Thursday, December 28, 2017

Fear Street Sagas #2: House of Whispers (R.L. Stine)

Even though the last book took place in the early 1900s, this one takes us all the way back to the Civil War. Amy Pierce is on her way to New Orleans to live with her mother's cousin, Angelica Fear, as well as Angelica's husband Simon Fear. Amy's own father was injured in the War, her mother went to be with him, and it's way too improper for a young woman to live on her own. She arrives and meet her cousins Hannah and Julia. Angelica also introduces her to Nellie, one of the servants.

Hannah is pretty much your spoiled little rich girl, while Julia isn't as pretty but much nicer. Angelica goes out of her way to give Hannah anything she wants and makes a big deal out of her at the same time ignoring her other daughter. Nellie talks an awful lot but seems pretty nice. Julia stops by that night and warns Amy to never open her door at night, no matter what she might hear. She explains that she once saw a servant disappear into a fog. Her parents told her it was just a dream, but the next day she found part of a bone in the hallway.

Angelica also offers to read Amy's fortune with her tarot cards. She explains that it's impossible for them to contact her parents but that she can use the cards to see what the future holds. When Amy attempts to hold the cards, each one flies up into the air and around her, which causes her to freak out and run away.

While hanging around outside, she hears a women crying out and finds their neighbor clinging to a terrace as a water moccasin tries to attack. Amy grabs a hoe and absolutely goes to town on the sucker, turning it to a pile of mush. The woman introduces herself as Mrs. Hathaway, and Amy briefly meets the woman's son David. He was injured in the war and wears both an eye patch and a sling.

Mrs. Hathaway invites Amy over for tea, and she winds up meeting David and blurting out that she thinks he shouldn't hide from his eye patch. They bond and get along really well, which makes it awkward when Angelica tells her to stay away. According to her, David escaped a Union prison by killing a guard and now has a taste for killing.

Cut to some big random dance. Hannah goes on and on about how handsome David is and how she should be the one going to the dance. Angelica even tells her daughter directly in front of Amy that she might actually be prettier than her older cousin. Amy previously gave Julia her old charm bracelet for luck, and Julia gives it back to her in the hopes of it bringing her luck that night.

Angelica spends some time with this rich and snotty girl named Chantal. Chantal has the hots for David and keeps whining about him dancing with this girl named Bernice. Angelica deliberately pushes Amy out of the conversation and goes on and on about how David and Chantal would be absolutely perfect together. David then comes over and asks Amy to dance, leaving them both speechless.

When David goes to get her a drink, a fire breaks out. Amy discovers the cause of the fire is poor Bernice as the woman rushes at her while literally on fire. Her hair and face actually begin melting away before Amy can get a blanket to smother the flames. David later comes to her and tells her that he was so worried when he couldn't find her, and they both admit that they are in love. Right as she gets home, something falls in front of her.

That “something” was poor Nellie. Her face gets obliterated by the pavement and to make things even worse, she actually lives for a few minutes before finally dying. And to make things even more worse, Amy discovers that Nellie fell out of her own bedroom window when she heads upstairs and finds the window shattered. Julia pretty bluntly tells everyone that she saw Nellie fall by her own window.

Amy and David begin sneaking off to see each other, but Angelica finds out about them. He unexpectedly needs to leave town for awhile and tells her to meet him in a certain spot on a certain day when he gets back. When she gets there, he never shows up. She does, however, have a vision of someone drowning Chantal and David being the one pushing her under the water.

When they all head to the beach the next day, Amy literally stumbles over the poor girl's dead body. Angelica tells her to take the kids and go, but when she turns around, she sees the woman dabbing a handkerchief in her blood and putting in her pocket. She then has a vision of Mrs. Hathaway dying and rushes to her house. Just as the woman is about to fall down the stairs, David comes out of nowhere and saves her. Amy tells them everything she saw and tells David that she loves him.

She also learns from Julia that Angelica keeps burning the letters that her mom sent and lying, saying that she never got any mail. Amy sees Angelica talking to David one night after he leaves and things get weird. Angelica gets all dark and shouts at him. She and David decided that they need to get away.

Before they can really do anything though, it's All Hallows Eve. Angelica claims that she had the servants take the kids for the day, so they could spend some time alone together. That really means that she wants to feed Amy to her undead minions or something like that. This random column of smoke suddenly appears that is filled with faces of dead people, and she pushes Amy at it while claiming that if only the poor teenage girl was evil like her then she wouldn't have to do this.

Amy starts to give in but then fights back. White flames appear out of nowhere and spread across her body. The flames keep moving and eventually cause Angelica to fall down the stairs and the smoke column to completely disappear. Amy runs to tell David what happened, but he simply grabs her and carries her back. It turns out that Angelica has the power to make him do anything she wants.

As he carries her, Amy keeps telling him who she is and how much she loves him, but he can only hear Angelica. That changes when Amy pulls out his family's ring, which he gave her as a promise of what they would have in the future. Instead of shooting Amy with the gun Angelica gives him, he turns it around and shoots Angelica. As she lies on the ground and wails, Amy and David leave.

The book then cuts to the two of them leaving town with Mrs. Hathaway. She asks if they really need to leave or if there is another solution, but they both tell her this is the only option. Amy wonders aloud about Julia and feels sorry for her, but David tells her that she needs to move on because the Fears have her now. Nice. Amy then pauses to look back and watches as the Fear Mansion grows smaller and smaller in the distance...

*So Julia is actually a nice kid born into the wrong family and clearly nothing like her mother or older sister. It totally makes sense for them to just leave her behind.

*Angelica tried to keep David and Amy apart because she had him “reserved” for Hannah. Yes, her daughter who isn't even old enough to go to dances but is somehow old enough to be with a guy old enough to fight in the war. Creepy. Also, Angelica made it clear that he was only a passing fad and that she would get rid of him as soon as Hannah grew tired of him.

*These books are so gruesome so far! Nellie literally has one eyeball pushed back into her skull, the other one is flapping in the breeze, and the skin on her face is either in flaps or scraped off.

*The Pierce women have magic in them, which is why the tarot cards worked for Amy. Angelica kind of makes it seem like they all use dark magic though...

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Nancy Drew Case Files #47: Flirting with Danger (1990)

Ned's good college friend Josh got an internship out in Hollywood and invited Ned to come stay with him and his family in Beverly Hills for a few weeks and is nice enough to invite Nancy along too. Though they look forward to spending some time alone, she almost immediately gets caught up in a mystery. Rachel, Josh's little sister, is just about to graduate from high school. Nancy overhears her fighting with someone named Dennis on the phone before she goes missing. Rachel drives to her graduation but never shows up.

Our list of suspects include:

Beth: Rachel's best friend keeps trying to tell Nancy something and then hesitating. She also wears this necklace with a cat charm that has white eyes, which she constantly twists when she's nervous, so all the time.

Jessica: Jessica is a super bitch. She keeps saying that it's a good thing Rachel is gone and that no one will miss her, and she stops Beth from talking to Nancy several times.

Mike: Mike was Rachel's boyfriend for years until she dumped him for Dennis. He's not too happy about the break up but assumes that they'll eventually get back together.

Dennis: Dennis is our main suspect. The only problem is that no one can find him. Nancy sees him in a club one time, but he runs away in a panic. They later stake out his apartment, find the door unlocked, and discover that someone ransacked the place. Mike sees Rachel's jacket left behind and finds a note in the pocket that asks someone to please find them.

Nancy checks the appliance store where Dennis worked. Ralph, his boss, says that he fired him because he stole some speakers from him and that he was bad news. She also learns about a rash of thefts in Beverly Hills. Someone leaves a note that says the Kats have Rachel and for her to drop the case. Another someone breaks into the house and ransacks Rachel's room.

Rachel then calls home to tell her parents that she's fine, to stop looking for her, and that she'll be home soon. The cops keep searching for her though. I'll be honest here: I really didn't like this book and started skimming big chunks. It's mainly Nancy and Ned talking with people who know nothing or people who refuse to talk to them. Rachel eventually comes home and tells them the whole story.

She and all her friends were the Beverly Hills robbery ring. Dennis got them involved after getting the job at the appliance store. Ralph, his boss, hired Dennis to steal used appliances for him to sell in his store, and Dennis then brought in Rachel and her rich friends because they knew which houses had what. She tells them that she had proof on videotape, which is why they broke into her house. They also used the Kats name as their club.

Nancy gets Rachel to tell her where they have Dennis. She gets Ralph to confess to everything with the police standing by. It turns out that he would get rid of the serial numbers and make fake warranty information to sell used appliances. He even has a bunch of stolen goods in the basement and was stupid enough to put his name on the building's lease. Dennis confesses to everything and begs the cops to leave Rachel out of it. They tell Nancy that Dennis will likely get charged but that Rachel will be fine. Ned then asks if they can have a normal vacation and kisses her.

*Dennis is supposedly a bad guy. The club he goes to though is for kids under 18 that doesn't serve alcohol. He also looks like a punk according to multiple people, but is clean cut enough that he works in an appliance store.

*Was there really a big market for used appliances in 1990? It seems like an awful lot of work to sell crap like radios and whatever.

*Um no, Rachel would face some charges in the end. Dennis says he bullied her into helping him and that she wasn't guilty, except that she totally helped them steal stuff. There are tons of women in jail/prison right now because they did stuff for their boyfriends.

*My copy is in a collector's edition copy with two other books. The back lists the name of each one and calls this one Flirting with Disaster, even though it's actually called Flirting with Danger.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Unicorn Club #22: Jessica's Dream Date

The Unicorn Club and all the rest of Sweet Valley is all atwitter because Johnny Buck is coming back to town. This time he's coming to do a fundraising concert for the pediatric hospital, which is apparently the leader in children's cancer treatments, which is something you'd think we would have heard before. A local talk show held a contest and let everyone send in postcards. One winner will get the chance to meet Buck and show him around town.

Lila absolutely cannot stop bragging because her dad got the whole club VIP passes for the club. She literally will not shut up about it and acts like it's the most important thing in the history of the world. That's why she's less than happy when Johnny appears on the show, draws a name, and announces that Jessica is the winner. Everyone goes apeshit about how she's the luckiest girl in the world.

The next day, the club confronts her and tells her that it wasn't just Jessica that won, it was the whole club. They expect her to let them all tag along on the date. Lila comes up with an idea “on the spot,” which Mandy realizes is bull honky, and suggests that she bring along her new camera and film the whole date. The girl guilt trip Jessica about how future Unicorns will want to know something so cool happened to the club. She agrees to let one girl document the date and picks Mandy.

Sadly, no news is not good news. No one ever contacts Jessica to tell her that she won or win Johnny will come to her house. Lila says it's because the Wakefields are nothings. She even says that the studio probably called around, realized Jessica was a loser, and decided to cancel the concert. Jess finally tells them that no one came come along or have anything to do with her date from now on.

That all changes when Mandy films her sitting at home and waiting for someone to stop by and talk to her about the concert. A limo comes down the street, which causes the Unicorns to race out of the bushes with a banner. It's actually just Lila's limo though, which makes her feel stupid. As a few more days go by with no word, people doubt that Johnny will show through.

This causes Jessica and Steven to fight like all the time. He tells her that she already knows she won and to relax, which causes her to tell him that the studio might not know that she knows. They wind up arguing to the point where Ned and Alice step in and tell Jessica to shut up. She gets a postcard that says she won, calls and gets someone in Minneapolis, and then gets transferred to someone in Nevada. They tell her that according to contest rules in the state, all prizes must be in accordance with the advertised terms and that Johnny will be there Saturday morning.

Since she wanted Johnny to do something big, she makes a fake note from him and asks Steven to help her find someone to deliver it. They head down to the musicians' hall and find a hot guy who kind of looks like Johnny and drives a motorcycle. He agrees to bring it to her in school the next day. Everyone is in shock when he shows up because they think he's actually Johnny, but then they turn on Jessica about how it's lame he sent a lookalike in his place. She makes up a story about how he called and gets Mandy to go along with her before banning the club from meeting him.

Needless to say, the whole club shows up despite her telling them not to and beg to meet him. Lila just does her nails and says he'll never show up. Suddenly, a bunch of fancy cars and limos comes down the street. Stan Keno, his manager, comes out first, keeps talking on his cell phone, and confuses Mandy for Jess. He also takes away the camera because all footage shot of Johnny is their property.

Johnny finally steps out of the car, shakes Jessica hand, smiles at her, and then hops back inside. Stan gives Mandy back her camera and starts to leave. When Jessica points out that Johnny never even said a word, Stan makes him say something and then tells her they'll send her a copy of the picture. As they try to leave, Mandy tells him about the state contest rules, he calls a lawyer, finds out it's true, and makes Johnny stay behind.

Since she's just a kid, Jessica suggests taking Steven's new moped, which he somehow completely restored with some help from Joe Howell. Since Johnny rides motorcycles in all his videos, she thinks he can handle it no problem. He actually loses control and crashes into the wall. When Steven comes running out and demands to know what happened, Johnny sneers at him about it being a child's toy and practically throws money at him.

The Unicorns then sneak outside and try to see him, so she closes the garage door in their faces. Mandy gets rid of them, they start towards the bus stop, and Johnny keeps stopping to talk on his cell phone, so she “accidentally” runs into him and breaks his phone. Things do not go as planned at all. Johnny falls asleep on the bus, people keep making fun of him, and then he trips over his own feet. He winds up exploding on some poor kid about how he's a star and deserves better.

They head to the stable because he rides horses in his videos, but he acts like a big baby. When he tries to get on the horse, he catapults himself over the side and lands on his butt. The Unicorns once again show up, to which Mandy sends them away and tells them that Johnny feel while saving Jessica from a runaway horse. Johnny calls for a limo and says he'll drop them off on the way. Mandy threatens him with the video that shows all his mistakes, the girls play keep away with him, and he can hardly keep up because he's so out of shape. He gives in and agrees to let them go to the press conference with them, which is good because Lila's dad got the Unicorns invites and they'll all be there.

Johnny makes lovey dovey eyes at Jessica in front of the cameras and gives a big speech about how he made such a special friend in Sweet Valley. He then stops to talk to the Unicorns about how their friend is so amazing and compliments Lila about how she must be a special girl if her dad is on the hospital board. Jessica demands that they go swimming like he did in his latest video. He refuses but quickly changes his mind if they can stop by the hotel first. Johnny uses this as an excuse to try and escape but they catch him and make him go.

It turns out that he can't swim at all. He literally falls in the water and acts like he's drowning before Jessica “rescues” him and shows him that the water is only four-feet deep. Some kids don't believe he's Johnny Buck because he's so lame and point out some other guy they think is the real Johnny. The guy turns out to be Chad, the dude Jessica had deliver the message.

Chad is also Johnny's cousin and, as it turns out, his body double. He's the one who rides motorcycles, swims, and does all the other adventure stuff. Mandy wonders if Johnny can even sing, which horrifies Jessica. Johnny agrees to take them to the concert and sing with them. He sounds really awful until Chad adjusts his microphone. Stan shows up, which causes Johnny to explode on him and tell him all about the video. He sends Chad and the girls to lunch, meets them, and asks what he can do to get the tape, which is something you never ask Jessica Wakefield.

It turns out that she wants backstage passes for her family and friends and wants to record a video like the ones Johnny usually makes. She and Chad do all the stuff she wanted to do with Johnny as he turns away from the camera. They then cut it together in the editing studio, and Chad agrees to play it before the concert. Though they get stuck in traffic on the way to the stadium, a helpful motorcycle cop stops them and literally gives them a police escort. I fucking hate this town.

Though everyone is super excited, Stan shows up with some bad news. It seems as if Johnny is too sick to go on stage. All the Unicorns feel so bad for him, but Jessica bursts into tears because he probably got sick when he fell in the water, which makes it completely her fault. Chad gets her alone to tell her that Johnny is just throwing a fit like he always does and isn't really sick. Shocked, she rushes off to go back to the hotel. How she gets there with no car and all the traffic is anyone's guess.

When Johnny pretends like he really is sick, Jessica tells him all about how she's selfish just like he is. She then reveals that Stan's son had cancer a few years ago and that he's paying for the whole concert out of his own pocket. Johnny is shocked because he was once really closed to Stan's family before becoming a jackass.

Stan goes out to tell the crowd that Johnny won't make it, but Johnny then shows up and interrupts him to apologize for being late. Johnny puts on an amazing show and drags Jessica and Mandy out to sing with him as their video plays. He then gives a little speech about how Jessica completely changed his life and he's so glad he met her before running backstage and bringing out all the Unicorns and Elizabeth and Steven.

In the end, the Unicorns want to know what happened to the outtakes from the day because they want to see them. Jessica and Mandy keep trying not to laugh as they tell them that all that footage mysteriously went missing. Kimberly then begins bragging about how she's the most mature member of the club, which sets up the very last book in The Unicorn Club series.

*When Lila first suggests filming the date, the other Unicorns come up with ideas about how they can help, as in setting up the tripod and even mounting the camera on a Range Rover for steady shots. Mandy is the first one to realize that they're once again just trying to horn in on the date.

*Jessica and Steven keep fighting because of the whole contest thing. Ned and Alice eventually yell at her but say nothing to him, even though he started it. Did they forget what happened with that other concert?

*Jess keeps talking about how gorgeous Johnny is and how she's sure he'll fall for her, which leads Ned to tell her that she's too young to get serious with anyone. She later says that she'll share anything she gets except for Johnny because he's all hers. Alice then busts in and tells her that if she doesn't stop being ridiculous that she won't get to meet him at all. Knowing how Jessica acts in high school, I almost feel bad for Alice.

*When dressing up, Jessica puts on some makeup and says that the Unicorns rarely wear makeup to school. Say what now?

*Her outfit to meet him is a pair of slim cut black pants, a white tee, cropped denim vest, and black leather boots. Nice but not really appropriate for a kid in junior high.

*Stan keeps talking on his phone about how their team gets like 95% of souvenir sales, 90% of concession sales, and 75% of parking. That's not how that works. Why would a venue even book him if they couldn't make money off their stuff? It's not like his team is paying for ingredients for the concession stand!

*If Lila is such a freaking hot shot, why can't she just have her dad hire Johnny to perform for her next party?

*You know there is no way that if Lila won she would put up with their crap. They treat Jessica like shit when they think Johnny will flake out and then stalk them all over town just to meet him.

*The Johnny and Jessica thing really creeped me out! He has to be like 18 or so since he has his own house, car, etc., but he keeps holding her hand on the red carpet and making eyes at her on camera. How does no one find that gross?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Fear Street Sagas #1: A New Fear

I actually went to a secondhand bookstore, Second and Charles, where I keep stocking up on the newer Nancy Drew books cheap and decided to check out the “teen” area. Imagine my surprise when I found eleven of the Fear Street Sagas books. After reading through the first two, I have to say that this series is pretty gnarly!

In case you didn't read the Fear Street Saga set, Nora Goode was a woman who fell in love with Daniel Fear despite their families being sworn enemies. The Fear Mansion caught on fire, a bunch of random shit happened, and everyone except her died. The cops show up, refuse to believe her story, and finally put her in the nut house until she agrees to tell them what really happened.

About a year later, Nora is still there and gave birth to her son, Nicholas. The head nurse comes in to remind her that it's bath time and leaves the baby with a 12 year old patient. Nora comes back and surprisingly does not find her son mutilated in pieces. He's perfectly fine, but the kid does say bye-bye to her son. The nurse then reveals that it's just not right to raise a child in an institution and that the doctor made arrangements for a wealthy family to adopt him.

That's the cover story anyway. The real story, which Nora just so happens to overhear, is that the doctor plans on killing the baby and burying him on the grounds. Maybe. Like two pages later, he's talking about how the baby is worth a lot of money to him. Nora's secretly been making a rope to escape from her room, but the doctor catches her and has the nurse cut the rope as well as her hair, since she used her hair to make it.

When they later show up to take the baby, Nora goes completely feral on them. She attacks the orderlies with her nails and even rips a chunk out of one dude's arm with her teeth. They finally get her under control, but the Fear amulet that she still wears suddenly gets really hot. Not only does the room catch on fire, but the fire spreads. Daniel then steps out of the flames to attack all the bad peeps and starts to attack Nora before realizing who she is. He then tells her to take the baby and leave. She manages to escape as the institution burns to the ground with pretty much everyone else inside.

Nora makes the mistake of sneaking her and Nicholas onto a shop, not even knowing its destination. A crew member catches her and tries to force himself on her, but the amulet gets hot again. Rats come out of nowhere and attack him, even ripping off his eyelids. His cabin mates catch her and think she's a witch. One guy is on her side until the others mutiny. They demand that she make this massive storm raging around them stop or they will make her walk the plank.

Since Nora is not a witch, she can't do diddly squat. Before they can throw her overboard though, which is their next plan, the storm grows wilder as the amulet heats up. As the wind whips people overboard and starts killing others, she gets Nicholas in a wood trunk, ties the trunk to her leg, and jumps off the ship. Nora wakes up on the beach with Nicholas perfectly fine but rips off the amulet and throws it out to sea. She decides that they'll now be the Storm family and that no one will ever know her son was a Fear.

Years later, 1919 to be exact, Nicholas is a poor young man living with his poor mother. He's in love with Rosalyn, a beautiful woman from town, but her father refuses to let them be together. Nicholas comes home and finds his mother dying in her bedroom. She tells his father left him a legacy and then dies.

Rosalyn tracks him down and tells him that he needs to leave right away. Her father arranged a marriage for her. When she told him she was in love with Nicholas, he threatened to kill him. Nicholas hears a voice tell him to go to Shadyside and books the first ticket out of town. Rosalyn shows up at the last minute to give him a very special gift that she found washed up on the beach: the Fear amulet.

Once he arrives in Shadyside, Nicholas quickly discovers that he is a Fear and finds what is left of the family home. Multiple people almost pass out because he looks just like his dead father. He meets Betsy, a cute blond, who introduces him to her mother who runs a boardinghouse and gets him a room. Nicholas assumes that his family is still super rich and learns that Mr. Manning is the richest man in town and tried to capitalize off the Fear name.

As it turns out, no one wanted anything to do with Fear Street after the fire. Though he put down the road and made some other changes, Manning never had a single home built. He tells Nicholas that all he really inherited was a bunch of back taxes but does offer him a job in his lumber mill. On his way back to the boardinghouse, Nicholas runs into a plain and quiet girl named Ruth. She's Manning's daughter and seems smitten with him.

After some time passes, Nicholas begins making friends. Ike, his closest friend, loses fingers in an accident at the mill. Jason, another coworker, hates him because he has a thing for Betsy. Betsy keeps making Nicholas lunch and showing up at the mill to see him. Manning then gets so sick that he can't leave his bed. After an encounter at the mill, Betsy asks him to come home early that night because she's making him a special dinner.

When he gets home, he finds that someone killed her. Not only did they tie her hands behind her back, but they shoved a wad of the special dough she made from him down her throat. Nicholas runs to see Manning who asks him to stay there for the night and keep Ruth safe. Manning dies relatively soon after, and Ruth says his last wish was for the two of them to marry. He turns her down though because he's still in love with Rosalyn.

Nicholas then heads over to Jason's house and accuses him of killing Betsy. Jason breaks down because she was his cousin and he loved her. The two men make up, but then Ruth rushes in and stabs Jason through the throat with a fire poker. She tells Nicholas that she did it all for him. Not only did she kill Jason, but she also killed Betsy and her father and set up Ike's accident. Ruth tells him that he can either marry her or that she'll go to the police and say he did it all. She even convincingly fake cries. Nicholas refuses but then changes his mind because he plans on killing Ruth and stealing her family's money.

They have a quiet ceremony in front of the minister and his wife before heading home. He poisons her champagne and keeps thinking about how he can't wait until she dies. She then shows him the amulet, which he gave her during their wedding ceremony, and tells him about the power it yields. Nicholas finally realizes that he actually had the power all along.

Rosalyn then randomly shows up on their doorstep. Nicholas begs her to leave and tells her to go to the boardinghouse, but Ruth catches them, reveals that they're married, and even shows Rosalyn the amulet before inviting her inside. The glasses get mixed up to the point where Nicholas doesn't know who has the poison. Rosalyn drinks her glass and almost instantly dies.

Cut to a few years later as Nicholas and Ruth cut the ribbon before construction begins on the first house on Fear Street. Ruth whispers in his ear that she's pregnant with his child as he tries to not feel repulsed by her touch. He then surveys the street and thinks about how soon everyone will know the name Fear Street.

*The last eight words are the same ones in the book. I totally admit to saying them out loud and then doing the crazy maniacal laugh after...

*Nicholas is so repulsed by his wife that he can't stand her even touching his face and yet somehow managed to knock her up. I sense a Gone Girl situation going on here...

*Nora sees people literally melting in front of her during the mansion fire and then during the fire in the institution. Add to that the whole fire poker through the throat thing and you can see why these are kind of gruesome.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #172: The Riding Club Crime (2003)

The gals all have some random friend named Elsa. Elsa works at Green Spring Pony Club, which Mrs. Rogers operates. I have no knowledge whatsoever about horseback riding, but I'll try and explain how it works. The clubs function like riding camps but select an elite team of kids to join a rally team at the end. That team competes against others for a prize. Mrs. Rogers established a scholarship program that lets kids who can't afford the camp come in and stay. She even provides them with horses and riding gear if they need it.

While riding with George and Elsa, Nancy's horse falls in a horse and nearly throws her. It becomes clear that someone deliberately dug the hole in the ground. Elsa then confesses that other things happened. Someone lost their gear, someone else had a minor accident, and a horse got spooked. Elsa volunteers to talk to Mrs. Rogers on Nancy's behalf and gets her and George jobs working for the club. They just lost a counselor and some campers because of all the strange stuff. Elsa even gets Bess an internship with some random equestrian newsletter that lets her cover riding fashions.

The first potential suspect is Clare, but only because they hear her threatening this kid Rafael and making fun of him for being poor. She actually tells him that he can't beat her and get a spot on the team because he doesn't have gear or a horse like she does. Mrs. Rogers warns her that if she isn't nice to the other kids, she might lose her spot in the club and never make the team.

Strange stuff happens right away. Someone writes a threatening note on Nancy's car, and she thinks it was Clare because the girl was supposedly in town and visiting with her brother at the time while they had an eye on everyone else. Someone spills oil all over the pool, and a girl almost breaks her arm when she slips on it. Rafael also finds that someone destroyed his saddle. Mrs. Roberts offers to replace it for free and sends Nancy and Elsa into town.

They get to meet Charlotte, the woman who owns the town's only equestrian store. She seems really nice and friendly but isn't a fan of Josh Bryant. He owns a pony club that is close to theirs but separated by a patch of woods. Charlotte offers to help Bess with a story on the latest fashions and kind of teases her about crushing on James, one of the counselors at the club. I only bring this up because it matters later.

Someone also called in a complaint that the horse barn wasn't up to local fire codes, which makes it a little strange when a fire breaks out. They save all the horses, but the fire department does tell them that the barn was totally up to code before. Nancy then finds a pen engraved with the initials JB on the side. Mrs. Rogers agrees to let them talk with Josh Bryant and even gives them directions on how to get to his house through the woods.

They follow the path but take a wrong turn and wind up trying to cross a raging river. If it were anyone else but Nancy, the person would die, but it's Nancy so she survives. They find a camper at the club who tells them all about how it sucks so much. Bryant doesn't help them or give them the advice that they need, he makes them spend all their time taking care of his horses, and he leaves them alone a lot.

The girls head inside and snoop around, but when Bryant comes home, Nancy hides in a dumbwaiter. He naturally finds her and accuses her of trying to set him up or of accusing him of something. Bryant tosses both her and George out of his house and tells them to never come back. He also makes it clear that he thinks he has the much better club.

Mrs. Rogers then gives Nancy permission to snoop around the club. That's when she finds a bottle of olive oil in Clare's dresser. Clare claims that she drinks a small amount every day to make her skin and hair look better, throws a massive fit, and demands they let her go. Since it's fast approaching the big competition of the summer, they let her go.

Whoever keeps doing all this crap continues at the competition. The person replaces markers on a path to make the Green Spring club go in the wrong direction and then hides some of their clothing. Nancy spots Charlotte in the crowd and sees her giving money to James. When she tries to ask her a question, Charlotte books it.

After a chase that lasts for way too long, Nancy finally catches her and gets the truth out of her. Charlotte's mom started the equestrian store and had a ton of money. She was also the best friend of Mrs. Rogers and thought her scholarship was just amazing. When she dies, she left half her fortune to the club. Her will stipulated that if the club ever closed, the money would go to Charlotte for her to open her own club and that if her club failed, she would get the balance.

Charlotte figured she could get the club to shut down, open her own shitty club, and get all the money when her club quickly closed. James's brother was at the other club, and James offered to help her because it would make his brother look better or something. Nancy tells the cops what happened and then Mrs. Rogers. They're all on hand to see her club win the big competition.

*Nancy laughs at George for saying she'd love to join the club because it's only open for 14 to 17 year old kids. Yes Nancy, because there's such a huge age different between a 17 year old and and 18 year old.

*Multiple people point out that there isn't any real difference in the clothing that riders wear during competition, so it doesn't make sense that the newsletter Bess works for has an entire column about fashion.

*Bryant is the owner of a pony club, but when his own club doesn't qualify for the competition, they agree to let him be one of the judges, despite the fact that he tells multiple people how much he hates Rogers and her group. How is that fair?

*The end reveal in this one was super disappointing. Charlotte is seriously only in that scene at her shop, and James is only in one other scene, though Bess does talk about him a little.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sweet Valley High #123: Elizabeth's Rival

The twins are all set to head off to Camp Echo Mountain, a random performing arts camp in Montana. Jessica goes out to pick up new hiking boots and comes home to hear Liz on the phone with someone and talking about how this will be the best summer ever. It turns out that Maria Slater from back in middle school is transferring back to Sweet Valley since moving to New York with her family. She also just so happens to be coming to camp as a counselor with her new best friend Nicole.

Jessica is all down and depressed because this takes place after Christian's death. She heads over to see Lila and help her pack, which mainly consists of taking out all her fancy beaded dresses and designer clothing before telling her that she made a pact for the summer: no more guys. Yeah, right. When Jess isn't looking, Lila pockets her gold lame bikini just in case. Jess is also a little upset that Liz will apparently spend the whole summer with Maria and Nicole instead of paying attention to her poor depressed sister.

Once they get to camp, Jess and Lila immediately put on bikinis and head out for some sunbathing. Liz decides to push one of the beds in the cabin away from the window so she can take the only desk for herself and assumes that the other girls will be fine with it because she needs to write the big play. She puts all her stuff out, including a photo of Todd, and then runs around acting like she should help get things together before deciding not to. She hears someone shouting about fighting and rushes in, only to find Joey, the acting counselor, rehearsing on his own. They do a little mild flirting before she leaves.

Later, she comes back to the cabin to find a girl removing all her stuff from the desk. She says that since she's writing the silly camp play that she needs the desk to herself. The girl then says that there's a contest as to who can write the best play the fastest and that she'll win. Oh, and Joey said he would rather slit his wrists then write a play written by an amateur.

In a nice fit of karma, Maria finally shows up and introduces her best friend from back home, Nicole. Nicole is not at all surprising the chick from the cabin. She and Liz pretty much argue over everything throughout the rest of the book. Nicole makes it clear that Maria is her friend and her friend alone, and she even sets it up so that Maria thinks Liz stole Nicole's diary.

Liz also falls head over heels for Joey and keeps wondering how she could ever feel something for a guy other than Todd. I don't know Liz, maybe because it's a Tuesday? Nicole makes it clear that she has her eye on him and that she always gets what she wants. Lila thinks the whole thing is ridiculous because Joey isn't even that cute.

Her big story is that she sees this guy at the campfire on the first night and falls in luv when he takes his shirt off. When he doesn't approach her, she runs after him. They get some cheesy moment where he strokes her cheek and says people call him Bo. Bo turns out to be super into the outdoors, so Lila pretends that she is too to win his heart.

She and Jess sneak over to the boys' side of camp and hang out with the guys. There's a noise outside, Bo throws himself under his covers while people laugh about it being a prank, and then comes out like nothing happened. Lila assumes that he was making fun of her and runs off in tears. She later gets him alone and makes him tea bark tree, but he freaks out at the sound of an owl hooting and then tells her that he won't sneak over to see her because he's worried about getting caught.

This makes Lila assume that he hates her and think she's silly, so she avoids him for most of the book. While hiding from him outside the big camp dance, Bo tries to find her and starts hyperventilating. It turns out that he's afraid of the dark and doesn't actually do any adventure sports like he said. Bo is the son of a self-made millionaire and is pretty much just like Lila. She tells him the truth about herself, and they fall in love or something.

Elizabeth is so distracted by the thought of Joey and even being in the same room as him that she keeps messing up. Jessica winds up with a group of younger girls who worship her and want to be just like her. Liz's group calls her Dizzie Lizzie and makes fun of her all the time.

During a campfire, Lacey tells them the spooky camp story. There was once a woodsman living near the camp who did odd jobs for them. He fell in love with her head counselor, and Lacey and her husband caught them together. They fired him and forbid them from ever seeing each other again. The girl was heartbroken, but the two wound up disappearing together. They still say you can hear the sound of someone chopping wood though.

Liz decides that this would make the perfect story for her play and skips spending time with her campers to work on it. This leads to Lacey wondering why twins can't be more alike since Liz is a huge flake and Jess is so committed to her own campers. She finishes her play, goes to take a shower, and comes back to find it gone.

While walking through camp, she hears people reading from her play, which Nicole claims she wrote. It turns out that she kept sneaking into the cabin to read it and telling Maria about her “writing” before stealing the finished thing. Liz says she wrote the play, but no one believes her. Joey suggests she write the program, which causes her to run off in tears. When Maria makes it clear that she doesn't know who to believe, Liz explodes on her and basically calls her a bad friend.

Nicole then goes out of her way to antagonize Liz at every turn and keeps bringing up how she stole the play when no one else is around. They get into a fight that causes a huge food fight. Nicole puts the blame on Liz, and Lacey acts all disappointed in her yet again. They have yet another fight over it, where Nicole claims she covered all her tracks. There's a noise outside but they never find out the source.

Jessica has her hands full with campers who want to be just like her. Tanya, one of them, tries to dye her hair blond like Jessica has with a bottle of peroxide. It just so happens to be the weekend of some big family party, so Jess has to go . with her when her brother picks her up. Paul winds up being super hot and not the big dork she assumed, but he explodes on her about being a dumb blond and letting her sister do something so stupid. He threatens to turn her in to Lacey and instead just leaves.

Tanya comes back with all these stories about Paul and how he couldn't stop talking about Jessica. This makes Jessica realize that she's in love with him and how he's the perfect guy for her. She remembers that one of her campers kept filming everyone and uses her video to see him again but then sees something different. Jessica makes a big production of bringing everyone to the main camp house to watch the video. They all see the Nicole and Liz fight and Nicole admitting that she stole the play.

Though Nicole tries to sneak out, Lacey catches her. She gets a whole two weeks of kitchen clean up duty and nothing else. Joey stops by and asks about Nicole before running off. Liz assumes that the two are still together and mopes around but does make up with Maria. Joey comes to her that night and tells her that he called around. He found out that Nicole stole plays from other people but was somehow never caught and that now he knows Liz is the one she's supposed to be with. The only problem is that he heard about this Todd guy. Liz tells him not to worry because she can see other people. Right before they can kiss, kids interrupt them, and he tells her they can continue it later.

Jessica borrows Lacey's car to sneak into town and goes to the family restaurant where Paul works. He explodes on her about how she's a terrible counselor and basically stealing from her boss, so she too runs off in tears. She gets a flat tire and freaks out until Paul shows up. He apologizes for being an asshole and says that she realized Tanya probably told her how he felt. Not only does he change her tire, but they then make out. What the hell?

Liz and Joey wind up together in the end. He sneaks over one night so they can head down to the lake and make out because teenage boys apparently love making out in the middle of the night when no adults are around and then stopping at the appropriate time. They go swimming the next day, but when they head back, she stops at the sight of a black BMW. Todd, who is right next to Nicole, suddenly looks up and tells her that they need to talk. Dunh dunh dunh.

*The camp cook Bernard is super friendly but described as being a terrible cook. Lacey keeps him on because he's so sweet and nice to the kids. Yet, their first meal consists of corn on the cob that he burned black, potato salad made with so much mayonnaise that it's runny and under cooked potatoes, and chicken that splinters when you cut it but is still bright pink and raw on the inside. How is that safe for kids?

*Lila gets concerned about Jessica's no boys this summer rule and explains that she went through several of her boy fads in the past like when she dated commoners instead of royals, two or more guys instead of one, or younger guys instead of older guys.

*Lila grabs the gold lame bikini because her father told her that a Fowler is always prepared for any situation and she never knows when a situation might call for her to be sexy. As an adult, the thought of teens trying to look sexy really creeps me out.

*The play thing makes no sense. The winner is whoever writes the best play the fastest. So, which is it? Is the winner the first play they get or what?

*The twins aren't the only ones with doppelgangers! Jessica gets paired with this counselor named Derek who conveniently looks exactly like Ken. He has a major crush on her, but she keeps freaking out about it.

*Jessica feels bad about her relationship with Ken ended and describes what happened as her meeting Christian and how they had a flirty friendship. Yeah, totally not what happened. Does she seriously not remember constantly cheating on Ken with him?

*Elizabeth literally thinks that she fell in love with Joey at first sight and wonders how she could ever fall for someone else when she's in love with Todd. I guess she forget the dozens of other times that she cheated on him with some other rando.

*How would Liz possibly get away with this? Both Aaron and Winston, one of Todd's best friends, are counselors. Does she expect Winston to just not tell him?

*Paul really really irritates me. He talks down to Jess and actually calls her a dumb blond, but she falls in love with him after one meeting. He then screams at her and says a bunch of rude shit to her, but she forgives him and makes out with him all because he says he wants to kiss her “devastating lips” later. Oh yeah, he's totally an improvement on Ken.

*Nicole is apparently not an amateur because she had a ton of plays produced at theaters in NY. It takes Joey like three calls to find out that she stole the work other people did. Yet somehow, no one ever had any evidence to prove it. Sure.

*Liz borrows an outfit from Maria to impress Joey, which is a stretchy black miniskirt and a silver silk tank top, and then she wears Jessica's hot new bright green bikini to swim with him. It kind of sounds like he's more attracted to Jessica then Liz!

*Todd and Liz go to makeout point at the beginning, and she keeps going on and on about how she's always felt like something was missing since Maria moved. Todd gets kind of ticked off, and so would I, especially since she hasn't mentioned Maria in 36 years. She also says that Maria was the only friend she could talk to about writing, but she had friends on the newspaper and Maria later got back into acting and not writing.

*Liz gets annoyed with Todd for doubting their love and thinking she might cheat on him at camp. She does remember what happened in the past every time he left town, she left town, or they spent more than 20 minutes apart, right?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #117: Mystery on the Menu (1994)

George and Bess apparently love watching cooking shows and reading cooking magazines. When one ran a contest for an original recipe for Valentine's Day, they had a bet. George entered a recipe for raspberry chiffon cake that her grandmother once made and won, so Bess owes her 20 bucks. Three winners get free dessert cooking lessons from some major cooking school. Since anyone else can sign up and pay for the same lessons, Nancy and Bess decide to go along too.

They quickly meet Sophie, the woman who runs the cooking school, and her head administrator, Baird. The girls also meet Paul and Lila, the other two winners, and Gloria, a woman who signed up for the classes, as well as Regis and Alicia, the two instructors for the classes. Regis has his own restaurant in NYC, while Alicia has a restaurant in New Orleans. Not only does Regis make it clear that he dislikes Alicia, but he also brings two yappy little dogs with him.

It doesn't take long before Nancy discovers that Paul is a terrible cook. He keeps messing up in class and doesn't really seem to have an interest in cooking. Gloria reveals that she's actually the author of several popular cookbooks and signed up for the lessons as a refresher before publishing her next book.

Regis complains to the head chef that he absolutely must have a green side salad at dinner and cannot go without one. That same night, he passes out in the middle of dinner, and Nancy realizes that he was poisoned. Someone replaced the edible flowers in his salad with inedible ones that made him sick. When he comes back, he claims that Alicia did it because she hates him.

Alicia tells Nancy that Sophie needs a new head pastry instructor and plans on offering the job to either one of them, which is why Regis wants to make her look bad. Nancy then catches Lila in a closed off area of the school. Lila claims she loves architecture and was just checking out the floor, but when Nancy brings up an architecture term, Lila thinks it's something different and scurries away. It turns out that this area is an office where Sophie stores a bunch of recipes left behind by former chefs and workers.

Nancy then catches Lila outside in the greenhouse, and Lila makes a comment that makes it seem like she knows more about the property. It turns out that Lila's family were once really wealthy and built the mansion where the school is now. Her dad lost the house and all their family money because he gambled too much. She came back just to check out the house and when Nancy found her in the room, she was looking for the initials she carved into the floor of a guy she liked when she was a kid.

She also discovers that Gloria's books no longer sell and that the store in town even put the books on the clearance shelf. Gloria throws a fit when confronted but then sneaks into the closed off room and leaves with a folder. Nancy breaks into the woman's room and accesses her computer to find that Gloria stole the recipes to use in her next cookbook. She begs Nancy to keep her secret and even though she isn't happy about it, Nancy pretty much goes along with her.

While talking to Regis about who would want to harm him, someone sneaks into the room and hurls a knife at his head, which barely misses him. When Nancy finds Alicia's scarf left behind, he claims it's proof she wants him dead. Someone then puts an aerosol can in the oven, which Alicia preheats for class. The can explodes and blows the door off, nearly killing her too. Regis claims that she did it on purpose and wants to make it looks like she's also a victim.

After reading a newspaper article about one of the biggest cooking schools in the country shutting down, Nancy starts putting things together. She talks really loudly at dinner about how she lost one of her earrings and will be going into the basement to look for it. When she does, the lights go out because of a storm passing through, but not before she sees Paul in front of her, as in Paul, the guy who can't cook.

Paul winds up being the one behind everything. His dad is the administrator at the competing cooking school. Paul thought he could come in and sabotage this school, which would make people want to study with his dad. Before he could really get his plan going though, his dad announced plans to shut down his own school.

Paul winds up chasing Nancy all over the basement until she races outside. He then chases her down, but Regis' two dogs come of nowhere and attack him. While he's distracted, Nancy knocks him down and then punches him in the face, which makes him literally just sit down until Regis and some other guys come outside, carry him upstairs, and lock him in his room.

In the end, Sophie finds out that Baird was selling stories about the cooking school behind her back and trying to make it look like she was inept so he could take over. She never does find out about Gloria and the recipe thefts though. Regis bets Alicia that his Mississippi mud pie is better than hers, and they hold one last contest. The server brings him out a slice, he takes a bite, and then he declares that no one could make one better. That's when the server reveals that there was a mistake in the kitchen and that he actually ate Alicia's pie. Oops.

*If you had your own restaurant in a major city like NYC or New Orleans, why the hell would you want to move to the middle of nowhere and work as a cooking teacher? I can't picture any chef putting in the time to open a restaurant and then just giving it up.

*Lila is in her forties or around there, but Sophie says the house was a private home, then a boarding school, and something else before she bought it. Lila lived there until she was a teenager, so it really doesn't make sense that it would have been so many other things.

*George actually made a low fat and low calorie version of her grandmother's recipe, but I can't really see it beating all the hundreds of other recipes they got.

*Why is there even a room with a bunch of old recipes stored in it? This cooking school supposedly only opened five years ago, which isn't that long.

*Also, how does a cooking school develop such an impressive reputation in five years??? This school is supposedly so great and amazing that it has a waiting list, but schools that have decades of experience are closing down because no one wants to attend.

*Sophie explains that the school operates like a regular college and even has dorm rooms for its students. When they're on vacation, they use those rooms for students signing up for their shorter classes. That's nice and all, but wouldn't the students leave their stuff in their rooms while on vacation? I'd also like to know what vacation falls around the middle of February that lets them take a week off...