Friday, February 26, 2016

The Nancy Drew Case Files #28: The Black Widow (1988)

Carson gets an invitation from an old friend who is now the captain of a cruise ship to come on a cruise to Argentina. From the second they arrive, Nancy uncovers proof of something weird going on. Nina is an older rich widow who has eyes for Carson, but someone leaves the woman a box of chocolates filled with black widow spiders. Nancy barely manages to get the spiders out of her room.

At dinner, she meets the hotel manager Antonio who shares a gruesome look with Nina. She also meets Randy, a hunk of a guy in charge of guest relations, a young married couple, and a woman named Lynne who clearly has an eye on Randy. Nancy overhears Antonio threatening Nina about a map her husband left behind, and she then sees the woman looking over blueprints of the ship.

When she tells her dad about everything, he thinks she's making things up and needs to just relax. Someone delivers a bouquet of flowers to her room with a warning that they might be her funeral flowers, and the ship's florist has no record.

An unseen person pulls a switchblade on her and almost kills her, and then someone else rigs up the lights in her bathroom to electrocute her. Since nothing stops her, she also sneaks into Antonio's room and finds a note he wrote with Nina's name on it, but he comes in, she hides, and when she comes out, the note is gone. She and Carson then go on a day trip and have fun until someone nearly runs her over with a jet ski.

Luckily, Randy is there to save her. He later tells her that he knows the person did it on purpose, and she tells him everything she found so far. Someone then shoots Randy with a dart laced with a jungle poison. Seriously. She swings by Nina's room and finds it completely empty, and Antonio later tells them that Nina had important business back home and left the ship early. They finally get to Rio and find Ned waiting for her. He agrees to help her on the case.

Turns out that Nina's husband once worked for the cruise ship. They find out that he was involved in the theft of some major emeralds right before he died and that he left a map for his wife to help her find the gems. Nancy and Ned sneak back onto the ship, find a copy of the map, and find some jewelry belonging to Nina. They then find Nina herself hidden in a life boat.

After making sure that she's still alive, they basically steal the life boat and row it back to shore. They get Nina to Carson and talk about everything. Nina tells them about her husband's involvement in the crime and how Antonio was his accomplice. She also admits that she was the one who pulled a knife on her because she thought Nancy was Antonio. They also determine that Antonio must be working with at least one other person but have no idea who it might be.

They somehow figure it out that the emeralds are hidden inside a chandelier on the ship. Nancy sneaks in, Antonio catches her and waves a gun around, and Ned comes out of nowhere and whacks him from behind. They decide to split up, which leads Nancy to run into Randy. He claims the poison was such a low dose that he didn't even need to go to the hospital, but she sees some of the poison on his jacket and figures out that he was involved.

Though she makes up an excuse to get rid of him, she sees him following behind her. Nancy gets on a cable car, only to have Randy follow her on. He pulls a knife on her, they fight, and as the car moves up some random mountain (exactly how it's described in the book!), he opens the doors and pushes her out. Luckily, she manages to grab onto a safety bar at the last second.

It turns out that Ned saw them leaving and jumped on the roof, so he pulls her to safety. They then get back inside the car and knock out Randy. When he comes to, Ned literally puts him in a full nelson wrestling move. We then get to hear Nancy sum up everything, including how it was Randy's idea to steal the gems in the first place. Ned then takes her for a walk on the beach, asks if she thought Randy was good looking, and she just laughs and tells him to kiss her.

*Carson is completely unlike himself in this book. He tells her repeatedly that there is no case and that she needs to just leave things alone.

*Her dad also ditches her multiple times to do something with Nina, even though it was his idea to take a family vacation together. When she tries to do things on her own, he complains that she's never around. Um maybe your daughter doesn't want to see you hitting on women around her?

*I LOVE Ned! He's so cute in this book. He does this whole playful thing about how her cases mean more to her than he does and jokes around with her about how they need to take their own vacation together.

*You have to love that Nancy pretty much cheats on Ned in every book and no one ever calls her out on it. While she later grows suspicious of Randy, her first impression is that he's really hot.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Still More Tales to Give You Goosebumps (R.L. Stine)

Pumpkin Juice

Charlie is getting ready to go out trick or treating when his best friend Frank comes over with a book on how to make your own crazy brews and drinks. He whips up a pumpkin juice recipe designed to bring out your inner beast. After hitting up a few houses, they both get so hungry that they start eating all their candy, then grass, raw eggs, hamburger meat, and anything else they can find. Frank finds a remedy in his book that calls for the same pumpkin. They rush back and find that the juice is all gone. Charlie's mom says she made the rest of the pumpkin into a pie. They eat and finally feel fine because it uses all the same ingredients. Mom then comes downstairs and proceeds to eat raw meat, telling them that the juice they made was good but left her feeling really hungry.

Attack of the Tattoo

Jeannie is a little disappointed about her trick or treat haul until she finds a cool temporary tattoo of a red and black snake. It doesn't go on the way most do, and she sees letters hidden in the design that says to use water heated by the sun. After holding a bottle of water up to the sky, she can put on the tattoo no problem. Unfortunately, she starts feeling snakes in bed and all around her. Her best friend Maggie suggests that she read the instructions to see how to take it off after soap, shampoo, and nail polish remover all fail. This time, it says to use moonlight, and Maggie lets her know that it's a full moon that night. Holding water up to the moon lets you get rid of her tattoo. The next day, she finds that all the kids in the neighborhood have tattoos. One guy heard Maggie on the phone with her and told everyone what to do. He then runs up and slaps tattoos on both of them, leaving Jeannie to scream and wonder how long it is until the next full moon.

The Wish

Max hates his older brother Eugene for most recently locking him in the closet and formerly for filling his Halloween mask with rubber cement that ripped off part of his hair. After filling their bags with candy, Eugene wanders up, threatens his friend Alex who takes off running, knocks his candy all over the ground, steals his favorite treat, and then leaves. Only one house is still giving anything out, and the old woman there grabs his arm, pushes a stone in his hand, and warns him not to give up the power. He heads home, wishes he was the only child, and tosses the stone. The next day, people flip out when they see him and start chasing him through the street. They finally catch him and throw him in a cage with Endangered Species across the front, making him realize that he's now the only child on the planet.

An Old Story

Tom and Jon spend a lot of time home alone because their parents work so much. One day, their Aunt Delilah shows up to take care of them and starts cooking dishes loaded with prunes. Tom finally notices that his brother has a big bald spot and that he has thinning gray hair. Delilah brings over some of her friends, all of whom immediately start fighting over the two. Tom goes to get some milk, gets offered the senior discount, and gets back in time to hear the old ladies talking about marrying them and Delilah demanding her fee. Tom tracks down a jar of wrinkle cream, puts it on, and instantly reverts back to a kid, and Jon does the same thing. Delilah chases them through the house until Tom hits her with a pitcher of prune juice, which makes her age so fast that she disappears. Their parents later realize that they each thought she was the aunt of the other and actually had no relation to them. Tom heads to school the next day and sees his crush eating lots of prunes that he aunt packed for her. He warns her to throw them out and then shares his sandwich with her.

The Scarecrow

Darleen, Scott, and Melanie are best friends who hear about a mysterious scarecrow that suddenly appeared in the yard of an abandoned house. When they check it out, they find that it's wearing a red baseball cap like Scott always wanted, a yellow scarf Melanie coveted at the mall, and a pair of leather gloves Darleen loves. Melanie later shows up in the scarf, but she later develops a sore throat that eventually causes her to lose her voice. Scott steals the hat and complains about headaches and becomes so forgetful that his mom thinks he hit his head. Darleen finally works up the courage to steal the gloves, only to have the scarecrow grab her. She passes up and wakes to see her friends staring at her. They apologize for scaring her and admit that they set the whole thing up and faked their symptoms because they knew she really wanted those gloves and they were tired of her saying Halloween was boring. Darleen asks how they managed to make the scarecrow smile, they seem confused, and they all turn to see the now smiling scarecrow looking down at them.

Awesome Ants

Dave gets a package in the mail, which is an ant farm he ordered weeks ago, but the one he gets is bigger than a pool table. The letter with the package says that the company wants him to test their new jumbo size and states to feed the ants give blue vitamin capsules every day and nothing else. When the ants don't do anything, his friend convinces him to feed them other stuff. The ants suddenly grow faster and larger, which he thinks will get him a good grade on his next assignment for science teacher Mr. Lantz. One morning, he finds the ant farm empty, goes to school, and finds an ant larger than him in the science room. The ant knocks him out, and he wakes to find himself and his teacher trapped in the ant farm with the ants watching them from outside. Lantz then tells them that they better get started building tunnels and rooms and tells him it will be a great learning experience.

Please Don't Feed the Bears

Sarah wants nothing more than to go to Midnight Mansion, a haunted themed amusement parks, but her parents make her go to Cuddle Bear Land because of her little sister Katie. They won't even let her get one of the stuffed bears because it's too expensive, but they do buy her sister everything she wants. They do, however, let her ride a roller coaster by herself as long as she agrees to meet them later. After riding the coaster five times, she runs into a costumed character who keeps offering her bear shaped cookies. Sarah finally finds the employee lounge. They give her a bear hat with furry ears and keep feeding her the bear cookies until she starts becoming a bear. She manages to get away and catch up with her parents but finds a bag of the cookies in her own backpack. When she gets home, she discovers that her little sister ate the entire bag of cookies and decides that now that she has a Cuddle Bear of her own, she'll name it princess, the same nickname her parents call her sister.

The Goblin's Glare

Mike is such a good artist that he decides to make his own goblin to decorate the front door for Halloween. He keeps making changes until it looks super scary. When he and his best friend go out trick or treating, he hears a noise in the bushes and sees the goblin come after them. They race to his house, pound on the door until his mom answers, and run inside. He then wakes up to find it was all a dream. It happens again, but this time he fell asleep in class. They finally do go out on Halloween night, he hears noises in the bushes, and runs home, but it's the goblin who answers. The goblin chases him all over the house until he finds himself asleep in bed. Though he tries to wake himself up, the goblin reveals that it's actually his dream now and that he's looking forward to dinner.

Bats About Bats

Suzanne and her best friend Lizzie meet Dorrie, the new girl in town, after a bat nearly attacks them. Dorrie says her parents are bat scientists and tries to explain that bats are nice creatures. They all become friends, but she literally will not shut the hell up about how great bats are. Lizzie decides to pull a prank on her and invites her for a sleepover. Her older brother dresses up like a vampire, sneaks in, and pretend attacks her. Dorrie flips out, especially when she learns it was a joke, and runs off upset. She later apologizes and invites them to her house for a sleepover. They all go out trick or treating and come back to her house, where she casually mentions she has a brother who stays in his room a lot. A large brown bat flies in the room and attacks both girls, but Dorrie steps in, saves them, and asks them to come downstairs to the basement with her. They find her parents are huge bat creatures. As they run off screaming, Dorrie transforms into a bat creature of her own and points out that she did tell them she wanted to be a bat scientist like her parents.

The Space Suit Snatcher

Laura is a radio junkie, so when she sees a garage sale filled with antiques, she makes her mom stop. Though her sister Tammy just wants to get home, she spends time chatting with the guy running the same and even tells him how she's tried to make contact with aliens. He gives her a suit that he says the aliens gave him years ago and told him to put it on when he was ready to go with them. He gives it to her for free. No one believes her when she tells them what happened, but that night, she hears a radio transmission that uses her name and later sees an alien in her window. It freaks her out so much that she decides to never wear the space suit. Tammy convinces her to come out with some of her friends who all want to dress up as cats. She shows up and sees an alien in one of the suits coming towards her. The “alien” lifts its mask and it's really Tammy. She and her friends pulled a bunch of pranks to make her think aliens are real. As she starts laughing, aliens really do show up, take Tammy away, and leave behind a purple blob. The aliens tell her that by putting on the suit, Tammy agreed to leave with them. Right before leaving, they ask her to continue with her transmissions but maybe play them a little rock and roll sometimes.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Goosebumps #38: The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena

Jordan and Nicole live with their dad in Pasadena, California while their mom lives in Pennsylvania. Their dad just got back from a trip taking photographs of brown bears in the Grand Tetons. When he goes to develop the film, he finds picture after picture of teddy bears. Jordan cracks up laughing and reveals it was all just a prank.

He and Nicole decide to take a bike ride to beat the heat but run into some bullies first. Twins Kyle and Kara stab him with a popcicle before attacking both with water guns. Nicole winds up stealing one and chases Kara around until she falls head first into a compost heap. Their dad then announces that he has a new assignment going to Alaska to search for the abominable snowman and that he's taking the kids with him.

Before they even land, Jordan thinks he sees the creature but it's actually just a sign. The three of them and their guide hike deep into the wilderness. Jordan slips and falls in a crevasse but recovers pretty fast when they pull him out. They get to their little cabin, and the next day, wake and find enormous footprints outside. Arthur, their guide, freaks out and starts screaming about the creature and how they need to leave, but Jordan just laughs and tells them he did it early that morning.

Arthur spends most of the day completely on edge, and when the dogs freak out on a trip, he makes everyone turn around and head back to the cabin. After hearing strange noises, he grabs the sled dogs and takes off, leaving them stranded with no food. Jordan and Nicole try to follow him but wind up getting lost in the snow. While trying to find their way back, they slip and fall down another crevasse.

This time, they finally encounter the legendary abominable snowman. He grabs Nicole, and while she thinks he wants to eat her, he really just grabs her bag and eats some trail mix. The abominable snowman then carries them outside and drops them right outside the cabin.

When they meet up with their dad, they tell him what happened and drag him back to the crevasse. Their dad finds the snowman frozen stiff inside a block of ice. Not only does he decide to take some photographs, but to take the snowman back to Pasadena too. Using the one dog they have left and his kids, he drags the giant block of ice outside.

They get back and almost instantly tell their friend Lauren what happened. After showing her the snowman, they surprise her with some snowballs they sneaked back. One hits the tree and immediately begins covering the area with snow and ice. Lauren grabs another and throws it at Nicole, and Nicole almost instantly becomes a frozen ice block.

Though they try to defrost her, nothing works. Jordan grabs some trail mix, takes it to the snowman, and teases it until it wakes up. The snowman then eats the snack, picks up Nicole, and hugs her until she defrosts. It then takes off, which they assume is it trying to find a cold spot. They gather up the snow and ice, stuff it in bags, and bury it in a vacant lot. Their dad is surprisingly cool with everything because he stills has his pictures, but all his pictures actually come out blank. They can't worry too much though because those annoying twins find the snowballs and decide to throw one at Jordan...

*Their dad says that they couldn't stay with their mom because she's still getting settled so he had to hire a sitter for them. Really? If he's gone for weeks at a time, how did he get sole custody of the kids?

*Their sitter makes them eat liver, brussel sprouts, fish head soup, and soy milk every night for dinner.

*They want to go to Alaska because they've never seen snow before. As someone who grew up in the Midwest, it's always a little weird to me when I hear of people who have never seen snow.