Friday, June 23, 2017

Team Sweet Valley #1: Jessica Goes for the Gold

The California Games are fast approaching. If you never heard of them before, don't worry because they were totally made up for this very small series. Like decades ago, California decided to host its own miniature Olympics for junior high kids. The top 25 teams in all sports would meet once a year to compete. Due to budget cuts, this got dropped to once every two years.

Jessica joined the gymnastics team and is the best one on the team because of her amazing natural talents. Little kids literally freeze when they see her around town or at meets because she's the best gymnast in the entire world. Some even ask for her autograph. She assumes that she'll take home the gold and that everyone will totally love her.

At one of their last meets of the year, she scores a 9.5 on the uneven bars, which is the highest score that anyone on her team ever got. That guarantees that they'll get to compete in the California Games. At that meet, she finally gets to see Dawn, who is the best gymnast on the Weston Middle School team. Everyone refers to her as the Weston version of Jessica Wakefield, which Jessica finds ridiculous because everyone knows there is only one Jessica Wakefield. Dawn places second and refuses to even shake her hand. Jessica graciously thinks that Dawn should be happy to come in second at a meet that involves Jessica Wakefield.

Weston only has two more chances to make it to the California Games, but both meets put them up against SVMS. Coach Arlin, the only coach we've ever seen in Sweet Valley books, tells Jessica to watch Dawn because she's so graceful. Jessica thinks that's insane because she's so clearly better. Dawn goes to the locker room, hides baby oil under a bandage on her ankle, and then competes on the uneven bars. After her turn, she spreads the oil all over the bars. Jessica slips and slides all the bars and scores a 5. something. When she accuses Dawn of putting oil on the bars, which the other girl quickly cleans off, Coach Arlin tells her to calm down before they get disqualified for unsportsmanlike behavior.

When Elizabeth gives her a whole lecture on how an eye for an eye is a bad thing, Jessica goes to Steven for advice. He tells her that basketball players cheat by putting sugar in the other team's towels. When guys rub their hands on the towels, the sugar gets all over, and as they sweat, it sticks all over them. After some experimenting, she figures out how to mix sugar with the chalk for the bars competition.

After her own performance at the next meet, she “accidentally” trips and spills the chalk. She then refills it with her own mixture. Dawn uses that chalk, can barely hold onto the bars, and falls. Jessica smirks about it and thinks she doesn't even deserve the low score that she gets. She completely ignores the fact that the coach has to carry Dawn off because she thinks she can't possibly be really hurt. Jessica then has to jump into action and replace the mixture before Lila can compete.

Two little girls chatting next to her the next day make her realize that Dawn really did get hurt. Jessica calls the Weston coach and says her name is Elizabeth Fowler. The coach says that Dawn has to rest for the weekend and see how things go but that there is a chance she might not be able to compete. Jessica calls her and then feels bad enough that she takes her a gift basket, but Dawn refuses to even look at her because she knows that Jess sabotaged her routine.

Since this is Jessica “No Conscious” Wakefield we're talking about here, she decides to just blow her off and ignore her from now on. The only problem is that she keeps thinking about how she might get hurt and how gymnasts get hurt all the time, which makes her too afraid to even get up on the bars. Her coach keeps pushing her, but she keeps putting it off. She can't even talk to Liz about it because she doesn't want anyone to know she's scared.

We also have to deal with Donald Zwerdling. After losing a shot to join the boys' team, he starts hanging around the girls all the time and becomes their towel boy. He tries to pick up tips from them, but they're way too busy to help him, so he starts trying to practice on his own. This causes him to use their equipment, get in their way all the time, and he even almost knocks Lila down once.

Jessica heads over to the Weston gym and can't help noticing that the school is super rundown and that it doesn't have nearly as many resources as her own gym. Dawn refuses to see her or talk to her, but she tells her that she'll just keep coming back, and she actually does. She shows up every day and helps Dawn really perfect her routine. This causes her to leave her own practices early and tick off her coach who still wants to see her on the bars.

Donald finally realizes that Jessica is scared and keeps aggravating her until she finally does her routine. It's of course the best thing ever and the best routine she ever did. The coach wants to take the whole team out to celebrate, but Jessica turns them down so she can help Dawn some more. Dawn makes a mistake, and when Jessica tries to help her, she comes down hard on her ankle.

Though she uses lots and lots of ice, she's seriously hurt. At the California Games, she has to skip the dismount that would win her gold and almost can't make a solid landing. Dawn does the best job of her life and wins gold, while Jessica takes home a silver medal. Since Dawn also scored something like two silver medals, a bronze medal, and another gold medal, she also wins a special prize for being the best all around gymnast.

At the ceremony, Dawn gets a little sad because she sees how Jessica's teammates rallied around her when her ankle went out. She realizes that she's so focused on gymnastics that she doesn't have time for friends like that. Jessica tells her on the podium that she looks forward to competing against her again and winning. Dawn tells her that they'll see and then gives a speech as she accepts her awards to thank her good friend for all her help. Gr.

*This was a series that I totally never thought I would find in the “wild” and one I thought I would eventually buy on Amazon. I literally squealed when I spotted both in the series at a thrift store.

*Jessica gets irritated after getting her big score because the judge tells her that she did a nice job and she expects him to tell her it was the most impressive routine he ever saw.

*Lila and Jessica have to tell Janet that they need to skip some Unicorn meetings for practices. Janet freaks out and then calms down because it will be so great when they bring home a gold and silver medal. Jessica points out that she can only win one medal in one event, which causes Lila to roll her eyes and point out that she would bring home the silver. Jessica knows this is as likely as a Wakefield twin failing at something but says nothing because she doesn't want Janet to get mad.

*Other random girls on the squad, other than Lila and Jessica, include Sophia, Mary, and Amy. We never hear anything about them or their scores though.

*Getting to the California Games makes no sense to me. Jessica is super good at the uneven bars, but she never says anything about the other events. They make it to the California Games because of their overall team scores, but then they all compete against each other. Wouldn't they just take the top girls with the highest scores instead of teams where one person may be great and another person is shit?

*When Ned realizes that two brand new bags of sugar went missing, Jessica makes up a story about watching a show about mysterious household goods that go missing. I would totally watch that show.

*I read somewhere that Team Sweet Valley was supposed to be an entirely new series but didn't do so well, so some of the books are just listed as SVT books. It makes sense though. In the second book, it sets things up for later books that never come.

*Everyone keeps talking about how Jessica is so amazing because of her experience taking dance classes and as a Booster. Except that her cheerleading squad really doesn't do anything special, and dance classes won't help with things like the vault or bars.

*Donald knows so little about gymnastics that he doesn't even realize the guys and girls compete in different events until someone points it out.

*Donald is extremely annoying. Amy takes a break from practicing her floor routine, Donald takes over and makes everyone watch as he does something lame and fails yet again, and she tells him that she really needs to practice more. Elizabeth is all shocked at how rude her friend is, but come on! They have like a week to get ready for a big meet, and he's just getting in the way and keeping them from practicing.

*Liz lectures multiple people about how they should be nice to and encourage him because he needs it, except that he doesn't actually need it. There is absolutely no reason for him to be in that gym and wasting their time.

*Jessica eventually decides that winning silver is okay because she can handle giving up Unicorn meetings, gossip, talking about boys, shopping, and all that stuff for a few weeks but that she isn't serious about gymnastics.

*Dawn apparently trains all the time. She's been doing gymnastics since she was a toddler, practices every morning, and practices after school and on weekends. It really annoys me that Jessica joins the team and starts winning first place prizes after a few weeks as well as beating someone who literally trained her entire life. Could they not just make a book where one of the twins loses because she isn't as good as someone else at something? That would much rather be a lesson than the crap books we got where they either deliberately lost like Liz and the whole surfing thing or only lost because they helped someone else for the first time ever.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Unicorn Club #11: Angels Keep Out

Elizabeth has been feeling a little down lately but especially since Mandy ditched the Angels to go back to the Unicorns. While hosting a party for her club at home, the other girls get pretty depressed because they miss Mandy a lot. When she tells her mom about it later, Alice suggests that the Angels have a party at their house the following weekend. Liz immediately tells her friends and starts making plans.

Sadly, Jessica had the exact same idea while hosting a Unicorn Club meeting that day by the pool. Her reason for throwing a party is a little different though. See, one of the kids in the kid center told her that she thought the Angels were the best club because her brother, some popular and super hottie in the eighth grade, said that. Jess wants to throw a party and show that they are the best around. When Liz says she already made plans and that it was Alice's idea, Jessica just says that Liz heard them talking about their own plans, stole the idea, and the convinced her mom that Alice was the one to come up with the idea.

The Unicorns, especially Kimberly, fully believe that Liz overheard them and stole their idea. Kimberly is about ready to attack Liz in front of the cafeteria when Jess holds her back. They decide that they'll just throw an amazing party that will make the Angels feel stupid. At the kids' center, Mandy tells Liz that she feels bad that she can't come to her party. When Liz says that she can come to both parties and tells her that theirs is set for Friday at seven, Mandy can't meet her eye and says that some people may not like that idea. I feel bad for her.

When the Unicorns hear about the party plans, Kimberly and Jessica immediately decide to hold theirs on the same date and at the same time. Mandy begs them to reconsider and even suggests hosting a joint problem, but they act like she's a bug or something. They also plan to throw it at Lila's house. Jessica comes home and tells Liz about their plans, which causes her to freak out. She accuses them of being terrible people, Jessica says it's not their fault they choose the exact same time and that her sister is rude, and Liz says that the Unicorns are unfair and mean. Jess snaps back about how Mandy chose them, Liz actually starts crying, Jess kind of half ass says she didn't mean it, and Liz throws her out of her room.

Liz suggests that the Angels change their party plans, but Kimberly overhears and gives a loud speech about how their club is falling apart. They get right in the faces of each other, and Liz refers to Fowler Crest as Fowler Crust because it's so boring and people are tired of going to parties there. Jessica snaps back that they have a much better party plan and Liz is just out of touch. The only problem is that they have nothing.

Both clubs can't help noticing that the kids center needs some serious help. The roof leaks, they keep running out of food, and now the sink backs up. After Jessica gets doused with slime and gunk from the sink, she later tells her friends about a horrible dream she had about the sink. Mandy then comes up with an idea to throw a fundraiser at the center. Sadly, Liz comes up with the same exact day. Both go to the head of the center and ask for her permission. She gives it to them both and doesn't tell either club about the party the other planned.

While all this is going on, Liz develops one of those “I got it bad for you” crushes on Todd. Even though they kind of dated the year before, she now can't stop thinking about him. Jessica even catches her twin writing his name over and over again in her notebook instead of doing homework. When Liz asks him to the party, he calls it a date and seems pretty excited. In hopes of reaching a compromise with her twin, Liz tells Jess what he said. Jess just acts bored and tells her that there is no way Todd would skip out on an awesome Unicorn party just to hang out with Liz, even if he does like her. Bitch.

We then get multiple chapters of middle school espionage. Liz and Todd come up with a plan to fool Jessica. When she dresses up like her twin and approaches him, he pretends the Angels are still throwing a small party at the Wakefield house. She then goes to the Angels and brags about how she figured out their secret. Since they all know what really happened, they just pretend like they're pissed at her. Liz even accuses Jessica of bugging her locker. Jessica also listens to her phone conversations and follows her around the mall. Liz is too busy worrying about whether Todd like likes her and whether the Angels will throw her out for having a crush to really care about what the Unicorns do.

Both clubs hang up posters for secret parties that tell guests to go to a location for a map and directions. The Unicorns get to the center first and set up a huge casino night event, while the Angels throw a carnival party outside. The lady in charge tells each club that she already started getting some work done to explain why the Unicorns can't go outside and why the Angels can't go inside. Things go fine until Jessica realizes that she was so busy spying on her twin that she completely forgot to bring food for the party. Outside, Liz realizes that she was so busy thinking about Todd that she forgot to bring drinks for the party.

The twins run into each other in the kitchen, and Jess catches Liz trying to steal some soda. They have such a huge fight that the lady in charge – I seriously cannot remember her name! - runs out to check on them. She tells them that she agreed to let both parties happen because she though they would work out their problems and get along. The twins make up and agree to combine both parties. Mandy helps Liz move the refreshment table to an equal distance between both.

Todd approaches Liz and asks if they can spend some time alone. Not only does he totally hold her hand, but he actually kisses her on the lips! So scandalous! The Angels confront her and tease her about her little crush, but they then tell her that it's totally okay to like boys and that if she had told them about Todd, maybe they would have found dates too. Jessica, feeling a little jealous of her twin, decides to take a break and have some fun instead of focusing on guys all the time.

*This is one of those books that flips back and forth between Jessica's and Elizabeth's point of view, which I find super annoying.

*To keep up with the Unicorner, the Angels call “their table” the Angeliner. You have got to be kidding me.

*When the twins fight over the dinner table about who had the idea for a party first, Steven goes from taking sides to encouraging them to fight it out to begging his parents to ban them both from throwing parties.

*All the Unicorns shoot down Kimberly's idea for throwing a party on the beach because it sounds messy and like a lot of work. And yet in high school, they seldom throw a party away from the beach!

*Kimberly wears these shoes that she is obsessed with that are brown loafers with a platform sole. Does anyone else totally remember wearing similar shoes?

*Seriously, why did Mandy go back to the Unicorn Club? In this book, she has more in common with Liz, hates that her friends – especially Kimberly – tell her what she can and cannot do, and is really upset with Jessica for eavesdropping on her sister. It's pretty clear that she's better suited for the Angels.

*In the hopes of impressing Todd, Liz asks her friends what they think about an outfit that consists of a red and black checked sweater, black miniskirt, and black pumps. Is she in seventh grade or a streetwalker?

*Jessica gets angry that Liz throws her out of her bedroom when they have the fight and she brings up Mandy because she did try to apologize. Um no, she basically said like oh that didn't come out the way I wanted. When you apologize to someone, you really only need two words!

*Kimberly and the other Unicorns, but especially Kimberly, keep making rude comments about the Wakefield house, like how party guests will be so disappointed and how it's such a rinky dink yard. Jessica keeps getting annoyed but doesn't really speak up, and it even starts to annoy Ned. I'm pretty sure I would snap at some point.

*Lila's dad hired some chef from France to be their personal chef. The girls meet at her house to pick out dishes for him to make for the party, but Lila says her dad won't spring for everything they want because it will cost too much. Is it weird that I assumed they had some type of live-in chef already? Doesn't Mrs. Purvis cook for Lila like every day?

*Mr. Fowler says it's too much for him to make another donation to the kids center, but he pays for a bunch of stuff for the party. Not only does he rent all the casino games and equipment, but he also rents costumes to make the girls look like real dealers. Are you seriously telling me they could raise more money from their middle school friends than he put out for all that stuff?

*I'd really like to know how much money they raised. They only charged $1 for a game outside or for a bag of chips inside. Someone says there were around 200 kids combined at both parties. I can't imagine they raised enough to do anything really significant.

*Liz worries about telling her friends about her crush on Todd because they keep talking about how crushes are stupid and how there is more to life than guys. They also say that only girls like the Unicorns have crushes. Then, they're all surprised that she thought they wouldn't like her if she had a crush!

*While talking about guys in the end, Maria says there is no one cuter than Bruce Patman. Yeah, I seem to remember that even sixth grade Marie found him repulsive.

*Jessica going off about how Mandy leaving the Angels for the Unicorns proves that they're the better club doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you consider that Mary, one of the original Unicorns who was in that club for like 12 years and 100+ books, actually left them for the Angels.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Files #108: The Secret of the Tibetan Treasure (1992)

Nelson Stone, the curator of the brand new Clinton Park Museum, calls Nancy and asks for her help solving a mystery. Though she isn't happy at the idea of skipping tennis, George agrees to go with her to the museum, and Bess puts off yet another shopping trip to go too. Clinton Park is a town not far away from River Heights. Amanda Lane, a super rich lady in town, donated her family home to the city to build a museum, and the city hired Stone to run it.

Nancy meets Su-Lin, a college student working as an associate curator, and her grandfather, who is the gardener. Stone takes her into the exhibit hall to show her the Golden Horse, the museum's prized possession. He recently spent one million dollars on it, which the museum board didn't like. Hillary Lane, the great-niece of Amanda Lane, is unhappy too because she lost the sculpture, which is made of real gold and jewels, to him at auction.

When they go back to his office to talk, he tells her that he got a threatening letter in the mail and that someone wants him dead. He then suddenly remembers that he didn't lock the Golden Horse back up, rushes to the exhibit hall, and finds that someone stole it. The cops come and launch a full investigation, but Nancy decides to check things out on her own.

She discovers a gold earring left behind and sees red purse in an office. Su-Lin tells her that the office belongs to Margaret Parker, Stone's assistant but that she's off for the day. When she goes back, the purse is gone. Hillary Lane then makes an appearance and whines about how the board never should have hired Stone. It turns out that she desperately wanted the curator job for herself, which makes sense because she's also an art history advanced degree holder with years of experience and a published author in the field.

Nancy winds up going to see Hillary under the guise of wanting to buy tickets for a big dog show she holds. Hillary is a little hesitant to let her in but quickly warms up to her because she knows Carson, Nancy's dad. She even takes her in to show Nancy her private collection of antiques, which includes a second Golden Horse. Hillary explains that it's part of a matched set, which is why she wanted the one stolen from the museum.

The girls wander across a car accident with Stone behind the wheel. He tells them that his brakes failed and it's proof that someone wants him dead. Nancy tracks down the mechanic working on the car and finds Margaret Parker actually inside the car. She claims that she lost an earring in her boss's car that morning, then gets flustered when Nancy asks her about the theft, and she claims that she wasn't actually at the museum that day at all. The mechanic finds proof that someone cut the brake lines with what looks like a hacksaw.

Nancy and the gang go back to see Stone and arrive just as he gets home. He finds a box of fancy chocolates on his porch, and despite clear hints from Bess, he acts really stingy and puts them away. Stone calls Nancy the next day to tell her that his neighbor's dog got in his trash, found the chocolates he conveniently threw away, and nearly died. Though she points out that eating an entire box of chocolates would make any dog sick, he's convinced someone tried to poison him.

Su-Lin then calls to tell Nancy that Stone fired her grandfather. She heads over to their house and learns that the man fired him after claiming that a hacksaw went missing, which he blamed on him. They tell her all about how he screams at workers all the time and acts like a pompous jerk. Nancy goes back to the museum to search for the hacksaw and actually finds it, but someone pushes her down, steals the saw, and then locks her in the tool shed. Su-Lin gives her an elegant and fancy necklace that is an antique from her family. She tells Nancy the necklace will keep her safe as long as she never opens the locket.

At the dog show, the girls meet Justin Todd and his wife, Fiona. Fiona falls in love with the necklace and asks if her husband can see it because he makes replicas of antiques. He flips out on her and claims that he would never do something like that. When she keeps talking about a job he just worked on in his jewelry shop, he pretty much grabs her by the arm and drags her away. She later overhears his wife talking about some big replica he just made from Professor Herbert, which he doesn't want anyone to know about. Herbert is a professor at a local college who teaches art history and classes on antiquities. He meets Nancy and seems like a normal guy though.

Bess, George, and Nancy stop by Todd's jewelry shop when he's gone and pretend to the clerk that they find jewelry making fascinating. He lets them check out the workshop while he helps a customer, and Nancy manages to find a mold to make a Golden Horse! She also learns that the letter Stone got came from the typewriter in his own office and discovers that he made the whole thing up.

While on the way home, they notice a tan car following them. A completely different car tries to run her and George off the road, but the cops rush to help, claiming that someone called in a report. That someone is Margaret Parker, who was in the tan car behind them. Margaret refuses to talk to Nancy and pretty much runs away.

Hoping to talk more with Herbert, Nancy stops by his office. He keeps talking about her necklace and ignoring all her other questions. When his secretary comes in with news about something he plans on selling, he rushes Nancy outside. On the spur of the moment, she steals the ribbon from his typewriter and rushes outside. She and George find that it's a note to someone named Sharp about setting up a deal to sell the real Golden Horse.

Before they can do anything smart like take it to the cops, they decide to sneak back into his office and look for the horse. They instead get caught by the professor who, for some strange reason, has two attack dogs with him. I repeat, he has two attack dogs standing guard over his office on a college campus in the middle of the night. He forces them outside and into his car, where he drives them to a secluded cabin.

College professor and two barely legal girls in a cabin in the middle of nowhere is not the start to amateur porn. It's really just an excuse for him to get rid of Nancy. After taking the necklace from her, he ties them up and sets the cabin on fire. He then makes the mistake of opening the necklace, which causes a red powder to come out and blind him. The two girls escape, but Nancy feels bad enough that she goes back inside and rescues him.

Once the cops arrest Herbert, he reveals the location of the real Golden Horse. It turns out that he authenticated the real thing, stole it, and then replaced it with plans to sell the original. The cops ask Nancy to go undercover and help them set up Sharp, the go between. Nancy takes an envelope and meets with Sharp, who is actually Justin Todd. Realizing it's a set up, he forces Nancy in his car and drives off.

That's when the full story comes out. Todd and Herbert worked together to con Stone and steal the real Golden Horse to sell it. He then made a replica and put it back in the museum. Nancy convinces him that she's just a student Herbert asked to do a favor for in exchange for extra credit. When he takes her back to drop her off, the cops surround his car and arrest him.

In the end, it turns out that Stone found out the Golden Horse was a fake and forced Margaret Parker to help him steal it. He planned on using the insurance money to cover up his mistake and buy more artifacts, so he winds up arrested too. The museum board hires Hillary to be the new curator, and she can't wait to see the Golden Horse on display. She also hires back Su-Lin and her grandfather.

*Hillary is a suspect because she's so unhappy that her aunt left the family house to the city. Given that she's her aunt's last of kin and multiple generations of her family were born there, I can totally see her side of things.

*The museum has its own security guard, but he's some random old man who slept through the whole theft and is actually still asleep when the cops get there.

*At one point, someone breaks the window on her car and leaves a threatening note in the backseat with a knife through it. They basically just blow it off as another part of the job. It's weird too because it never gets mentioned again, and Nancy never mentions getting her car repaired.

*The red powder inside the locket is a type of chili powder that Tibetan people used for protection, which explains why it temporarily blinded Herbert.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Nancy Drew Files #42: The Wrong Chemistry (1989)

Dean Jarvis, who is so not the dean who Nancy helped out in the past, calls Nancy to Emerson College to help him with a case. Professor Maszak is a visiting professor from the Soviet Union working with some compound called CLT that someone keeps stealing. He swears it isn't dangerous, but the thefts might ruin his experiment. Nancy agrees to help out and go undercover as a recent transfer student while still secretly hoping that she can spend some time with Ned.

While on the way to meet him, she has a run in with some students when she almost runs over their friend in the middle of the road. She meets Karen, the leader of this group called Protect Our Environment, and Phillip Bangs, an adult she assumes is their sponsor. They tell her that they're rehearsing for a protest they plan on doing when a senator visits campus because he wants to sell off nature preserves and national forests.

Nancy finally meets up with Ned and his friends, and things go well until she brings up POE. Ned suddenly turns all dark and stormy and won't even look her in the eye. When she tries to touch him, he shrugs off her arm and claims he needs to get to class right away. He also blows off plans for their date later that night, and she finds him in the cafeteria with some chick named Angela. It turns out that Angela is on the fence about joining POE, and Ned wants to change her mind. He tells them that he doesn't trust the organization and that he thinks they do things the wrong way.

In the hopes of actually working on her case, Nancy stops by Maszak's office and meets both him and his assistant, Sara. They both seem pretty disorganized and Sara makes a first year chem major mistake of mixing two different chemicals and almost blowing up the lab. Nancy does some research on her own and finds out that Maszak is working on an experiment to use a human growth hormone on different species to help them grow.

Ned gets the bad news that Angela left to join the group and convinces Nancy to go with him to check things out. It turns out that all POE members live together in an abandoned office complex off campus and in some other random abandoned buildings. Karen tells them that Angela decided to live with them and went home to get permission from her parents to move off campus. Bangs randomly shows up and claims he was supposed to leave the day before but missed his flight and Karen was nice enough to let him stay there. Ned finds the whole thing suspicious because Angela's dad actually passed away, so she couldn't get his permission.

Further investigation reveals that someone dropped an earring near the scene of the last theft that looks like a coiled snake. Conveniently, all the female members of POE wear the same thing. While back at the lab, someone hits Nancy over the head (of course) and locks her in a closet before setting the room on fire. Nancy manages to wrap lab coats around her head, break the door down and escape.

While investigating the fire, she finds a hidden door, which the security guard explains is actually an elevator that they no longer use. Nancy uses her lock picking skills to unlock the door and start the elevator, which takes them to an unused basement. Realizing that the thief probably used that as his/her escape, she plans to come back later and check it out.

When she does, she finds tunnels leading to other buildings that the maintenance crew once used. She finds one and follows it almost all the way across campus. It brings her almost directly to the front door of Professor Maszak. He goes off her suspect list though when he tells her that he's trying to find a cure for his wife's illness and he really wants to get a job at Emerson to cover her medical bills. Nancy figures that ruining his experiment probably wouldn't lead to a job offer.

After some more investigating, she learns that Bangs was a professor where Maszak once worked and where someone stole his CLT and some other problems occurred. Even though Bangs told her POE was unique to Emerson, it turns out that there was a branch on that other campus. To make matters worse, someone calls and tells her they have Ned..

Nancy sneaks into a POE meeting and finds out that they are bat shit crazy. Bangs encourages them to take fake guns that look like real guns to the protest with the senator to make sure they get their point across. She keeps waiting for someone to speak up and say this is a terrible idea but no one does. When the talk ends, she manages to sneak upstairs and finds both Ned and Angela tied up and drugged.

Bangs comes in and does the classic villain thing where he confesses everything. He doesn't realize that Karen is right outside and listening. He tells her how he stole the CLT and plans on selling it to the highest bidder. They can put it in any water supply and watch as it magnifies the bacteria of that area and kill anyone who drinks it. When Karen pops back up and threatens to call for help, Bangs turns tail and runs.

Nancy chases him and gets caught in the crowd, but luckily some of Ned's friends see her and help her through. She hops in her car and chases Bangs while noticing someone following her. Bangs goes back to the POE office and tries to attack Nancy, but she conveniently finds a cast iron pan that she knocks him over the head with just as the police arrive. Turns out that another of Ned's friends saw her leave, tailed her, and called the cops.

All is well that ends well. Ned and Angela make a miraculous recovery from their drugging, and Karen asks Angela to help her make POE into the kind of organization that doesn't do crazy things like drug water supplies. Ned asks Nancy for a second chance at their romantic date, and she responds by telling him that they can just order pizza in her room...alone...

*It's funny that when the dean first meets Nancy, he can't get over how young she is. Given that she's helped this college like 900 times already, you'd think he would get over it.

*This is one of those times where the college gives Nancy her own room on campus, which has its own private bathroom. I have no idea how that keeps happening because there was a long, long, long waiting list for those rooms at my college.

*Nancy points out that maybe Amanda didn't tell Karen and the others that her dad died, but I have to disagree. If I trusted some random people so much that I was basically giving up college for them, I would most definitely tell them something like that.

*I have a hard time believing that Ned and Nancy haven't yet done the deed, but they'll probably just eat pizza, play Monopoly, and have a good night kiss before he goes back to his own room.

*It's weird to me that every time she visits Emerson, she's either in a room by herself or with another girl. Even in the late 80s, I'm sure colleges had guys and girls sleeping together LOL.

*Maszak gets an offer of tenure to stay at Emerson, teach, and keep working on his experiments as well as getting health insurance for his wife.

*Despite Bangs being behind the whole thing, he's not even a suspect on the list at the beginning! I hate when that happens! The suspects were Maszak, Karen, and Sara, the assistant who was in two scenes and then disappeared.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Sweet Valley Kids #7: Jessica's Big Mistake

I don't know if you know this or not, but Elizabeth Wakefield wants to be a writer someday. That's why she's so excited when she learns that her teacher arranged for author Angela Daley to stop by their class for a talk. Even though she will later talk only about Amanda Howard, Daley is right now her favorite writer ever.

Their teacher, Mrs. Becker, also announces that the writer will personally autograph a copy of her latest book for each student in her class. She'll pick someone to help pass out the books later, which is some kind of huge honor. All the kids go a little overboard to prove that she should pick them. Both Jessica and Carolina keep fighting over helping their teacher, and Winston makes some weird bookshelf thing out of cardboard boxes as a present for the writer.

Acting on Amy's advice, Elizabeth decides to write a story and give it to their teacher. She tries a few different ideas before finding one she likes. After copying it on new paper to make it look better, she tosses the old draft in the trash. Thinking that her twin threw it away because she didn't like it, Jessica digs it out of the trash, writes it over again in her own handwriting, and hands it into the teacher.

The night before the author's visit, Jessica and Elizabeth talk about it while trying to fall asleep. Jess learns that Liz also turned in the story and feels bad enough that she admits what she did the next day. Mrs. Becker forgives her and gives her the copy back, but then Liz finds the story and almost cries until her twin apologizes.

Angela Daley shows up, reads from her latest book, and then reads a very special story about two twin otter cubs that Liz wrote. When she asks someone to help her hand out books, the class unanimously picks Liz. Jess decides that if she can't be the helper, she can at least be first in line. Mrs. Becker then announces an upcoming field trip to the zoo, which I totally already wrote about. LOL

*Daley writes books about animals who act like humans like hedgehogs taking a bus, which sound pretty cute for kids in second grade.

*It's pretty nice of this famous author to take time out of her busy schedule just to read to a second grade class and then give them free copies of her newest book before it even comes out.

*And in case you were wondering, no, their teacher did not know her. Mrs. Becker literally wrote her a letter and got a response a few weeks later.

*Lila keeps bragging about how her dad knows the writer and how she can meet her anytime she wants. She tells them how the author is a glamorous woman who always wears fancy jewelry. Mrs. Daley is actually older, a little frumpy, and wears no jewelry.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Sweet Valley Kids #6: Lila's Secret

For some reason, Elizabeth and Jessica are hanging out in their backyard with Amy. They build a tunnel of cardboard boxes that ends in a creek that I'm pretty sure never existed before and will never exist after. Liz comes up with a fun idea for a backyard camp out, and they make plans to invite all their friends.

The only one unhappy with this plan is Lila. She suggests having the party at her house, which leads to a fight over whether her in ground pool is better than the above ground pool at the Wakefield house. Lila keeps whining about the bugs and the wild animals to the point where the others tell her she can just stay home. Todd and Winston overhear them and joke about showing up in the middle of the night to scare them. Liz calms the group down by pointing out that since they can't sneak out, Todd probably can't either.

Ned and Alice go all out for the girls. They put up a tent, let them cook hot dogs and marshmallows, and then leave them alone outside. Everyone brings some type of stuffed animal to sleep with, but Lila acts really haughty. She says she's too old for that but does have a paper bag that she won't let anyone see. Later, she pulls out an old blankie and says she can't sleep without it when away from home.

The girls all start hearing weird noises and freak out until they hear laughter. Steven and Todd worked together to make them think there were wild animals outside before spraying the tent with water. Ellen cries so much that Alice takes her inside to call her mind before Ellen can decide whether to stay. Ned then walks Todd home.

Liz wakes up in the middle of the night to hear Lila crying. It turns out that Lila has a little bed wetting problem that only occurs when she's away from home. Jessica wakes up to hear them talking, and even though she initially finds it funny, she agrees to help her keep her secret, especially when she sees how much it hurts her best friend. When they wake up for breakfast the next morning, Jessica gives her that look, which lets her know that her secret is safe. Aw.

*Though I totally had an above ground pool growing up, there really is no competition: in ground pools are way better.

*Lila says that her parents are super strict and might not let her go. This makes me once again point out that her mother actually left when she was a baby and was not there when Lila was in the second grade.

*Ned and Alice pretty much do nothing to Steven, even though he literally made Ellen cry for like an hour. Would it be too much for them to punish one of their children?

*As soon as Lila pulled out that bag, I knew she was a bed wetter. We also learn that Steven wet the bed until he was in second or third grade, which is something I would bring up every time he brought home a new girlfriend...

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #156: The Secret in the Stars (2000)

Nancy and the ladies are off to attend a stargazing party at a local park that butts right up against Woody Acres Estate, some fancy gated community. Bess keeps talking about how the tabloids reported that her favorite actor, Will Ryder, was secretly in town to marry his pop singer girlfriend. George finds it much more interesting that they can see Dr. Stars in person. He's some huge radio personality with his own radio show and the man responsible for the party.

A cop stops them and over cars to explain that they need to turn around. There was a prowler spotted in Woody Acres that takes priority over everything else. After getting to the park the back way, they find the place deserted. His van is still set up, but no one is there. While checking things out, Nancy finds a journal entry that he started that night and a promo photo that shows he's a good looking younger man. She nearly slides off a cliff while snopping around before a man saves her.

That man is a boring older guy named Randall. He tells them that he teaches astornomy at a local college and considers Dr. Stars his main competitor. They both found a comet, but the other man reported it first and got to name it. Randall thinks he somehow fixed things. After he leaves, they actually get to meet the real Dr. Stars, who actually sounds completely different than he does on the radio. He apologizes for no one being there and says that someone printed the wrong date on the flyers but asks them to come back the next night.

Nancy checks out the astronomy store in town the next day – aptly named Stare Wars – and meets Richard, a college student studying astronomy. He recommends a book for beginners for her and encourages her to come to a party the next night that his astronomy club will put on. When she heads to meet Bess for ice cream later, she finds her friend being practically assaulted by a private security guard.

The guard rips her camera off her neck, breaking it in the process, rips out the films, slams the whole thing on the ground, and then shouts at Bess to stop stalking her client before getting on a Harley and riding off. It turns out that Bess spotted Will and his girlfriend in a shop and took a picture, which led to this altercation. Nancy gives her a lecture on how stars deserve their privacy before calling her dad for legal advice. Carson then calls back and tells them to go the security company.

They get there in time to hear the owner yelling at Marie about how the cost of the camera will come out of her check. Though he apologizes to the girls, he chides them on how they can't just do whatever he wants and how his clients have the right to privacy, even when out in the middle of a public spot apparently. Marie storms off, and they meet Bruce, who apologizes again and tells them that they won't have a problem with her.

At the next stargazing party, Dr. Stars keeps making mistakes. He gets some info right but then says stuff that intro to astronomy students would know. Richard tells Nancy that some people think he's a phony and that someone else much smarter just tells him what to say on the radio. Research shows that he's married to a botanist who is in South America on a special project. Though they usually chat and send messages to each other online, she's worried because it's been awhile since he reached out.

Nancy can't give that much thought because Bess shows up at her door. Will and his girlfriend are at the local movie theater for its super popular midnight showing, and she wants Nancy to go with her. While there, Will heads to the concession stand, Bess chases after him, and someone else follows them both. Nancy spots Dr. Stars following Will with a camera in his hands, but he hides when he sees her. He denies that he had a camera before admitting that he just wanted to take a picture for his niece. Bruce, the guard assigned to Will for the night, lectures them both and accuses Bess of being a stalker.

Nancy then does some more research and finds out that Dr. Stars should actually be almost 50 and that he has no siblings and no nieces or nephews. At yet another stargazing party, someone finds a telescope set up to look directly into Woody Acres and the engagement party for Will. She goes over to check things out and finds that someone broke the electric fence to keep it from working. Bruce catches her sneaking around and personally escorts her from the property but not before breaking her camera and the film and accusing her of being a stalker too. Oddly enough, she sees him with a camcorder and filming the party.

On the way back to the park, she accidentally stumbles over a telescope knob and some other things that make it look like someone left a trail. She gets close to a small cabin, only to have someone hit her over the back of the head. When she wakes up, she's stuck inside the cabin with all exits sealed and Marie staring at her. Marie explains that she was checking out the cabin when she heard someone dragging in Nancy and hid.

They talk over their suspicions and share evidence, which points to someone kidnapping the real Dr. Stars and posing as him. Marie tells her about a warning the office got about Jake, a photographer who chases celebrities, which makes them realize that it must be him. After finding evidence that someone kept Dr. Stars tied to the bed in the cabin, they break the bed down and use one of its supports to break both a window and the shutter on the window to escape.

The two women track down Bruce, who's in on everything, and Jake. They hear Jake warning Bruce not to hurt the real Dr. Stars and Bruce telling him that Jake only hired him to keep an eye on the guy for a few days. It turns out that Jake and Bruce kidnapped the man the night of the first party and hid him in the cabin until Jake could take pictures of the party and wedding to make a crap ton of money. Nancy bursts through the door and takes Bruce out with some sweet karate moves, and Marie grabs Jake when he makes a run for it. The real Dr. Stars profusely thanks them both before grabbing his laptop to contact his wife.

A few days later, Nancy and the gang are hanging out at her house and eating a cake Hannah made when someone knocks on their door. It's Will Ryder and his soon to be wife. They thank Nancy for saving the day and getting rid of that evil photographer so they can have the type of quiet and intimate wedding they always dreamed of with their 300 closest friends and family. Both girls get brand new cameras from the couple, and Will laughingly calls Bess a stalker when she asks for a picture with him. Ugh.

*The first party is a huge bust because the date was wrong, but dozens of people were still going to that party, so what happened to them? There is literally no one there when they arrive, and Dr. Stars even admits that he forgot to put a sign up about the wrong date. George found the flyer on campus, so it's not like she was the only one who thought it was that same night...

*The whole thing with Marie and Bess's camera ticked me off. If some random woman came up to me on the street and did something like that, I wouldn't hesitate to punch her in the face. I would assume she was some type of thief.

*I may be in the minority here, but I don't think stars deserve the same right to privacy as everyone else does. If you want to pay me $20 million a year, feel free to follow me around with cameras all you would like!

*Will isn't exactly trying to remain private though either. He rides around town on a motorcycle, shops at popular stores, and goes to the local theater for its most popular show. Those aren't the actions of someone who wants a life out of the limelight.

*After they get out of the cabin, Marie wants to stop and call the police, but Nancy tells her that they don't have time for that. Say what now? If you really believe a man's life is in danger, there is always time to stop and call the cops.

*This whole calling a Bess a stalker thing for taking one picture of Will and then being in the same spot with him days later is pretty ridiculous. Plus, I find it hard to believe that no other teenager in River Heights wasn't following him around like a little lost puppy dog.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Unicorn Club #3: The Best Friend Game

It's been awhile since I did one of these books, so you should know that the Unicorn Club now consists of Mandy, Mary, Ellen, Lila, Jess, Liz, Maria, and Evie, a new girl who is in the sixth grade. During a meeting at the Wakefield house, they watch an episode of Best Friends, the hot new show, and talk about how much they hate the Eight Times Eight club, which is a club of eight girls in the eighth grade. They decide that they have to go on the show to prove that they're cooler and nominate Liz to write in for them.

Their other big problem is that during a prank gone wrong, they ruined Mr. Clark's toupee and he wants them to pay the $300 it will cost to replace it. Ellen gives him this tape all about how hair loss isn't such a big deal, and he sends the club a stern note in response. Mandy then buys him a can of that spray on hair stuff. During her presentation though, the “artificial hair” drips everywhere and causes a huge mess. He tells them that they need to give him $50 a week until they pay off their debt and that they absolutely cannot just use Lila's money.

To make money fast, they hang up flyers all over town and offer to do odd jobs. They wind up sitting kids, cleaning floors, scrubbing bathrooms, and that kid of stuff. Jessica does take the time to tell the Eight Times Eight girls that they're going on television before they actually hear anything. It's pretty convenient that they get a call and wind up on the show. Unfortunately, so do the other girls, and they announce that they will go up against each other the next week.

No matter what the Unicorns do, the Eight Times Eight girls compete. Lila gets the club an article in the newspaper, so the other girls get an article in the junior high paper that their friends actually read. They even show up at the big game in matching outfits and do a new cheer they created. When both clubs come to school to hang up banners for the show, they make a bet. The club who loses will have to sing Puff the Magic Dragon in front of the whole cafeteria.

The Unicorns spend days getting ready and going over all types of questions before the show. It turns out that all their practice doesn't help though. They score zero points, while the Eight Times Eight club gets every question right. Liz thinks they got harder questions and that it wasn't fair. The girls all either fight all the time or just stop talking.

When lunch time comes the next day, Liz is the only one who shows up. Everyone else flakes. Though they keep avoiding each other, she finally calls Mandy who schedules an emergency meeting. They decide to go through with the song in their own way. It becomes a rap song with its own hip hop dance, which I would totally pay money to see. Everyone loves their song and goes crazy, but Amanda, the leader of the other club, storms off. Liz realizes that the Eight Times Eight club won because they all think alike and are basically the same person but the Unicorns are all different, which makes them better.

*Lila says that she helped form the Unicorns, Liz says she thought it was always Janet, and Lila says she was there anyway and that there wouldn't be a club without her. I thought this was a club that had been around for several years?

*Elizabeth gets super annoyed when they ask her to write the letter to the show and then when they ask her to write an article for the paper. She's the one who goes on and on and on and on about how much she loves to write!

*While I agree with Mr. Clark to a point, where does he expect girls in the seventh grade to come up with $50 a week without them asking their parents?

*Elizabeth says that Mary had a rough childhood until her foster family adopted her. Say what now? Does anyone else remember the book where her mom came back and got her? And all the other books in SVT where she lived with her mom and stepfather Tim?

*Steven is on some weird diet where he eats vegetarian one day and then can eat anything he wants the next day. That sounds not at all healthy.

*Mandy is surprisingly one of the only Unicorns without pierced ears. That seems oddly strange to me.

*The Eight Times Eight girls literally wear the same outfit every day, which I'm sure their parents love. They wear matching sweatshirts with khaki shorts and white socks with eight balls on them one day and jeans, black boots, and flannel shirts another day.

*The Unicorns all wear their matching club jackets to the show and decide to wear something else purple. Since Liz wears a lavender sundress and Jessica wears a purple turtleneck, black skirt, and striped black and purple socks, I have no idea who that twin on the cover is supposed to be.

*Questions asked on the show include stuff like favorite sport or where you want to travel most, but the Unicorns mainly get stuff like describe so and so's idea of perfect happiness or how so and so would spend a perfect day. So, not exactly fair.