Saturday, December 26, 2015

Goosebumps #4: Say Cheese and Die! (R.L. Stine)


Greg, Michael, Bird, and Shari are best friends stuck living in a small town like all of Stine's characters. They decide to break, er, sneak into an old haunted house called the Coffman house. Not only is it haunted, but there's also an older guy in town who freaks everyone out called Spidey who supposedly lives there too. Oddly enough, they literally say the house is abandoned and sat empty for years before saying on another page that Spidey lives there.

After hanging around for a bit, they find his room in the basement and like horrible little kids, they go through all his stuff and even put on his clothes. Greg finds a camera that he uses to take a picture of Michael right before Michael falls off a ledge or something and hurts himself. They then hear someone upstairs and manage to get out of the house right before finding that the picture he took shows Michael on the ground with an injured leg, just like what just happened.

Greg goes home and takes a picture of his dad's brand new car, a hot little number called a Mercury station wagon. The picture shows the car with a smashed front end. When his dad takes them for a ride, with his mom marveling about the cup holder that pulls right out from the dashboard, his dad takes his eyes off the road and almost hits someone. Greg later takes a picture of his older brother Terry that shows the guy outside with a fearful look in his eyes.

Cut to the next day when the kids all get together to either play or watch a baseball game at the park. After taking a picture of Bird on the field, the photo develops and shows him unconscious on the ground. He tells Shari about all the strange pictures, which leads to her looking over the camera and realizing that (a) it has no manufacturer mark and (b) there's no place to put film in it. They hear someone scream and find Bird laying unconscious on the ground, just like in the picture. Though it turns out he was making fun of them, he then gets hit by a baseball and really does pass out.

By the time Bird wakes up, Terry comes running up with the same long on his face as in the photograph. He tells Greg that their dad was in a car accident. He's now in the hospital and the car is totaled. Their dad is okay but the car is definitely not.

While most of us would try to get rid of this camera, Shari makes Greg bring it to her birthday party. After playing truth or dare, she convinces him to take her picture. When the image shows everything but her, she makes him take another, which shows the same exact thing. Not long after, Shari disappears. Though Greg tries to tell the cops who show up about the camera, they think he's in shock and send him home.

After spending two whole chapters worrying about what to do, Greg gets frustrated and tears up the pictures he took at her birthday party. As soon as that happens, Shari suddenly reappears without any memories of what happened. She and Greg talk it over and decide that they must put the camera back in the house.

While trying to sneak back in, they get caught by Spidey. He reveals that he was actually a scientist years ago who worked to develop the camera. His partner came up with the idea, but Spidey stole it and went on the run. The partner dabbled in the Dark Arts and put a curse on the camera. They struggle, Shari takes a picture of him, and Spidey winds up dead. The last picture taken shows him with a frightened look on his face.

At the very end, the four friends get together and talk about what happened. Shari and Greg lied to the police, telling them that they ran into the house to avoid a storm and found his body there. The book then cuts to two guys who saw them sneak into the house and saw the camera. They then went in and stole it. The last scene surrounds them laughing as they wait to see the picture they took develop...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Baby-Sitters Club #112: Kristy and the Sister War


The BSC gets a call from Mrs. Kilbourne, aka Shannon's mom. Apparently she wants to go back to school and things are so hectic that she needs someone to sit for Tiffany and Maria. Kristy gets the job and quickly realizes that the girls are really unhappy. Shannon is busy with school, their mom has 900 things going on, and their dad is super busy with some new case.

Kristy initially convinces them that if they help Shannon with some of the billions of things she needs to do that she'll have more time for them. This completely backfires in a bunch of different ways. They make a mess of the kitchen that she gets stuck cleaning up, they screw up her math homework, and they lose Astrid, which results in Shannon tracking her down. After she explodes on them for meddling so much, they decide to get back at her.

Instead of helping, they go out of their way to hurt her. They put purple dye in her shampoo, do the whole bowl over the door trick with red Jell-O, and screw with her appointment book so she misses a bunch of after school activities. Shannon finally breaks down crying to Kristy, who snarkily points out that she knows more about Shannon's house than she does. Kristy then tells her that the girls are only acting out because they want attention from her, and Shannon agrees that something needs to change.

While all this is going on, there's a huge all Stoneybrook dance for all the middle schools in the area. Kristy decides that there should be a similar dance for the kids. Tiffany takes over, holds a meeting, and invites kids from other schools. She and Maria both have crushes on Jordan Pike and want him as their date. They keep fighting over him until they realize that Tiffany actually liked Byron, Maria liked Adam, and Jordan liked Becca.

Claudia is in the seventh grade in this book and dating that guy Mark. They decide to set Kristy up with his friend Steve. Kristy ends up disliking him because he only cares about sports in terms of collecting memorabilia and selling it, but he asks her to the all Stoneybrook dance. She winds up turning him down in the end.

Shannon gets a role in the school play, which starts rehearsals the night of the kids dance so she can't go. Kristy tells the girls to write letters to Shannon and their parents. Shannon shows up at the kids dance and announces that she quit the play. Their parents also come out and tell the kids that they gave up some stuff so they could spend more time together.

When her date gets sick the next night, she calls up Kristy and asks her to be her date. They all have fun dancing with random people. In the end, Kristy forces the BSC to all dance together.

*Kristy is kind of a horrible sitter in this book. She helps the girls make cookies, they mess up the kitchen, and then she just leaves. She says she can't help clean up because she promised her mom she would cook dinner. Can you imagine what she would do if someone else in the club did that?

*Since when does Kristy cook dinner for her family? I thought that was the whole point of her grandma moving in with them.

*They also make the most disgusting snickerdoodle cookies in the history of cookies. They put raisins and walnuts in the batter. I have never, ever heard of anyone doing that before.

*The girls get yelled at because Shannon used up all the towels trying to get the dye out of her hair. Um, why was she drying her hair in between shampoos?

*There really isn't much of a resolution in the end. Mr. Kilbourne agrees to give up some club he's in so he can have more free time, even though the club was never a reason why he wasn't home. Shannon really only seems to give up the play because she didn't like her part or the director, but she'll still have all the other stuff going on that she did in this book. Their mom says she'll only take two classes next semester, which is the exact number of classes she took in the book.

*Kristy says that both Tiffany and Maria are pretending that they have crushes on Jordan because they're too young to think about boys. Isn't Tiffany the same age as Mal and Jess or just a year younger?

*Claudia wears a pink corduroy skirt with a lime green sweater and a lime green hair thing. Kristy says it sounds bad but looks amazing on her. I highly doubt that.

*Kristy is really snarky in this book about Mark. She thinks he's too late for their double date, doesn't pay enough attention to Claudia, and is just a bad choice.

*Claudia gets her to go on the double date by pointing out that Bart might come to the dance with a date. Poor Bart. I wonder what happened to him.

*Steve makes a bad first impression on Kristy because he wears a Yankees jacket, Bulls shirt, and a football hat. She also hates that he buys her a ticket to see some action film. Even though she says she hates those kind of movies, it seems like something she would love.

*The BSC make a rule that none of the kids can bring a date to the dance. They make it seem like everyone was worried about how to ask someone and freaking out over taking a date, but it doesn't seem that realistic for little kids.

*The straw that breaks the camel's back is when the girls dump spaghetti in Shannon's backpack. BTW, this happens while Kristy is watching them!

*Claudia makes Kristy go shopping for a double date worthy outfit. The one she pick out is a fleece vest, silky shirt, and floral skirt with clunky/strappy black heels. There is a great moment where Kristy storms out of Steven E after picking up a white tee shirt that cost $79. Claudia thinks it's a normal price, which makes me wonder how the hell much they charge for sitting!

*During a meeting for the big dance, everyone starts fighting. Kristy puts on some music and makes Alan dance with her. Everyone else falls in line and starts dancing too. It's actually kind of cute because the ghostwriter describes him as looking all amazed, then smiling, and being a little dopey that she wants to dance with him.

*At the real dance, all the girls and guys stand on separate sides of the gym until someone finally starts dancing. It's like we never read a dance book before where everyone just started dancing like crazy.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Baby-Sitters Club Mystery #18: Stacey and the Mystery at the Empty House


The Johanssens are heading off on a vacation to France. Even though they set the lights on a timer and did some other stuff, they still need someone to take in the mail/paper, make the house look lived in, and take care of Carrot. Since this is a job clearly meant for a responsible person, they decide to hire Stacey. To make things even better, she's not really an animal person.

Things go pretty well at first. Carrot seems super excited to see her, and even even likes being around him. Then, things get weird. She starts noticing strange things in the house. Carrot goes bonkers and chews up a bunch of paper, and the dog winds up destroying some other stuff in the house too. She also finds weird things like a glass that she swore she put away in the sink and a broken vase.

Stacey later stops by and sees a strange woman in the bushes with bright red hair. The woman says she's the meter reader and that her husband checks electrical meters too. Stacey slips up and lets it be know that the family are out of the house. She sees the man and woman talking secretively later. On another day, she takes Carrot for a walk, and he leads her to the same couple in their van a few blocks away from the house.

On another trip, she forgets to grab the newspaper. When she comes back from walking Carrot, the paper is gone. To make matters worse, the news reveal that an inmate recently escaped from prison. The next time she stops by the house, she sees a new hairbrush in the bathroom with red hairs in it, the same color as the meter reader.

After telling the BSC, they decide to host a slumber party/stakeout and watch the house from Jessi's room. Though they have fun pigging out and goofing off, nothing really happens. They do see a light come on but then realize that the lights were on a timer. Claudia and Stacey head over the next day and find the broken vase looking new again. They also find a notepad with a phone number written on it. The number is for the bus station, which leads Stacey to think that the escaped inmate somehow knew when the Johanssens were coming back and are out to kill them.

They rush to the bus station, and Stacey sees a guy with red hair moving towards Dr. Johanssen. She runs to stop them only to see the doctor hugging the man. Dr. Johanssen then introduces the man as her friend Bill. He has free reign to stay in their home and even knows where they hide the spare key. He left her a note, but Carrot ate it. When they realize what happened, they all have a good laugh at something that's incredibly not funny.

Watson won some kind of sleigh ride thing, but since he can't use it, he gives it to Kristy. Even if there isn't any snow, the sleigh can still work as a hay ride. Instead of treating her friends, she decides to treat her charges. Before she makes any real plans, she lets the news slip to the Arnold twins. They call all their friends, and things completely snowball. Kristy then has to kick it into overcharge and pray that they get some snow. Snow suddenly comes out of nowhere on the day of the party.

*There is NO way in hell I would trust a 13 year old girl to take care of my house! The idea just astounded me.

*How did Kristy even agree to this arrangement? Stacey says that she misses her human charges, which shows that the only job she does the whole time is walking Carrot. I'm also not sure why she doesn't have time to do a real sitting job.

*Then again, I wonder how they charged the Johanssens. She stops by sometimes, takes him for a quick walk, and feeds him. Other times, she hangs out and plays with him for an hour or more.

*On my “no way in hell tangent,” Stacey gets so comfortable hanging out with Carrot one night that she literally falls asleep in their house.

*Stacey knows so little about dogs that she thinks Carrot is dying when he dreams. She would really freak out if she saw my 50 pound dog having a nightmare.

*Maureen gets dreamy eyed when she hears that they're going to Paris. She talks about how she went in college, fell in love with a guy, and planned on staying until her mom showed up and dragged her home. Funny how that never came up during their Paris trip.