Friday, October 16, 2015

Sweet Valley Twins #81: Robbery at the Mall


Maria just got a video camera after her dad upgraded to a new model. Even though she has no experience using a camera, she agrees to tape the Boosters doing a new routine at the opening of the mall's food court. Elizabeth comes over to give her some advice and show her what to do.

The next day, they arrive at the mall and start shooting. Just as Jessica goes to jump on the top of the pyramid, there's a loud noise and some shouts. Someone broke into the jewelry store and stole some money. Though Elizabeth wants to investigate, Ned and Alice finally grow a pair. They tell her to stay out of it and let the police handle the robbery.

When the Boosters get together to look at the video, they find out that Maria had no clue what she was doing. The whole video is out of focus or doesn't show the Boosters at all. They all make fun of her, which somehow leads to them fighting among themselves. Jessica makes a comment about how she's the best and the only one worthy of being on the top of the pyramid. Lila challenges her to a contest to see who really is the best. They do a bunch of random contests that are completely ridiculous.

Since the opening of the food court is such a big deal, Elizabeth has to cover it for the Sixers. This is really just an excuse for her to constantly go to the mall and look for evidence. Even Maria and Amy don't want to take part because they're a little too scared. Liz tells MacDuff, the head of security, that her friend filmed on the day of the robbery. Someone then breaks into Maria's house but couldn't find the tape. They watch it and see that whoever did the robbery had a hand tattoo.

There are a series of other robberies at the mall. Jessica and Elizabeth decide that the thief was MacDuff. While all this is going on, Jessica and Lila do their contests. Lila wins a few times, Jess wins a few times, and they finally tie. They wind up going head to head in a hot dog eating contest, which Lila actually wins. Not only does she get to be on the top of the pyramid, but she gets first choice when the Boosters pick their costumes for a grand gala for the food court. Yes, I'm serious. Liz gets caught sneaking around the security area. Ned and Alice have to come and pick up Liz and Jessica who is literally green from eating so much.

Cut to the big gala night. Elizabeth, Amy, and Maria show up and get inside. Liz thinks it's weird that there's a guy hanging around and working as a waiter because she saw him at all the places that were robbed. Jessica picks her costume last and keeps trying to hide from people because she's so embarrassed. There is another robbery and to no surprise, it's not the security guard but the weird guy who keeps hanging around. He rushes off, Jessica hears people shouting, and she tackles him. We then find out that she had to dress up like a giant hot dog.

The next day there is a story in the newspaper about the twins. Jessica hates it because they published a picture of her in her hot dog costume. Ned and Alice suddenly have no problem with the twins doing dangerous things, and even Steven is relatively proud of them.

*Jessica wins a bike race on an obstacle course and wins at a how many grapes can you fit in your mouth contest. Lila wins at walking around the top of a fence and the hot dog eating contest, which is weird.

*They literally have to walk across the top of a four foot high fence on a three inch wide plank. Jessica falls off and somehow doesn't hurt herself. That seems really dangerous.

*Reading this book was like watching Master Chef Junior. They keep going into all this depth and detail about each restaurant, like sixth graders care about that.

*The hot dog eating contest is really not fair. They don't just eat hot dogs, they pick things off the menu. There's a hot dog with fries all around it, a sausage stuffed inside a hot dog, a hot dog wrapped in a big biscuit, and stuff like that. How do you decide who ate more? Not all are exactly the same size.

*There's also a turkey dog served on a bed of noodles with a side of stir fried vegetables. That sounds disgusting.

*The “new” restaurants include a Mexican place, a Chinese place, a hot dog place, a potato place, and a smoothie place. Liz writes in her review that the mall never had a Mexican restaurant before, which I find hard to believe.

*She also writes an article with something like, “the mall always ignored our friends south of the border, which, in this writer's opinion, is sad” and later writes about Todd in a way like, “one diner, who this writer finds has a bottomless stomach.” Yet in other books she's all about how writers never use their own opinions and should always be impartial.

*The gala is ridiculous! The food court opens and then weeks later has some big fancy party. Ned wears a tuxedo, and Alice wears a blue evening gown. All the food served at the party comes from the food court. Nothing says fancy dress party like mashed potatoes and hot dogs!

*Lila's dad actually shows up in this one to take care of her! He makes her drink water with Alka Seltzer and is worried that the hot dogs made her sick.

*Elizabeth looks like a man on the cover. That is all.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Spooksville #7: The Dark Corner (Christopher Pike)


Sally, Watch, Adam, and Cindy are sitting around and talking about how it's almost time for school to start when Sally starts talking about this guy Bryce Poole. While it's clear she just wants Cindy to leave Adam alone, Sally also points out that he knows all about some random Secret Path. They've already been on the Secret Path, and the guys refuse to believe that Bryce both knows about it and went on it.

After some more talk, they decide to find their way back to the Secret Path. They have to go to the grave of Madeline Templeton and then go to a bunch of places associated with her life before the path opens up. When they get to the last spot, they find Bryce's backpack left behind. It's full of random gear, but they get distracted when the path opens. Cindy agrees to wait behind while the others follow it.

They wind up in a little town that looks just like their hometown but is much brighter and happier. The food tastes better and is free, people are super nice, and everyone just seems happy. Sally wants to find the version of herself who lives there, but the guys refuse until a local tells them that they need to get help from their other selves. They find this place's versions of themselves all hanging out together, but when they get close, their faces all start melting off.

Once their faces melt off, they reveal themselves as demons and show the kids all the humans they have entombed all over town. Turns out that they make things look great to lure people in, then capture them and drink their blood. The demons steal some of their hair and disappear back to the other side. They take Cindy to the local hamburger place, try to hypnotize her, and then warn her about resisting them.

The others see a larger demon coming towards them. The demon starts talking to them and then reveals himself as Bryce. He tells them that time moves differently there and that even though Sally saw him a week ago, he's been there over a year. He then takes them to see his other self and gives Adam a costume to wear. Adam gives the demon a spiked drink, which causes the thing to pass out. They then head back to the place where they came in and start to escape before another demon shows up.

Cindy is at home with very little memory of anything that happened earlier in the day when Bryce knocks on her door. He makes her look into his eyes and shows her how he escaped and left her friends behind. They decide to work together and find Ann Templeton who can somehow help them. While on the way to find her, they get attacked by the demons from the other side. Cindy gets away, only to wind up locked in the grocery store with the demons who want to eat her.

Back on the other side, the kids get attacked by yet another group of demons. They run to a church to hide, but they can still hear the demons chasing them. The demons then set fire to the church. Despite checking the entire building, they cannot find a way to escape.

Before they can burn up, the demon they poisoned earlier shows up and captures them. He takes them to court for a trial to determine what will happen to them next. Their lawyer tells them that they can plead guilty and be tortured for all eternity or plead innocent, be found guilty, and tortured for all eternity. He then tells them they can request another option. They'll go in front of a judge who weighs their virtues against their vices. Watch goes first, only to learn that the judge will give him one vice for each pound he weighs. Sally tells Adam not to worry because she knows how they can escape.

Back in the real world, Cindy winds up trapped in the grocery store freezer with the three demons who want to eat her. Only it turns out that Cindy caught hepatitis in Mexico when she was a kid and has a bad liver, so they can't eat her. They decide to kill her instead, but the cold overcomes them and they all pass out. Bryce then pops back up and suggests they go save her friends.

While asking Watch questions, their lawyer learns that anyone who saved another life earns 10 virtue points. Since Watch is such a good guy, he ends up getting off the hook. Sally isn't so luck since she's a huge bitch and gets a vice point for each time she talked smack about someone. Adam gets off, but Sally gets sentenced to 10 life sentences of torture. Adam and Watch then volunteer to stay behind in her place if she can go. Turns out that the demons have a law that if this ever happens, everyone goes free. They then run into Cindy and Bryce bringing the other demons back, and Bryce recommends they give him a call the next time they need help.

WTH? Hepatitis, really? Cindy apparently has a really screwed up liver because she contracted hepatitis from drinking the water while on a family vacation in Mexico. I highly doubt that is possible, but even if it is, I've read later books and this is something that definitely never comes up again!

BTW, did you know they turned Spooksville into a television show? Granted it only lasted one season, but still. I watched the first episode on Netflix, but given how much they changed it from the show, I'm not loving it so far...