her own chain letters. When she does start to write them, her pen blows up in her face. She points out to Jessica that once you write with a pen like that, you can't go back to using an ordinary pen.

*Ned and Alice actually let Liz keep taking the classes, even after she passes out, runs home, and spends the whole night in bed.

*George grounds Lila but later changes his mind and lets her off the hook. They all think it's a sign that she's no longer cursed by the chain letter.

*Joshua tells them to pair up with older ones with younger ones during their classes. Yes, because someone two grades higher is obviously totally more mature.

*Jessica sends her letters to the members of the Unicorn Club. Who the heck will they send their letters to?

*Lila apparently has her own bathroom with a jet spa, whirlpool tub, private telephone, and towels with her monogram on them.

*There really is no resolution. John basically just sits down and cries when the locket hits the water, and the Wakefield kids just go home.

*Jessica and Steven think they'll find the treasure and be richer than anyone in the world. Steven even plans to buy the Rams. Elizabeth tells them to calm down but later starts imagining funding all these projects in Sweet Valley. Naturally, she's way better than them.

*Liz plans to buy benches for downtown for people to sit and eat during their lunch breaks when they find the treasure. Seriously? How does a town like Sweet Valley not have freaking benches downtown?

*She also runs into Janet and Lila. Lila makes a snide comment about never buying anything on sale, while Janet huffs and puffs because she just bought a ton of sale stuff. Liz thinks a rude comment about how she'll show them up when she gets rich and then feels bad because she's just like them. Given what I know of her teen years, she's actually way worse then them!

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Baby-Sitters Club Portrait Books: Dawn's Book

This may just be my least favorite books of this series. Dawn starts off recalling some of her earliest memories. She remembers when they brought home Jeff and how much she hated him because he was the baby now. He later started saying Da-Da, which everyone thought meant daddy, but because everything has to be about her, she knows he was really saying her name.

She also remembers playing with this girl Ruthie in preschool and building buildings from blocks. When two boys played with the blocks, they always knocked down their creations, so one day, they glued the blocks together. They ended up getting punished and made to clean all the blocks with glue, but Dawn didn't care because she loved being around water.

Oh, and she actually started walking at the beach and tried to run into the ocean. Of course she did. There's also something about how she loved Play-Doh so much that she took some and put it on her ears. Since Sharon is a moron, she thought Dawn was bleeding from her ears and now can't be around it at all. Dawn still loves Play-Doh though and uses it with her charges.

A few years later, she's a little older and feeling lonely because there aren't any girls her age on her block. When she hears about a new girl her age moving in, she gets all excited. The day they arrive, she runs over and thinks they're super world. The mother and little girl wear long dresses with no shoes, they drive a car with peace stickers all over it, and are basically hippies. She also flips out when the mother says Sunshine but then realizes it's the little girl's name.

While playing together, Sunny gives her a lecture on how her family doesn't buy plastic products because plastic is bad for the environment. She later complains because Jeff and a friend are playing a war game, which is also bad, and convinces Dawn that they must teach them another game. Sunny also tries to teach Dawn Morse code and invites her over to tie dye some clothes. Dawn eventually makes up excuses because she thinks Sunny is too weird.

This all changes when their mothers take them shopping and leave them in the toy section by themselves. Dawn tries to ditch Sunny by looking at Barbie dolls and plastic Barbie stuff, but Sunny keeps following her around. The power goes out, and Sunny shows up using a light up toy as a flashlight just as Dawn freaks out. Their mothers are stuck in an elevator, so Sunny uses Morse code to talk with them and pass along messages to the repair crew. The store gives them a free lunch, and everyone gushes about how Sunny is so amazing.

Later on, it's Granny and Pop-Pop's 50th wedding anniversary. Sharon decides to treat them to a trip to San Francisco. She then has to constantly remind Jeff and Dawn to cut down on the list of things they want to do because her parents are too old. Just like the SVH book with a similar story, it turns out that they are in great shape and want to do everything the kids do.

Dawn keeps worrying because they rarely spend any time together and keep splitting up. The guys do one thing and the girls do another. It all culminates with a special anniversary dinner where her grandfather doesn't show up. Granny freaks out because he's never, ever been late. He finally does show up and says that someone told him the wrong time. He then gives her a ring in the same way he gave her an engagement ring and wishes Dawn's parents 50 happy years.

A few years later, Dawn is obsessed with fires. She keeps thinking her house will burn down, instead of worrying about her parents fighting all the time. After her dad knocks a coal out of the grill and starts a small fire, she creates an evacuation plan and makes everyone practice what to do in case of a fire. They all just kind of roll their eyes but go along with her.

While sitting for Daffodil and Clover, she smells something weird and takes them to her house to call 911. It turns out that there was a small kitchen fire. The firefighters come, and their mom thanks her over and over again. The newspaper runs a story on her, and the mayor invites her to a special community event where he gives awards to her and a woman who raised 20 foster/adopted kids on her own.

The fire happens not long before her parents' divorce and her move to Stoneybrook. Kristy decides to go over a list of of sitting rules, which is just a convenient excuse for her to remind the club not to snoop. Dawn gets a sitting job with a new client, the Lazar family, and sits for their daughter Sandra. Sandra is having problems in school, especially with reading. While taking a message, she sees a letter from the school that says Sandra will have to repeat the second grade.

The next time she sits, she works with her on her reading. Dawn makes the mistake of saying that she'll be back in second grade. Sandra picks up on it, changes the subject, and then attacks her mom with the news later. Mrs. Lazar plays it off like it wasn't a big deal but never contacts the BSC again. Dawn keeps waiting for her to complain, but the family just kind of disappears. She says she learned a message but eh.

*So does this mean we can blame Sunny for turning Dawn into a bitch? Prior to meeting her, Dawn was eating chicken, hot dogs, and other random stuff and didn't really seem to care about the environment. Now she's an environmental nazi.

*I love how in the other books Dawn always said that everyone in California ate the way she did and cared about all the stuff she did. Her parents are completely normal in this book, there are no mentions of vegetarian food, and Dawn even eats cookies a few times.

*Major continuity error. When Dawn visits California and sees Maggie and Jill, she says she barely knew them from school. In this book, they are best friends early on and form a clique before she moves to Connecticut. Of course, she also has a bird named Buzz that she makes up stories about, despite Buzz never being mentioned before.

*Dawn calls her dad during the elevator crisis and then has to tell him to call Sunny's dad and the friend Jeff is with. He's all like, "thank god you reminded me of that," because it can't be a BSC book without parents being inept.

*Pop-Pop being late makes no sense. They're all together when Sharon tells them what time to be there, but he then says Jeff told him it was 30 minutes later. I can't tell if it's supposed to be him not paying attention or just lazy writing. Of course Sharon screws up anyway. She takes them to a fancy revolving restaurant and plans a special dinner but never tells them it's a special anniversary dinner. Oh, and Jeff freaks out when the restaurant moves because it feels like an earthquake.

*Dawn's grandparents are in their 80s in this book, which means they were in their 30s when Sharon was born. That's kind of late for back in those days. Then again, in one of the other books, she says her grandparents are in their 60s.

*Sunny's dad plants a huge peace sign of flowers in his front yard and later turns the front lawn into one big patch of wildflowers. Dawn says she loves that it's so different than all the other lawns on the block, but I can't image her fancy neighborhood allowing it.

*I'm not a big fan of people complaining about kids playing with toy guns. We played the hell out of cops and robbers/cowboys and indians when I was a kid, and I somehow turned out okay. Sunny just acts so obnoxious in this one.

*Apparently Carol turned into Sharon. She keeps losing stuff and is disappointed that she lost her rollerblades. Dawn says she can use hers but then kind of rolls her eyes at how Carol still acts too young.