Friday, April 29, 2016

Fear Street: The Confession (R.L. Stine)

Part One:

What would you do if your best friend confessed something really bad to you? That's the question Julie asks at the beginning of the book. While hanging out with her friends, they start gossiping about the upcoming party that Reva is throwing. Hillary is a gorgeous and super smart African American girl, and Taylor is a newer friend dating their good friend Sandy. Al, the loser of the group, then shows up.

Al was once a nice guy before he started running with a bad crowd. He shows up with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other. After asking for 20 bucks, he starts threatening them. He tells Julie that he'll tell her mom he saw her smoking, even though her mom promised to give her $1,000 if she went through high school without smoking again after getting caught as a freshman. He then threatens to tell the school that Hillary cheated on a chemistry test.

She gives him the money just as Julie's mom gets home. Mom chats with Al for awhile and then flips out when she sees the beer can and cigarette. No matter what the girls tell her, she refuses to listen. She grounds Julie for the weekend, which means she'll miss the party of the year.

Hillary promises not to bring up the party but does tell her about Sandy. He spent the whole night following Taylor around like a little lost puppy dog while she spent the night flirting with other guys and ignoring him. Hillary even caught her making out with another guy. She's also unhappy that Al keeps blackmailing her about the test and even made her give him her mom's car.

After heading over to Vincent's house, who Julie is totally in crush with, they have to deal with Al pounding on the door. He finally gets in the house and threatens them all while acting like a douche nozzle. When Sandy tries to make him leave, they get into a fight that ends with Al punching him and knocking out a tooth. Hillary grabs him and throws him against the refrigerator. After shouting at him, Julie realizes that her best friend is way stronger than she ever imagined.

Since she's completely in crush with Vincent, Julie does whatever it takes to get close to him. She even wears her new vintage outfit to impress him. They chat a little until he tells her that Al borrowed his mom's car. Al then shows up with the car completely wrecked. Vincent goes crazy to the point where he throws himself on the guy, which is within his rights. Julie tries to calm him down while thinking about how she never realized she would kill Al in a few short weeks.

Part Two:

Okay, so Julie didn't really kill him, but a bunch of people did think she did. She calls Vincent to see if he wants to go the skating rink with their group. Wait, were skating rinks even popular when this book came out in 1996? Anyway, Vincent can't go. His parents grounded him over the car. They also forbid him from taking a job as a camp counselor next summer and demanded that he stay in town and work for his dad to pay for the repairs. He also can't have friends over either.

Julie goes and mopes around because Vincent isn't there. Hillary tries to convince her to go to a party with some random guy she knows, but she just wants to be alone. After seeing Taylor and Sandy sucking face, she decides to just try and catch the bus and go back home. While on her way to the bus stop, she literally stumbles over Al's dead body, with a skate shoved in his mouth.

The police bring her in for questioning, even though they don't think she had anything to do with his murder. At the funeral, her friends all seem even more quiet than usual and get together as a group later. Sandy sits them all down and confesses that he's the one who killed Al but says he did it for all of them. Hillary gets more upset than anyone and says he shouldn't have told them.

Julie, naturally, has a hard time being around anyone after that. She has frequent nightmares about Sandy chasing her and killing her. Hillary admits that she's had nightmares of her own. While talking about Sandy and how he murdered someone, they realize that Taylor heard everything and is less than happy. They also keep thinking that someone is following them but never see anyone.

The police come back to Julie's house and find her with Hillary. They give them a list of names and ask them some more questions. All it does is make Julie worry that now they suspect her. She later calls Vincent and asks him to the movies, but he can't go because he's still kind of grounded. Julie also sees an altercation between him and Sandy that ends with Sandy trying to punch him before storming off.

This leaves her with a lot of questions in her mind when she goes to the movies. While wondering about Sandy and what he did, she finally comes face to face with Taylor. Given that they haven't talked since the funeral, it's a little awkward. Taylor immediately starts in about how they should totally trust Sandy and how he's a good guy, even though he confessed to a murder. She's also unhappy that the rest of the group ignored them recently. Julie just mumbles an excuse and runs.

After coming home late one night, she sees Sandy follow her inside. He comes at her with a pair of roller blades but then just warns her that she needs to clean up after herself. He starts in with the same shit as Taylor, pretty much threatens her, and warns her that things have to go back to normal. She's so freaked out that she goes to Hillary, who admits that he did the same thing to her.

As if they weren't freaked out enough, Taylor then confronts them at school. She actually throws herself at Hillary, scratching her neck and trying to choke her. Gee, why wouldn't they want to be friends with them again? Hillary is so upset that she rightly wants to go the police, but Julie convinces her to think things over. Um, what is there to think about? Hillary says that she'll talk to Sandy before deciding what to do.

This turns out to be a bad decision. Hillary's mom calls later to ask if Julie knows where her daughter is because she never came home after school. Julie does a lot of pacing and worrying about whether she should call the police herself. Hillary finally calls and begs for her help. She confesses that she fixed their problem by killing their friend.

Part Three:

Julie gets to Hillary's house and finds Vincent and Taylor there. Hillary waited for everyone before she told them what happened. Her story is that she went to confront Sandy and convince him to go to the police. They had a fight, there was a struggle, and she hit him over the head with a sculpture that crashed his skull. Taylor then explodes about how she killed the wrong person because Taylor was the one who killed Al.

See, Taylor was sneaking around with Al behind Sandy's back. When he got in a bind, she stole money from her parents to help him out. He kept demanding more and more money and threatened to tell her parents. She finally told him to go ahead and tell because she was done. They had a fight, and “somehow” the ice skate laces wrapped around his neck and strangled him. Before they can do anything, Sandy walks into the room. He and Hillary faked the whole thing to make Taylor confess so he could finally get off the hook.

A few weeks later, Julie and Vincent are out for a walk. He tells her that he wants to confess something to her, that he's had a crush on her since third grade. Julie then screams, in excitement I hope!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sweet Valley Kids #15: Fearless Elizabeth

A bunch of the guys recently started playing soccer during recess. Jessica refuses to play because she doesn't want to get dirty, but Elizabeth loves playing. When it's time for the youth teams to form, the guys tease her about how she's done for, but she points out that girls can play too. She and Eva both decide to try out.

During dance class, they find out that their teacher plans to take them all to a real ballet performance. Liz can't go because it's on the same day as try outs. Though Jessica tries to convince her to blow it off, she really wants to play. Steven even coaches her and Eva, and Eva's dad, who was a coach before, works with them to get them ready.

Jessica finally practices with her sister a little bit because she wants her to make the team. Elizabeth is really worried that she might get hit in the face. She was hit before by a ball and got a bloody nose. Eva loves playing goalie, but Liz worries too much. Steven tells her that she might have to play goalie during try outs. Every time she tries to play that position, she ducks or runs away from the ball.

Ned takes Jessica to the ballet performance, and Alice and Steven go with Liz. She goes better than some of the guys until she gets assigned the position of goalie. Jessica skips meeting the dancers after the performance to go and watch Liz. Liz does a good job, catches one of the balls as goalie, and winds up getting a first string position. Jessica still hates soccer but thinks that switching places with her sister might be fun in the future.

*Liz is the outdoorsy one who loves playing outside, while Jessica plays with dolls inside and hates the idea of getting dirty. It's a little weird that Liz is the one who stays inside all the time writing later and Jessica is a cheerleader.

*The teachers hear a commotion and come over to find out the guys were shouting about how they're better than girls at soccer. One of the teachers tells them that girls are often better players at their age and to basically shut up.

*Todd has to apologize to Elizabeth at the try outs because he was so mean to her and then she got a spot on the team.

*Did you ever have to try out for a second grade soccer team? In my area, everyone who wanted to join could join. They literally have try outs that last for hours.

*Not sure why it's called Fearless Elizabeth. Someone describes Eva as fearless because she literally throws herself across the net and catches a ball in midair. Liz just stands there and catches one that comes right at her.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Babysitters Club Mysteries #21: Claudia and the Recipe for Danger

Mrs. Goode's Bakeware Company decided to hold a baking contest and picked Stoneybrook. One contest is open to younger bakers and one is open to those 16 and older. Claudia and Mary Anne decide to join forces and agree to let Shea Rodowsky join their team too. Logan and his little sister join Austin Bentley to form a team too. Cokie pairs up with Grace, but most teams are from other cities. One is comprised of some cute guys, and one has a girl named Julie. Claudia feels bad for her because Julie's parents own a cooking school and seemingly only want her to win to advertise their business.

Cokie brags about their secret weapon and how it will help them win. She gets sick and has to drop out, but their secret weapon turns out to be Mari, the daughter of a pastry chef who learned everything her dad knows. Marty, the college intern for the contest, calls and asks the BSC to run a daycare for the kids of contestants. They all naturally agree to help.

Claudia keeps coming up with these recipes that look great but taste awful. Mary Anne finally tells her that they need something better. Her dad keeps talking about this chocolate cherry cake that her mom made and how she wants to find the recipe. They check her attic before Claudia suggests that MA call her grandma. Though she leaves a message, she remembers that her grandma talked about taking a long trip. Since they don't know when she'll get the message, it's back to the drawing board.

*Why is it that Kristy throws a tantrum when club members want to do their own thing but then agrees to let them run a daycare? She gets ticked off when someone takes a sitting job outside of the club or goes on vacation because it might leave them short handed. Thankfully, none of their charges ever need a sitter during the whole competition.

A bunch of weird things start happening during the competition. Someone switches Mari's cornstarch with baking powder, which causes their oven to catch on fire. Cakes get burned, oven timers get changed, the whole nine yards. Grace and Claudia both suspect each other until they talk things through, learn they both love Nancy Drew, and decide to work together. Both their teams make it through to the final round of the competition, despite all the sabotages.

While sneaking around, the girls see Julie and Marty in a major lip lock. They then set up all their suspects, cover their work station with flour, and actually put their cake in Grace's oven. Richard managed to show up at the last minute with the recipe for the cake and all the right ingredients. The judges come over, Claudia tells them what happened, and they all watch as Marty comes over and messes with their oven.

They catch him and the truth comes out. Turns out that Julie is actually 16 but entered the younger group because she could win easier. She and Marty are dating, and he did all that stuff to try and help her out. They get a lecture, Julie leaves the contest, but nothing bad actually happens to them.

Kristy comes up with an idea of holding a fake restaurant for the kids because they feel left out. Kyle, one of the kids in the daycare, tells Kristy that his sister Megan stole a calculator that got left sitting out. He says that she's been acting out since their dad left. Megan later breaks a terrarium and does some other stuff, but she always accepts responsibility when something happens. After someone clogs the sink and leaves the water running, Kyle blames his sister, but she was actually with Jessi the whole time. He finally admits that he was the one acting out, cries, they all hug him, and he starts acting better.

Logan's group winds up winning third place, but Claudia's group wins first place. They get a $1,000 prize to split, which she thinks her parents will make her invest, and their recipe goes in a cookbook. Claudia dreams of naming the recipe after herself and comes up with all these weird names before Mary Anne announces that she chose the name Alma's Memory Cake. Claudia feels bad for even thinking about naming it herself since they won all because of MA's mom.

*Claudia finds a flier that says free daycare is available before Marty calls them. What would he have done if they couldn't help?

*You can tell this is a book from the 90s because of how excited Claudia gets when her dad buys a cordless phone. Wonder what she would think of smartphones?

*I would have totally smacked Mary Anne while they were going through her attic. While Claudia's digging through boxes, MA stops to read all those freaking letters for the 900th time that her grandma sent to her dad and actually stops to cry.

*Claudia finds one of Mary Anne's old plaid jumpers and says it's now cool again. That makes we wonder if Richard ever realized he was dressing his daughter like a child porn star.

*Claudia's dad drives her to a cooking supply store where she buys a chef's hat and paints it with random cooking images.

*Mary Anne is so proud of Logan that she runs up and kisses him when he wins his prize in front of a bunch of people, which seems super out of character for her.

*Is it mean that I don't think Mary Anne should have just stated the name of the cake? It seems like something they all should have agreed on upfront.

*Marty is old enough that he's doing an internship, so he's at least a college junior. Him dating a 16 year old high school student is pretty icky.

*The kids' “restaurant” has a menu with prices on it, but they don't charge for any of the food they serve. Kristy says that since the parents provided the ingredients that they don't think it's fair to make them pay a second time, but then a bunch of other random people stop by the restaurant, so it doesn't really seem fair.

*One of the dishes is a bug salad, which is half a canned pear with carrot curls for legs and raisins for eyes. Nothing about that sounds appealing to me. They also go through five economy size jars of peanut butter because PB sandwiches are their best seller.

*The contest is just plain weird. They have five days to make anything they want. They can make the same dish every day or something new every day. The judges pick the five best teams to compete at the very end for the top prize. Why wouldn't they have brackets or something?