Friday, March 18, 2016

Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #5: Lila's Secret Valentine


It's Valentine's Day in Sweet Valley, which means it's the perfect time for all the sixth grade girls to go apeshit about finding dates and choosing the right outfits. The Boosters decide to do cheers for kids. For $2, they will do a basic cheer, but anyone gives them $4 gets a completely customized cheer. The Sixers runs lovegrams, and kids can pay extra to get help from an “expert” like Elizabeth.

Liz borrows old school poetry books from the library and starts writing all these crazy and intense lovegrams. While most kids seem really uncomfortable, she promises them that Valentine's Day is the perfect time to go all out. After she and Todd double date with Amy and Ken, she starts worrying about what to get him. She finally decides to write him this crazy intense poem that sounds like something from the 17th century and slip it into his locker.

Todd gets her poem and immediately thinks it's from someone else because it's too intense even for Elizabeth. He spends their next few dates staring at other girls and wondering who has a crush on him. Liz spends those dates watching him and wondering why he hasn't asked her to the dance yet. Todd finally gets her alone, but instead of asking her out, he tells her they need to cool things and breaks up with her. The best part is when Liz wonders how going out two weekends in a row is getting too serious.

Lila has a massive crush on Jake Hamilton and expects him to ask her out any moment. She imagines them going to the dance with Jake wearing a white button up shirt, loose tuxedo tie, and a tapestry vest, which sounds unbelievable for a sixth grade boy. When he stops by the Boosters table, everyone expects him to make his move, but he instead asks them to make a customized cheer for Brooke Dennis.

All the other girls look at her in shock, but as soon as he leaves, Lila laughs and says that they recently broke up. They demand an explanation, and she lies about how she met this new super hot guy named Gray Williams. He goes to Lovett Academy, is super hot, and demands that she break up with Jake to be with him. She basks in all the attention until her friends say they can't wait to meet him at the dance. Way to go there, chicky.

Todd becomes completely obsessed with finding his dream girl. He thinks it's Brooke, then Maria, then a bunch of other girls. At the same time, guys start swarming around the now single Liz, and Bruce even asks her to the dance. Jessica gets super jealous because Aaron starts spending a lot of time with her twin and even calls just to talk to Liz. Todd has a terrifying moment where Caroline starts talking to him about being single. Though he thinks she's hot for his bod, she really just wants the dirt on Liz and Bruce.

Lila, meanwhile, just keeps digging her hole even deeper. Mrs. Pervis leaves unexpectedly to take care of the gardener who hurt his back and asks her to put away some flowers he cut. When the Unicorns show up, she pretends that Gray delivered the flowers to her. All the other girls get misty eyed and just can't believe that Lila found such a great guy. Ellen even asks if he can possibly find her a date to the dance.

Since she can't bring a fake guy to the dance, Lila decides to fake a break up. She sniffs an onion to make herself cry and puts blush on her nose. As she didn't make up a reason for the break up, she blurts out that she forgot all about her birthday. Later, she finds that the Unicorns bought him a birthday cake and were on the way to deliver it to his school. She lies and says they already made up, in fact, he even called her at school to apologize. The call she got though was actually from her dad.

Back at home, she makes herself a snack, goes outside, and trips. This cute guy in bad clothing pops up and apologizes, but she acts like a huge bitch to him before storming off. He can't get over how beautiful and amazing she is, which makes me wonder if he heard her screaming at him. Lila attempts to flirt with a guy in the hopes of telling her friends that she got a new boyfriend, but when he comes up to ask her out, the others scream at him about how she has a boyfriend and how he needs to get lost.

She then has another run in with the guy at her house. It turns out that he's related to the gardener and is filling in for him. His name is Justin and he really does go to Lovett Academy. When she starts crying, he comforts her and asks for the whole story. Since Justin is an imbecile, he blames her friends for her whole making up a fake boyfriend. He comes up with an idea but has to leave at the last minute.

The Unicorns all go shopping for new dresses. Lila keeps trying to think of ways to tell the truth and then backing out. She does finally tell Ellen that Gray couldn't find her a date and that she should go to the dance with friends or alone.

As a last resort, Lila decides that she'll fake having an appendicitis attack on the day of the dance. Jessica goes to confront Aaron about him and her twin, but the Boosters suddenly pop up and do a complicated cheer just for her. It turns out that he was only talking to Liz so she could help write the cheer. In all the commotion, no one notices that Lila is trying to fake passing out in the cafeteria. She goes home and pretends to be sick, but her dad shows up and announces that he arranged to be a chaperon at the dance.

Cut to dance night. Todd shows up with flowers and candy for Liz. When she tells him she doesn't want the gifts he bought for someone else, he says that the flowers are her favorites and he bought two boxes of candy so he could pick out the ones she didn't like and still get her a full box. Aw. They dance together, she quotes a line from the poem, and he finally realizes that she wrote it. When he tells her what happened, they have a good laugh.

Lila shows up with her dad and says that Gray was in Santa Barbara with his parents, ran late, and somehow chartered a plane to get to the dance. But, he'll totally be there soon. She then just keeps the lie going until she can finish off the night. After claiming he made it, she says he went to get drinks, then get a snack, ran into someone from school, and even sneaks off and says they went for a romantic walk across the football field.

Jessica tells the others that she feels bad Gray came but barely spent any time with Lila. The Unicorns decide to name them the Valentine's Day Couple of the Year, which is a slap in the face to the couples who actually go to that school. When the band leader makes the announcement, Lila goes as stiff as a board. Jessica and Janet realize at the same time that there is no Gray. To preserve the reputation of the Unicorns, they try to find a way to get her out of the room without anyone else finding out the truth.

Just then, a guy who looks exactly like she described wanders in wearing her dream outfit. He asks her to dance, and everyone goes crazy because Gray actually is real. Later, she and Justin take the limo home and decide to start dating. He asks what they'll tell her friends and jokes about changing his name or pretending he's Gray's brother. Lila only seems to care that she now has a real boyfriend.

*Amy suggests Liz give Todd a stuffed animal, but she poo poos it as being too immature. Um, I'm 35 and have a stuffed animal put back for my boyfriend for Christmas...

*Lila is way too obsessed with her feet! In one fantasy, she imagines her slim sneakered foot stopping a skateboard. She also pictures how everyone will react when they see her delicate foot step out of the limo in a platform pump.

*Lila knows Jake likes her because he once held the door open for her and a bunch of other kids and then let her cut in front of him at the water fountain.

*Todd thinks Brooke likes him because she borrowed 15 cents from him and because she bumped into him in the hallway. See, bumping is almost like hugging and if she bumped into him, it means she wouldn't mind kind of hugging or almost hugging him.

*How can Elizabeth laugh and then take Todd back? Oh, so he was only looking for someone he thought liked him and not a real person? Yeah, that's good to know. It's not like he would jump ship if someone else really did like him.

*Jessica buys a cream colored dress with pink and green flowers on it, but the picture on the front makes it look like she's wearing a shirt.

*Janet picks out a dress, but Ellen tells her that it's too “cazh” for a formal dance. Am I missing something here or was that actual slang?

*There's a telling moment where Lila isn't sure if Jessica wants to hear that they broke up and she's miserable or if she actually wants to see Lila happy.

*Lila's dress for a SIXTH GRADE DANCE is a sheer black bodysuit with matching pants that have gold bells on the bottom and black platform heels. How is that appropriate at all, and why the hell did her dad let her out of the house?

*Liz almost gets in trouble for the lovegrams after someone complains they felt pressured into writing something more romantic than they wanted. Mr. Bowman lectures her and then pretty much lets her off the hook.

*There were two big continuity errors in this book. Liz says that lovegrams cost $1.50 and $1 more for getting help. Some kid uses the poem she writes and then hands over $1.50. It was literally one chapter later! Also, Jessica asks if they will ever sell one of the custom cheers, but someone puts out that it's okay because they sold so many of the cheaper ones. That scene comes like 10 pages after Jake bought the custom cheer for Brooke.

*Aren't Jake and Lila kind of a couple in a ton of these books? The Brooke thing seems to come out of nowhere, especially since everyone considered him and Lila a thing. Plus, it's weird that he knows all this personal stuff about Brooke and that no one ever noticed they were spending a lot of time together.

*Liz refers to Todd as her “special friend” multiple times and says they aren't ready for a boyfriend girlfriend kind of thing, yet they go out alone all the time and even kiss.

*This book really disturbed me for some reason. I think it was how crazy they all went with the love thing, finding the right outfit, and getting a date for the dance. It was a little overboard for sixth grade girls. Pretty sure I was still playing with dolls when I was in sixth grade?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Goosebumps Hall of Horrors #1: Claws! (R.L. Stine)


Claws opens with an unnamed narrator telling us that these books include some of the scariest stories imaginable and then asking Mickey to tell his tale.

Mickey and his best friend Amanda get a job cat sitting for two of their teachers heading off on vacation. After the teachers leave, Amanda decides that she only wants to do the fun jobs. She'll pet the cat, play with Bella (cat's name), and maybe feed it. Mickey gets stuck scooping the litter box and handling the other crap jobs.

They head over one day and find the door open. Though they try to move fast, Bella immediately escapes and runs into the street where a driver hits her. The truck driver apologizes multiple times, and when he leaves, they realize the cat is gone. While Mickey wants to call his mom for help and then call the Caplans, Amanda decides they should go to a pet store and buy a replacement.

When Mickey agrees, they head to Cat Heaven, a store that sells nothing but cats. Lou, the owner, keeps pushing them to random cats, but they need one that looks just like Bella. Though they find a bunch of black cats, they're all too fat, one has no tail, the eyes are wrong, etc. They find a door with KEEP OUT across the front, have an argument, and accidentally go through the door.

That's where they find a cat that looks exactly like Bella. Lou runs in and shouts at them to get out because they aren't allowed back there and that none of those cats are for sale. Amanda distracts him so that Mickey can sneak back in and steal the cat. Lou chases them through the store and outside, but a bus stops at just the right moment for them to get away.

Things get a little odd when they take Bella 2 back to the Caplan house. The cat immediately goes to Bella's bed and lays down. Then she gets up and runs into the kitchen to the food dish, as if she knew the food dish was there. Mickey finds the whole thing strange, especially when Bella 2 suddenly turns on him. She jumps up, grabs him with her claws, and literally rips his shirt into two pieces.

That night, Mickey hears a cat that sounds like it's right under his bed. After ripping apart his room, he finds that something got into his aquarium, attacked his fish, and left behind random pieces. He then sees a cat shadow in his window and hears a cat yowling outside.

When they go back the next day, Bella 2 hides under the couch and won't come out. Mickey tries to lure her out with cat food, but she refuses to budge. Amanda eventually drags her out and holds her, but when she lets the cat go, Bella 2 goes right back under the couch and starts attacking it, ripping out all the fabric. Since Amanda is clearly a little turd, she just blows it off and says they can clean it later.

Almost as soon as they get outside, they see Lou walking down the street with two other guys and checking out all the houses. Mickey hears Lou say they need to find the kids before something bad happens, which Amanda once again blows off. Mickey then hears the sound of a cat crying while in school, but since no one else can hear it, including Amanda, they all think he's kind of crazy.

Things get even worse for poor Mickey later that day. He opens his backpack and sees Bella 2 perched inside and hissing at him, but when Amanda looks, there is nothing there. He then opens up his lunch bag to find a dead mouse, which causes him to run to the bathroom and cry a little. Something jumps on his leg, and he freaks out before realizing that it's his baseball hat. To top it all off, dozens of cats suddenly appear and attack him. His gym teacher runs into help and finds the room completely empty. Amanda thinks he's going crazy from guilt, which might actually make sense.

Amanda refuses to listen to him or help him in anyway, which sucks for Mickey when he leaves school and runs right into Lou. Lou starts chasing him, Mickey runs back into the school, and he finally hides in a locker. Though he can't get the door open, luckily there's some kid he knows passing by who lets him out.

Mickey goes back to the Caplan house, and Bella attacks him. When he grabs her, he realizes that she has a chunk of fur missing from the exact same spot as the real Bella. Confused and scared, he puts her in a cage and takes her back to Cat Heaven. As soon as they get inside, all the other cats go nuts and start howling and scratching at the cage doors. Lou shows up, shoves the pet carrier he brought her in back in his hands, and drags him outside.

Lou tells him that they were searching for him to warn him that he couldn't take the cat back. Someone else steps forward to tell him the cat is dead, and yet another person shouts at him to get that dead cat away from the store. When he goes back to the Caplan house, Amanda is waiting for him. She doesn't believe him, but when they go inside, they find several cats sitting in the living room.

To make matters worse, the Caplans come home early. When Mickey tells them what happened, Mrs. Caplan tells him that Bella was always a dead cat and that she died four years ago. They tell the kids that Cat Heaven is a place where you can take your dead cats and bring them back to life. The cats upfront are safe, but the ones in the back are dead.

When they learn that Mickey accidentally released some cats during his escape from Bella, they tell him that if anyone other than the true owner takes them, the cats become feral and just plain evil. Mrs. Caplan also tells him that the cats are now his. That's why all that random stuff happened. Mickey tries to make the cats leave before running home, grabbing his pet mouse, and coming back.

The Caplans tell him that if a cat gets out of its home, it will reenact its last moments. Bella has been hit by a truck at least three times in the past. He lets the mouse go, which causes all the cats to run outside. Each one dies again, including Bella, which means the Caplans can pick her up again and that she'll be normal again. A few days later, Mickey is out with his mom when he sees a new store called Mouse Heaven. After running inside, he sees his pet mouse and wonders if he should take him home.

*They get $50 EACH for cat sitting for a week, which is just ridiculous. They go over once before school and once after school, scoop the litter box, and feed her. I have way more than one cat and wouldn't pay that much.

*I so wish Cat Heaven existed. We had the coolest cat when I was younger. Barkley was a black and white tuxedo cat who would actually sit and roll over like a dog. He was 15 when he passed away, and even though we all have other pets and no longer live at home, I'm pretty sure we all still miss him.

*The cat on the cover totally looks like my cat Dini. We adopted her and her brother when their mother abandoned them, bottle fed them, wiped their butts, the whole nine yards. Her name is short for Houdini because she would escape from anything we put her in when she was a baby. She looks like that anytime any other cat in our house comes near her, including her own brother LOL.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Goosebumps HorrorLand #14: Little Shop of Hamsters (R.L. Stine)


Part One:

Sam and his best friend Lexi won a vacation to HorrorLand, so you know this will end badly. After riding some rides, they stop by the Spear It Cafe for lunch and meet Chef Belcher. He recommends tons of disgusting things, including rare sheep liver, before taking their order. After chowing down on friend shrimp and fries, Sam sees the shrimp come alive and climb all over him. Luckily, Belcher pops up and sprays them down with hot sauce, which kills them.

As they run away, he tries to lure them back with promises of a free dessert, which just makes them run faster. They find their way to a joke shop. Sam goes crazy over a cell phone candy dispenser and over a grow your own pet kit. Jonathon Chiller, the owner of the store, acts really strange. When Sam goes to pay, Chiller tells him just to pay the next time he comes.

Part Two:

Sam and Lexi discover that a new pet store just opened in town, but when they go inside, all the store sells is hamsters. A giant hamster stumbles out of the back room and comes right for them before taking off its head and revealing that it's Mr. Fitz, the owner of the store. After hanging out for a bit, they head home, and Lexi gives him a hamster she stole for them. Sam gets pissed, takes it from her, and heads back to the shop.

The little hamster, which he nicknames Freckle Face because of the freckles on its face, eats some of the candies from his fake cell phone. Mr. Fitz seems less then enthused to see him and kind of buys his story that the hamster got caught on Lexi' shirt. Freckle Face keeps eye balling him until he leaves.

After begging his parents yet again for a pet, Sam's mom finally tells him that he needs to show he is responsible and complete some tests before he can get a pet. His little brother Noah starts acting like pets before deciding he wants to be a hamster and biting him. Lexi grabs the grow a pet thing they bought, douses it in water, and they all watch in shock as it becomes so large that it knocks a hole in the ceiling and breaks their furniture. Sam's mom points out that he's clearly not responsible, and his dad says he failed his first test.

Sam later sits by himself and eats some of his candies. The candies suddenly taste better than anything he ever tasted before, which causes him to keep eating and eating. Nothing really happens except his mom asks him to watch over Noah as his first test. The little brat finds the grow toy and tries to eat one so he'll grow big. Sam distracts him with some candy, which leads to his mom showing up and yelling at him for giving his little brother candy. Lady, candy is the least of your troubles with this one.

He then goes back to see Mr. Fitz and asks about an after school job, assuming that it will show his parents he can handle a pet. Just as he agrees, Lexi shows up and begs for a job too. She decides to wear the hamster costume outside, and Sam helps clean the cages. Freckle Face comes at him, grabs his pocket, and steals a piece of candy. Another hamster starts begging and steals a piece. Sam drops a few pieces in the cage, and the two literally fight to the death until Fritz shows up. When he goes home that night, he swears the two are watching him.

The next day, he realizes that he left the phone in the hamster cage, but Lexi agrees to distract Fitz until he can find it. Though he doesn't find it, he does learn that the hamsters are now super mean when they attempt to attack him. Lexi convinces him to call the manufacturer and get help. The man on the phone flips out when he hears it was orange candy, says it was recalled, and claims it eats your internal organs. He then laughs, says it was all a joke, and offers to send him free candy.

When Sam goes back to the pet store, Fritz makes him get inside the enormous cage to clean it. Seconds later, he realizes that all the hamsters are watching him and growling. This time, they all go crazy as soon as he's alone in the cage. They start attacking each other and when he tries to break it up, they turn on him. Convinced he has no other choice, he tosses one of the grow toys in the hamsters' water dish, but one of the hamsters eats it first.

As the hamster grows bigger and bigger, Sam freaks out, grabs the other toy, and eats it himself. The hamster is way bigger and starts smothering him, but before he can die, the growth stuff wears off and it shrinks back to normal. Once Sam shrinks down, he thinks everything is fine, but then Fitz wanders in.

It turns out that he was behind the whole thing. He gave the hamsters some water he created to make them angry because he wants to launch the Worldwide Hamster Wresting League. Better still, he caught the whole thing, including the growth spurt, on a hidden camera. Fitz attacks him and demands he tell him where the growth formula came from. Lexi wanders in and accidentally lets the hamsters loose, which lets them escape. He asks Lexi how much of the water she drank, and she then transforms into a crazy woman and attacks him.

Epilogue:

Sam arrives home without explaining what happened with Lexi, which irks me. He lays down in bed and suddenly sees a glowing light coming from his closet, which makes him remember that a Horror attached something to his souvenir from the park. When he gets close, the walls disappear and he finds himself transported back to HorrorLand. Chiller is waiting for him and say it's time to pay him back but he must first wait for the rest of their guests.

*When Lexi orders a grilled cheese sandwich, Belcher says he made the cheese himself between his toes. That's just...wrong?

*What is up with the cell phone candy dispenser? This book came out in 2010 when those things were pretty much already over. Sam acts like it's the coolest thing he's ever seen. He also says it's easier to sneak into school than a cell phone. What school lets kids use cell phones all willy nilly but bans candy?

*Sam asks his mom how he can prove he's responsible if she won't let him get a pet to show he's responsible. She changes the subject, but I think it's a valid question.

*I love that they yell at him about the whole grow a pet thing. Yes, because those packages at the dollar store grow to 20 feet tall. It totally reminded me of when Bart sold his soul on The Simpsons and bought a dinosaur one.

*Fitz tells Sam to forget about cleaning the cages and just put some new pine shavings on top of the old. I'm sure that place smells lovely.

*Stine must really hate parents because he always makes them so awful! At one point, Sam's parents go from yelling at him for playing with his brother to fawning all over Noah because he's oh so cute.

*Has anyone read any of the later books and can tell me what happens? It's weird because the older HorrorLand books always do one story and then a second story that takes place at the park that continues from book to book. It looks like they wrapped up that story and started a new one with this ending, but there's only a few books after this.