Friday, July 29, 2016

Nancy Drew Mystery Stores #134: The Secret of the Forgotten Cave (1996)

Elizabeth Porter is George's aunt who lives in small town. When she gets some huge conservation award, the gals go to congratulate her. Nancy overhears someone complaining about bats and wonders what's going on before actually meeting the older lady. As it happens, there is a huge controversy going on in this small town.

A local boy was killed while riding his bike at dusk along a road. There have been multiple accidents over the years that led to deaths and injuries. Though the town wants to widen the road to save lives and prevent accidents, Elizabeth is part of a group against the project because it will harm a group of endangered bats living right off the road. Sarah, the sister of the boy who died, shows up and screams at her before another young woman encourages her to leave.

That woman is Jessie, a biology student from a local university in town to study the bats. Jessie and Elizabeth are leading the anti-road group. After going back to Elizabeth's house, Jessie tells them all about the bats and pretty much goes bonkers over saving them. Elizabeth gets a call from someone threatening her to back off before her friend Margaret stops by. Margaret was the mother of the boy who was hit and begs her friend to reconsider her stance. When Elizabeth refuses but says she wants to find a compromise, they agree to not let a fight get between their friendship.

Jessie takes the girls on a bike ride to show them where the bats live. Nancy and her friends suddenly want to protect the bats too because Jessie gives such a memorable speech. Mr. Tolchinsky comes out of the woods to yell at them. He lives in a cottage back in the woods and they're technically on his property. Though he doesn't like bats, he doesn't like the idea of construction crews working right outside his house either. After making it clear he has no position and warning them once again, he heads back home.

When they go back to the house, they tell Elizabeth about what happened. She goes off on Tolchinsky because he was rude to her when she randomly stopped by his house after he moved to town and started asking him a ton of questions. They literally laugh and make fun of him until Professor Noble from the university arrives. Noble isn't happy with Tolchinsky either because the man yelled at him for illegally trespassing on his property. What a total ogre!

Noble tells them that the city called him to do a conservation report. He found that the bats chose their location because it has a cave nearby where they can hibernate in the winter, but unfortunately, he never found the cave. U.S. Fish and Wildlife then came in and did their own report and found that moving the bats wouldn't harm him. He's convinced that he's right and they're wrong though.

Noble is in town for a huge city council meeting about the bats. He gets up to speak first, a representative from Fish and Wildlife goes next and reads from the report that states moving the bats is safe. Noble goes off about the supposed cave, and the representative tells him that until he finds a cave, there's no reason not to move the bats. Tolchinsky then speaks and makes it clear that he doesn't care either way yet again but that he'll take care of anyone who trespasses on his land later. Sarah also gets up to cry about her brother and accuse anyone going against the road widening project to be a murderer. When the girls head back to Elizabeth's house, they almost have a major accident on that same road.

Though they survive, they realize it was someone driving without their headlights and trying to scare them. Elizabeth thinks that since they were in her car, someone thought it was her. She then finds a stuffed animal bat hanging from her porch. It has a note attached to its chest that warns her to drop her crusade. Though Nancy can't find any evidence, she thinks she can trace the toy back to where it came from.

While wandering around town the next day, Nancy sees a newspaper that has a deadline about the last winter being mild. That's strange because she heard that the city went over budget with its snow removal. She also sees a run down hardware store and learns that the owner doesn't seem to really care about his store anymore. After seeing a stuffed bat hanging in the toy store, she goes in and learns that someone bought one the day before. When the owner walks off to talk with some customers, Nancy goes through the receipts and finds that someone bought one with Margaret's credit card.

Still not having enough proof to do anything, she and Bess go for a drive while George stays with her aunt. A black car driving without headlights comes out of nowhere, crashes into them, and pushes them into a pond. They get out and hop a ride back into town to the police station. Nancy tells the officer that they were hit by a black Saab, which just so happens to be the same car that Sarah drives.

After hearing that she's a detective, the officer lets Nancy come with her to Sarah's house. Even though her car hood is warm, she and Margaret both claim she was home all night. Conveniently, Sarah has a tendency to leave her car keys in the ignition, which means anyone could have taken it. Though she admits to buying a stuffed bat, she says she bought it for herself. When she goes to get it, she realizes someone stole it. Nancy then discovers that someone tampered with the fence around the pond, which means someone set them up to crash into the water.

In the hopes of finding the cave, Nancy, Jessie, and the professor and Mary Anne, ok, so just the first three plus Bess and George go hiking. Jessie and Nancy actually find the cave but discover that it's full of dead bats. A shovel in the cave is covered with blood and fur. The professor finds a sticker on the shovel that shows it came from the local hardware store. To make things worse, Bess sprains her ankle.

Tolchinsky finds them in the woods and begrudgingly agrees to take Nancy back to his house to call for help. While he's out of the room, she starts snooping around and sees a bunch of pictures of him with famous people like politicians, directors, actors, and even the President. After seeing several books from a well known author named James Stanton who suddenly went missing, she realizes that Tolchinsky is actually the missing writer.

Someone close to him died and he had such a hard time writing that he quit. She agrees to keep his secret. Bess's ankle is actually broken, which means she can't work on the case anymore. After some more investigative work, Nancy finds out that someone discovered gold in and around the bat cave. After way too much boring crap, Sarah almost gets hit by a car on the same damn road and gives them some proof. Nancy goes back to the house, finds Bess tied up, and learns that someone kidnapped Elizabeth.

It turns out that some dude on the city council and the owner of the hardware store caused all the fake accidents because they wanted Elizabeth to stop. She was annoying a lot of people and a lot of people would vote against her. They were out there panning for gold and didn't want anyone to see them, which would have happened if the project would through. The cops wind up arresting both men. Sarah then comes up with a plan for widening the road except where the bats live and building a bike trail through that section of the woods. So, I guess people only need to worry about aggravating the bats enough on dusk bike rides that the bats atta​ck?

*This book came way after I stopped reading Nancy Drew books. By the time I hit sixteen, I rarely ever read anything YA in nature.

*I'm all for protecting animals like bats but maybe not at the risk of humans. Elizabeth feels like saving human lives is important but not at the risk of harming some bats. Can't they find a way to move the bats to a new habitat and still save lives?

*So, her best friend's son died a horrible death after someone hit him on that road. Yet she's still against making sure it can happen again? If my best friend went against me on something like this, she would no longer be my best friend...

*The mayor supposedly doesn't like Elizabeth because she keeps coming up with projects that cost a lot of money the town doesn't have and then goes off and holds fundraising campaigns to get the money. Can she not help raise money for her town instead of random projects?

*Elizabeth and Noble both tick me off. Oh, you're mad because he didn't want to answer millions of questions from someone he doesn't know and isn't happy that people keep wandering onto his property without his permission? What a terrible terrible man!

*So, Fish and Wildlife did an extensive report that found moving the bats was safe, yet three people disagree and it's somehow a huge deal? I'm surprised the city didn't just go forward with their plans.

*Elizabeth actually asks why Tolchinsky would bother moving to a new town if he didn't want to get to know people. Are you serious? I've lived in the same house for 5+ years and don't know who the hell lives across the street and pretty much only nod and exchange pleasantries with those who live on either side of me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Baby-Sitters Club #35: Stacey and the Mystery of Stoneybrook

Wow! It's been awhile since I did one of the earlier books. I estimate that I probably read this one 30 to 40 times when I was a kid!

Stacey is in NYC and thinking about how hard it is to be the daughter of a divorced couple. Yes, because her dad takes her to shows, restaurants, and fancy stores every time she visits. He even takes her to some expensive store and tells her to pick out anything she wants. Though she thinks about taking him up on his offer and getting a purple suede jacket with fringe, she chickens out and gets sunglasses instead.

At the next BSC meeting, she can't wait to tell them how she saw some teen star on the street. Before she can though, they want to talk about the big mansion in town getting torn down. The historical society plans to save a bunch of architectural elements before it goes down. Dr. Johanssen then calls with a unique offer. Her father (father in law?) is sick, they need to go stay with him while he has an operation, and they need someone to watch Charlotte. Jessi can't do it because they're going out of town, so Stacey gets the job.

She's so excited about having her “little sister” stay with them that she goes overboard getting the house ready. Stacey decorates their spare room with Raggedy Ann sheets and some of Charlotte's books. Charlotte is less than pleased though. She immediately starts crying, begs her parents not go, and spends the night moping or crying over being alone. Though Maureen made Charlotte's favorite dinner, she can't eat and asks to go to bed early.

To cheer her up, Stacey takes her to the old mansion. Even though everyone already left for the day, Stacey swears that she sees a face in one of the windows. They also hear creepy moaning sounds coming from the house, and Stacey sees a swarm of bees like in The Amityville Horror.. At the BSC meeting, which Charlotte goes to, they tell them all about what they saw. Mallory tells the group that she once picked flowers from the yard and had terrible nightmares that night. This is clear proof the house is haunted, so they agree to investigate.

While sitting for her family, Kristy gets a little creeped out after Karen goes off on one of her tangents about ghostly Ben. After the kids go to sleep, she goes through some old books that Watson just bought at an auction. Though she doesn't find much, she does discover that a large portion of the town sits on top of an old cemetery. The house is apparently right in the center of that cemetery.

Charlotte starts whining about not feeling good, which Stacey blows off as her missing her parents. When she wakes up one day though, the poor kid has a massive fever. Stacey makes an appointment with Charlotte's doctor. She has tonsillitis for the 900th time. While she'll need to get her tonsils out at some point, the doctor is “nice enough” to recommend that she take antibiotics until her parents get back. Charlotte winds up missing a few days of school to recover.

Claudia gets in on the action while sitting for the Perkins' girls. As they sit in story time, she does some research of her own and finds out that the owner of the house is a man named Ronald Hennessy. When she asks her mom how to find out if someone still lives in town, she feels dumb when her mom tells her to check that phone book. That's how she learns that Hennessy lives in a nearby retirement home. I'm not sure those homes would have listed phone numbers for each room but whatevs.

When Charlotte gets a little better, they go back to look at the house again. This time, they see a fire break out. Stacey grabs some water but the fire is gone and there is no sign that one occurred. Claudia then tells the BSC that she stopped by the house and felt someone touch her arm when no one was there. That leads them to see out Hennessy at the retirement home.

Though he's pretty old and a little scary, he perks up when they tell him about their experiences. Hennessy tells them that the house was always haunted. There was a guy they called Old Rubbernose because after a horse bit off his nose, the doctor made him one from rubber. Another ghost was a beautiful young woman who only came out when his uncle was in town. His stories leave them convinced that it's actually haunted.

On the day the house comes down, Stacey and Charlotte just can't stay away. Stacey watches in shock as fire comes shooting out of one of the windows and a man screams for help. She looks around to realize that no one else saw anything and looks back to see the man gone. After leaving Charlotte with Claudia, she rushes to the retirement home and asks to see Hennessy. The nurse tells her that he sadly passed away the night before but left her a note. The note says that he made the whole thing up to have some fun before he died and that there never was any haunting.

Stacey goes back to the house and finally finds out why some of the strange stuff happened from stories Charlie told Kristy. The first fire she saw and the man's face were actually from a construction worker staying late to cut out some plumbing fixtures with a pipe, and the bees were actually wasps that went wild when workers accidentally disrupted their hive. And the weird moaning sounds were the pipes. Not really a mystery in the traditional sense, but what are you gonna do?

*I love how Stacey makes comments about how she has to go right home after school to watch Charlotte or how she takes her to a BSC meeting because her mom can't watch her. What the hell is Maureen doing? Is she seriously going “job hunting” between the hours of three and five every day? Can't she do that while the girls are in school?

*I really thought that Charlotte being sick would mimic the book where Stacey was in the hospital and it would turn out that she just wanted to be with her parents.

*Maureen doesn't even freaking take Charlotte to the doctor! Stacey is the one who sits with her and talks with the doctor. I understand that the parents are paying her, but come on! Would you rather have an adult mother or a 13 year old girl taking your kid to the doctor?

*Claudia laughs and says the librarian must be new because she asks for the Perkins girls' names and if she wasn't new, she would know them already. Yes Claudia, because librarians know the names of ALL kids who check out books.

*Dawn and Mallory sit at the Pike house during one of their infamous smorgasbords. Dawn gets grossed out because the kids eat stuff like cold Spaghetti-Os, bologna and peanut butter sandwiches, or bologna and jelly sandwiches. I'm more grossed out at her eating old carrots, some plain yogurt, and wheat germ.

*The Pike kids go so crazy that the girls convince them to put on a play based on the Wizard of Oz. The kids get super excited because they just saw it. Karen is also in love with the movie because she just saw it for the first time. Some of these kids seem a little old to have never seen it before.

*Claudia figures out all on her own that she can find the owner of the house by looking at old tax records. Funny, but I didn't learn how to do that until my senior year of college while taking a historic preservation class.

*Stacey wears a white jumpsuit with a blue patent leather belt, blue tank top, white slouch socks with blue hearts, and a funky necklace. I refuse to use the term push down socks. They're slouch socks, dammit!

*She later changes up the same jumpsuit with the addition of red socks and a pink tank top.

*Stacey gets really upset that Charlotte is unhappy because she imagined them having of so much fun together. It's realistic but annoying.

*While at the doctor's office and flipping through Highlights, Stacey gets embarrassed because a super cute guy who looks like a younger version of lifeguard Scott comes in with his little brother. Have the parents in this town just given up on caring for their own kids?

*Last Stacey outfit: pink skirt with polka dots and straps, white shirt, and pink shoes folded down to show the stripes inside. Those totally sound like Converse! I was obsessed with Converse for like 10 years and ended up having somewhere around 12 to 15 pairs. Sadly, ever since Nike took over the company, I can't wear the shoes anymore. The last pair I bought literally rubbed off a two inch strip of skin from my toe :(

*The book mentioned multiple times the towers on the front of the house. The house on the cover clearly has no towers.

*Does anyone know why this book went from being Stacey and the New Kid on the Block to Stacey and the Mystery of Stoneybrook? One of my fellow bloggers had a link to a site with an explanation but the page is no longer active. The book that came before this one originally advertised the next book as being the New Kid one, which got me so excited because I was a major NKOTB fan back in the day. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm still a major NKOTB fan!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #140: The Door-to-Door Deception (1997)

George recently started doing a lot of volunteer work for CARING, a youth organization in town. After convincing Nancy and Bess to join her, they all stop by the next day and meet Lena, the woman in charge of the organization. They also get to see the kids playing soccer against YES, the competing youth group. One girl gets so pissed off that she slams a soccer ball and sends it flying towards Bess, but George stops it with a head butt. Brittany, the girl, comes over to apologize after her coach makes her.

Nancy then gets in the middle of two boys fighting right off the soccer field. One of them, Dino, is so impressed by the karate moves she used to get in between them that he asks her for lessons. Bess also meets Josh, some random hot guy. Though they want to work with kids, Lena gives them the job of going out and about in the neighborhood to sell random energy bars to make money for the organization.

Several people living in their homes refuse to open their doors. Only one man agrees to buy from Nancy, and a woman screams at her coming back again so soon. That makes her realize that she went one block beyond the area Lena gave her. Nancy then sees several police cars some of nowhere as cops draw their guns and shout at her not to move.

The cops tell her that there were a string of robberies on that street over the last few weeks. They warn her to let the neighborhood know before they visit the next time. At the CARING office, Nancy sees a city map that has all the streets they already targeted marked off but her blocks, the ones people said were already hit by the organization, are still open. Bess says it must just be a mistake.

They then meet Alex, who is handsome and works for the organization. He seems super cheerful and talks about how much he loves music. When he drops his bag from the music store on the ground, Nancy sees a receipt that shows he spent more than $300 that day. That's a lot for someone who tells them that he's pretty much broke.

While playing some random game with the kids, Nancy meets Maria, one of the coaches. Maria teachers her kids to go all in and whip Nancy's team. During a confrontation, Nancy tells her that kids shouldn't act like that. Maria tells her to mind her own business and that she has way more experience. Bess then starts choking and turns bright red.

It turns out that someone spiked her fruit juice with hot sauce. Dino tells them that he saw Brittany with a dark blue bag earlier that looked just like Bess's bag and was acting super suspicious. Nancy confronts her, but the kid gets pissed off because she was actually in her own bag. I swear I read something like this in a Fear Street book. While leaving that day, Nancy hears someone say that there is a spy in the organization.

It's actually just Maria bitching some more. When she leaves the room and Nancy offers her support, Lena agrees to let her take on the case and see if there is someone from YES messing with the organization. Lots of random things happen. Brittany jumps in the water at the pool and lands right on top of George. When George asks if she did it on purpose, Maria shows up and yells at her. Dino finds out that someone stole the bottle of hot sauce from the cafeteria too.

Then, Maria accuses George of stealing money. She says that she gave George $300 that she raised from energy bars to give to Alex who never got it. Alex actually shows up the next day with the cash and says he put it in the desk drawer and forgot about it. Nancy learns that the blocks from that neighborhood that were covered were actually covered by YES, which is proof that someone got the schedule that Lena created in advance. Also, the society people in River Heights have donated to both organizations.

After hearing Josh (remember him?) chatting with Alex about going something wrong and being all suspicious, she confronts him. He swears that they were just talking about planning new events and promises he didn't do anything wrong before taking off as fast as his hot butt can carry him. When Nancy goes roller blading later, one of her brake pads comes off and almost injures her. Dino tells her that he saw Brittany messing with a pair of skates earlier.

Nancy has a talk with the girl and learns that she was working on her own skates. Dino confesses that the skates she had weren't even the same colors as Nancy's skates. He keeps wanting to help her, but she eventually has to tell him that he's too young. When she gets home, she learns from Hannah that someone in a CARING shirt was there that afternoon and trying to sell energy bars. Lena then reveals that there was no one from the group out working that day.

Hannah doesn't recall much about the girl except that she wore black glasses and had long blond hair. No one George or Lena knows who works there matches that description. The girl even told Hannah not to pay until her order arrived. Nancy thinks someone is selling fake bars to make CARING look bad, but I'm guessing that it's people casing homes.

They then get together and stage a reenactment of when someone tampered with Bess's juice. Someone saw the bottle that Brittany had glitter in the sunlight. Since only glass glitters and Brittany was drinking from a plastic bottle, Nancy realizes that the little girl was the one who tampered with the bottle. As they head back to the office, someone grabs Nancy from behind and tries to strangle her. It's been a few books since her life was seriously in danger, so it's about time.

Josh runs in and shouts at Maria to let her go. Maria says that she caught Nancy snopping around, listening to the kids talk, and needed to stop her. After some back and forth, Maria finally confesses that she and Brittany did spike the drink but only as a gag way to “welcome” Bess to their group. Lena decides to give it some serious thought as to what to do next.

Happy that they solved the case but still concerned over who messed with her skates, Nancy has a sudden realization. People always pay for their energy bars with smaller bills, but the money Alex handed over that was supposedly from Maria were all brand new $20 bills. Maria says that the money she gave him included at least $50 in single bills, but Alex doesn't come in that day and they aren't sure what to do next.

After randomly going to some skating competition between both groups, Nancy gets the go ahead to check out the pledge donation sheets in the head office. Not only does she wind up finding the glasses that the woman wore to her house but a list of addresses that were robbed in recent weeks. The very last address has a date listed of that very day and is a house right down the street from her.

That makes her realize that Lena was behind the same thing and they go chasing after her. Though she almost gets away, they catch her in the end. The cops go to the address listed and find Alex trying to break into the house. It turns out that Lena would send people out to addresses that YES went to so that if the cops found a link between the robberies and CARING, they'd also find a link with YES. Alex confesses his part in everything and gets arrested. At the very end, Josh makes a comment about getting a big donation and wonders how Lena will react. After sharing looks and laughs with her friends, Nancy tells him that Lena probably won't have an opinion.

*When Josh tells Nancy that the YES group competes directly with CARING for money, she wonders why they need to fight and not get along. Does she seriously not realize how competitive grants and fundraising campaigns are?

*On the other hand, why does River Heights have two different youth groups? Can't the two groups just merge and share resources?

*Nancy seems surprised that so many people gave to both CARING and YES but I'm not. If you have a ton of cash, why not donate to two youth groups?

*It seems kind of weird that they make the kids sell energy bars to make money. I know they need to raise money, but there are other things kids can do beyond selling energy bars door-to-door.