Friday, February 19, 2016

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #78: The Phantom of Venice (1985)


Nancy is on a plane to Venice to meet her dad and investigate a kidnapping case while thinking about Ned. At some point prior to this book, they decided to take a break and see other people. While she had fun with other guys, she talked to him before leaving and thinks that she's still in love with him. She then meets Tara, another girl on the plane also traveling to Venice.

Tara explains that she lives in the United States with her mom and stepdad while her dad lived in Italy and worked as an artist. He recently died, and she's on her way to go through his things. Once there, they drop off their bags in Tara's hotel room before going to visit her father's “lady friend,” Angela. They also meet Angela's younger brother Gianni. He's so gorgeous that he literally makes Nancy's heart stop.

Angela tells them that Rolf Elgan, Tara's father, worked as an artist and was on the canal with a friend late one night. A shot rang out, and when the friend turned around, Rolf was gone. She also presents Tara with an apron that has an Italian phrase on the front about breaking some eggs before making an omelet. According to Angela, Rolf was in the middle of designing a range of kitchen supplies for a local company.

When the two leave, Nancy asks the other girl why she got such a weird look on her face when she saw the apron. Tara tells her that her dad loved cooking but hated making omelets. After grabbing her stuff, Nancy finds Gianna waiting for her. Despite the fact that he spent most of the night hitting on Tara, he basically calls her a little girl and makes it clear that he has a thing for Nancy. She turns him down, snaps at him for probably using the same lines on all women, and storms off.

Nancy meets up with her dad at a house belonging to some royal guy who wants her to look into a kidnapping relating to his company. He owns one of the top glass blowing companies in Venice and received a ransom letter for his most talented artist, known only as Pietro. She agrees to check things out the next day. When she goes to unpack, she finds a curious shell in her suitcase and wonders if it belongs to Tara.

At the glass blowing shop, she meets the manager Don. Don seems disinterested in having her there and won't answer most of her questions. The ones he does answer, he gives short and simple responses. Nancy decides to pick out a blown paperweight for her aunt and somehow manages to pick the last piece created by Pietro. She then sees some cute blown glass animals, and Don reveals the man who made then was Rolf!

A bunch of random crap happens, like Tara deciding to move into the royal house to share a room with Nancy. Even though Don totally sounds like an older guy, it turns out that he's around Nancy's age. They spend a day sightseeing, come close to kissing, and she realizes that she likes him. Unfortunately, someone pushes her off a dock and she nearly topples over before he saves her.

Then Gianna shows shows up supposedly to ask out Tara but asks Nancy to join them. He spends the whole day ignoring Tara and focusing on Nancy, putting his arm around her, constantly touching her, and even trying to kiss her. Tara gets super pissed off and accuses Nancy of trying to steal him away before kind of getting over it. As an added bonus, he follows Nancy the next day and forces her to kiss him, which leads to her slapping him across the face. She does get one good date with Don, but that same night, someone in a skull mask breaks into their room and goes after Tara. Everyone pretty much blows it off and claims it's probably the old ghost of the house.

Nancy also goes sightseeing yet again. This time, she notices someone following her around. The man finally approaches her and starts to say something before seeing something behind her that makes him run. She gets back to find that someone once again broke in and rummaged through their stuff. The only thing missing though is the paperweight she bought. The girls have no time to worry though because they must take it to a masquerade ball. Priorities, ladies, priorities!

A man with a mask on comes up, grabs Nancy, and kisses her. It takes all of three seconds for her to realize that it's Gianni. She flips out on him yet again and threatens to tell security that he didn't have an invitation if he doesn't leave. Tara then bursts into tears and says that it's clear he doesn't want her before running off. Don shows up and despite having seen the whole thing, he claims that it's clear she likes someone else. You're totally right. When a girl likes a guy, she slaps him and pushes him away. Thanks for making Ned look like a hero! Anyway, the lights suddenly go out in the ballroom.

A man approaches her, tells her that Tara is in danger, and disappears before the lights come back on. Nothing is wrong except that there's a jeweled animal missing. Turns out that it was a fake on display but that someone dumped the valuable jeweled encrusted egg it was in and only took the animal.

Since Tara is clearly a bitch, she shows up later that night walking on air and fully fine with Nancy because she met some other guy. Tara also shows her a picutre of her dad when he was in the Marines that shows her with a man who is actually Pietro. Don is also fine now. They meet for lunch, and she even holds his hand despite him practically calling her a slut the night before. She gets his help to send letters to the glass blower shop because she has a plan in mind.

While chatting, Don reveals that he acted so rude to her initially because he thought she was absolutely beautiful and didn't know what to say to her. Now he's worried because he thinks he fell in love with her at first sight but he's engaged to someone back home. She tells him all about Ned, and they figure that sometimes you just fall for someone else, which makes me want to choke a bitch.

The end is pretty boring. It turns out that Rolf and Pietro were old fans and got in on some scheme to import illegal diamonds. They hid a diamond worth $500,000 in the paperweight she bought and hid it in the shop. The guy in charge of the scheme kidnapped Pietro when he wouldn't give it up. Oh, and Gianni was somehow involved in the whole thing. Cops arrest the bad guys, and it turns out that Tara's dad was alive the whole time. He was the one in the skull mask and the one who put the shell in Nancy's bag because he and Tara once collected the shells. I guess he spent the last few months just hanging out and waiting for things to blow over!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Goosebumps #48: Attack of the Jack O' Lanterns (R.L. Stine)


Drew is incredibly short for her age, which is why her dad calls her Elf. She and her friends Walker, Shane, and Shana are looking forward to Halloween because they want to get back at these bullies Lee and Tabby. One year, the two had a Halloween party where two guys in ski masks burst in and threatened the guests. The figures made them get down on the floor and do push ups before they learned it was all a set up and the guys were the kids' next door neighbors.

They come up with a whole bunch of gags, including a recording that mentions the two evil brats by name. They plan on turning the lights on and then turning on the recording. Other pranks include throwing fake slime at them and making a giant fake monster pop out of the closet. A few hours before the party, Tabby calls and says they're going trick or treating with some other kids instead and won't be at the party, meaning they get screwed for a second year in a row.

After meeting up, the whole group heads out for the night. They come across a women who seems overly excited to see them all dressed up and begs them to come inside and meet her husband. Drew notices that there are already a bunch of kids crying in the house. The husband then comes out and tells them that they can never leave. Just messing with you, it's a figment of her imagination.

What really happens is that they mope around and try to come up with some new ways to scare Tabby and Lee. Drew's mom temporarily decides she can't go trick or treating because four people went missing recently before her dad says it's okay. When they really do go out, a giant monster dog jumps out of the bushes and attacks Drew, but it's actually one of the teenagers from before.

Shane and Shana never show up, but two figures with jack o' lantern heads on top do, complete with flickering candles inside. Tabby just rolls her eyes and says that it's clearly the twins, and neither seem very scared. The figures offer to take them to a new neighborhood where they can find lots of candy. That neighborhood has hundreds of houses and they totally clean up, but the figures won't let them leave when they're done.

Tabby gets ticked off and yells at the twins before pulling off one of the pumpkin heads. That's when they discover that there is nothing underneath. The pumpkins keep laughing maniacally and taunting them from the ground. After picking up their heads, the figures tell them that they need to keep going and that they can never, ever stop.

After a few more houses, Walker begs them to stop and says his bag can't hold any more candy. The figures tell them to eat to make more room. They then take them to more houses, all of which are answered by figures with pumpkin heads. When Tabby and lee refuse to keep going, the figures start wailing and are joined by all the others in the neighborhood. They then step forward with four pumpkin heads and say these will be their new heads.

Tabby starts screaming, the figures put heads on both mean kids, and the kids take off running down the street. Once they are out of sight, everyone else cracks up. Turns out that the twins are actually aliens from another planet. Drew laughingly says that since they don't eat candy, she and Walker can eat it all and asks what they do eat. Shana then announces that they eat fat humans, meaning they're behind the recent disappearances. I did not see that coming.

*Someone points out that it might be their last year of going out because they can't go trick or treating as teenagers. It made me a little sad because I remember the last time we went out as a group running into some teens passing out candy who flat our told us we were too old and made fun of us.

*Walker dresses all in black and says he's a dark and stormy night. Drew's dad asks where the stormy part comes from, so he pulls out a water gun and shoots him in the face. I giggled for way too long over that scene.

*Some kid dresses up like a milk carton “complete” with nutritional facts on the side. Sigh, remember when our school milk cartons lacked that?

*This new bookstore opened in town and sells all its books for $1 each. I've picked up some BSC, Nancy Drew, and Goosebumps books there. This one clearly had never been read. The spine wasn't cracked at all, and it actually had the original trading cards inside!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Goosebumps #29: Monster Blood III (R.L. Stine)


Evan still has a completely rational fear of Monster Blood given what happened in the last books. He hates the stuff so much that he can't even eat green Jell-O anymore. He also has a new job: baby-sitting for his cousin Kermit. His mom points out that his aunt can't afford to hire anyone else. Given that she only pays him $3 an hour, I can understand why no one else will do it.

It also turns out that Kermit is the type of kid I would totally punch in the face. Conan, his next door neighbor, goes to school with Evan and picks a fight with him. Kermit shows up, threatens to cover him with an invisibility potion he made, and then throws it on him anyway. All it does it make his favorite shirt disappear, which leads Conan to punch Evan in the face.

At school the next day, Andy teases him because she got a canister of Monster Blood from her parents and says she put it in his sandwich. He then makes her go to his cousin's house with him. Kermit asks Andy if he can do her math homework, makes a new potion that shrinks a mosquito bite Evan has, and then makes up something to cure his dog of hiccups. Evan forbids him from giving it to the dog, but he does anyway. The dog goes absolutely bonkers, rips up the basement, and acts nuts. Evan's Aunt shows up, Kermit cries, and he tells his mom that Evan teased the dog and made it go crazy. She screams at her nephew, coddles her kid like he's a baby, and threatens to fire Evan.

Cut to the next time he sits. He and Andy, who is pissed off because Kermit deliberately answered all her homework questions wrong, force him to go outside and play. He first makes them all a glass of orange soda. Turns out that he dosed it with something that makes Evan and Andy laugh uncontrollably. Conan then shows up when they accidentally toss a Frisbee in his yard. He freaks out when Kermit says they are laughing at Conan and threatens to kill them.

Evan and Andy decide to get back at him with some Monster Blood. They sneak some into his latest batch of whatever the hell he makes. Only this mixture explodes all over the place. Evan accidentally eats some, which makes him grow twice as big as them and then even bigger. They manage to get him out of the basement by pushing and pulling him up the stairs.

Once outside, he sees Conan picking on some little girl and threatening her with a baseball bat. He steals the bat and yells at Conan, who realizes that he ate Monster Blood. Conan keeps picking on him until Evan almost steps on him, and he then runs away. Kermit also makes him think he stepped on and squashed Andy before laughing at his own stupid joke.

Things go okay at first. He helps some kids get their kite out of a tree and plays baseball with some of his friends. Then Conan shows up with the cops and says that Evan almost killed him. Others show up and say he did all this destruction around town. The firefighters come out, turn on their hoses, and try to knock him down with water.

Evan manages to get away and find a place to hide. Kermit and Andy finally find him, and he comes up with a plan to coat himself in the shrinking liquid Kermit made before. They run back to Kermit's house, but he uses the wrong potion and turns Even bright blue. A second potion gives him feathers. The cops show up just as he finds the right potion and becomes his normal size. He falls asleep that night feeling great about himself, only to wake in the middle of the night and discover he's the size of a mouse. Just then, his dog rushes in, scoops him up, and carries him off as his dad wonders what the dog has in its mouth.

*Kermit tells his mom that the other kids drank all their soda and lost his Frisbee, so she demands Even buy him a new one. The lady seriously needs to focus on her psychopath son.

*I cannot possibly explain how much I hate Kermit. He is the ultimate whiner and a just plain bad character. Maybe Evan's aunt should take a look at how many sitters quit over the years and realize her little angel is really a demon kid.