Friday, March 17, 2017

The Unicorn Club #10: Mandy in the Middle


Lila like totally misses Mandy Miller. Ever since the Unicorn Club split into the Unicorns and the Angels. Mandy's been on the fence but seemingly spending more time with the other club. While getting ready for Earth Day at school, which requires that kids dress up, the other Unicorns borrow a bunch of her clothes, leave a huge mess in her room, and just take off without even bothering to help her pick out an outfit. She wishes Mandy were there to help.

Lila stops by a booth the Angels set up for Earth Day to sell sugar-free granola cakes to raise money to preserve the rain forests. Mandy is so into it that Lila buys their entire supply. She keeps going on and on about how the rain forests are so important. Lila even convinces the other girls to leave and check out the other booths while she stays behind and helps clean up.

In the hopes of bringing Mandy back into the fold, Lila convinces her to meet them at Casey's for ice cream. Not only does she offer to pay for her ice cream, but she gives her a pair of super expensive gold earrings. Mandy turns down the earrings because her mom put a pair on layaway for her and seems pretty uncomfortable with the gift. She's even more uncomfortable with the way they make fun of kids at school, especially Lois who for some reason thought it was a good idea to dress up as a whale. Mandy makes up an excuse and leaves.

Lila spots Liz and calls her over to chat. It turns out that Mandy isn't spending time with the Angles either. They actually thought she was leaning more towards the Unicorns. Lila follows Mandy one day and sees her go to the hospital. She runs inside to talk with a nurse because she's worried her friend is sick again but learns that Mandy is just a volunteer there and is smitten with a new kid.

Mandy started volunteering and met Randall who is seven. His mom lives in northern California and doesn't get to see him a lot because her boss won't let her take off much time from work. He and Mandy bond as he gets ready to have surgery to remove a tumor. They even come up with plans for an airplane that would let his mom come see him anytime she wants.

When Lila learns all this, she convinces the club that they have to help poor Randall. They bake cookies and go door to door around her neighborhood to sell them, but they only raise like $12. With permission from her dad, she donates another $3,000 and makes plans to take the money to Mandy. While on the way, Lila sees an adorable little house for sale, stops to look at it, meets the real estate agent who works with her dad, and agrees to buy it on the spot. Mandy looks at everything as Lila trying to buy back her friendship, flips out, and basically tells the Unicorns to shove it.

Lila feels so bad about everything that happened that she goes to the hospital to see Mandy. She instead meets Randall and ends up bonding with him over checkers. Even though it's the night before, Mandy gets stuck at home because her mom made a special dinner for the 50th anniversary of her great aunt and uncle. Lila stays with Randall until his mom gets there, but the poor woman can only stay for an hour. She then has to go home, get some sleep, go to work the next day, and then make the long drive back. Lila comes up with an even better plan. His mom can spend the night with her, take the Fowler private plane back the next morning for work, and then fly back on the plane that night.

Mandy shows up at the hospital the next day and learns what happened. It makes her realize that while Lila is a spoiled brat that she sometimes uses her money for good things. She also remembers all the fun she had with the club and goes to see them, only to hear Lila telling them all about how Randall is super cool and how they need to meet him. They all welcome her back to the club with open arms. When Mandy suggests maybe doing things with the Angels sometimes, they point out that there is no mixing of the two groups. Except you know, the twins who live in the same house.

*Poor Lila. Her friends leave her room a total mess, so she just uses her intercom to call the housekeeper and have her clean up for her.

*Inappropriate outfit for middle school #1: Lila wears black leggings with black ankle boots and a blazer to school.

*Inappropriate outfit number 2: Mandy pairs dangling earrings with a tie dyed shirt and a suede miniskirt.

*Mandy's mom is kind of a bitch. Her daughter literally breaks down in tears because this kid Randall is the only real friend she has now. She knows that his mom can't really be there for him before his surgery but refuses to let Mandy leave even 30 minutes early from their dinner. She also gets annoyed when Mandy gets upset that she missed visiting hours.

*Mandy reminisces about how Jessica was one of her best friends and someone she could always turn to before she joined the club. Say what now? Jessica was the one who would barely talk to her in public and ignored her because the other girls didn't think she was Unicorn material.

*Is it bad that I wish I had a friend like Lila who would buy me expensive gifts all the time and treat me?

*The sugar-free granola snacks she buys are so gross that Lila hides them in the back of the freezer until she can throw them away.

*I kind of want to know what happened to the house she bought. Did her dad make everything go away, or did he even notice she dropped a ton of cash on a new house?

*Mandy hates that the other Unicorns make fun of other kids and are so mean to unpopular kids. She can't even be around them for 20 minutes in the ice cream shop. I don't know why she thinks things will just go back to normal now.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Nancy Drew Files #73: Rendezvous in Rome


Back when I wrote a recap of Swiss Secrets, the first book in the Passport to Romance trilogy, I did not have this book. Here's hoping I manage to track down book number three!

Nancy, George, and Bess head to Rome on their European adventure to meet up with Claudia, a friend they made in the last book. Claudia immediately introduces them to her friend Massimo, a jewelry designer and huge flirt. He falls all over Bess and offers her one of his new necklaces that looks like an authentic antique as long as she will dance with him at least once while in town. They then head to the shop where Claudia works to see some of his other pieces. They compare Bess's necklace to one of the new ones before she puts it back on.

That night, Massimo asks where she got her new necklace and tells her that if she didn't like his, she didn't have to keep it. Bess says it's the same one as before, but he points out how different it is from his designs. Sandro, Claudia's boyfriend, seems a little shifty. That same day, someone tries to grab Bess's bag and run off with it, but they catch the people in time.

They get the chance to meet Fabio, one of the leading experts in antiquities. He looks over the necklace and offers them 25,000 lira for it. He then warns them about smuggling antiquities out of the country and claims the necklace is the real deal. Nancy makes up a lie about them figuring out what to do and takes off. The only thing they can think is that Bess must have picked up the real necklace at the shop.

Claudia claims her shop doesn't sell antiques but does agree to take them back. They meet her boss, Paola, who seems highly annoyed that they're there. She only agrees to let them look around after they name drop Sandro because she's close friends with his mom. Speaking of Sandro, they go to a party at his house. His mom loves the necklace and talks about how she has one similar in her own collection. When she checks her safe though, the necklace is gone! Since there are no signs of a break in, she decides to let Nancy handle it instead of the police.

At a dance club, we meet Karine, a friend of Massimo. She brags about how she was with him the night before and keeps dropping hints about them dating while shooting daggers at Bess. There's also a comment about how he plans on making her a necklace with beads to match her eyes because she's so special to him, not knowing that he said the exact same thing to Bess the night he met her.

Nancy starts feeling weird while at the club. Sandro tries to convince her to let him take her home, but she runs to the bathroom instead. She wakes up to Bess looking over her after finding her passed out on the bathroom floor. Ew. Sandro still wants to take her to the hospital, but she just wants to go back to her hotel. Nancy tells Bess that she thinks someone drugged her in an attempt to get the necklace out of her bag.

Someone breaks into their hotel room twice. The first time is just to leave a threatening note. The second time is to leave a note with a gargoyle replica, which makes them suspect Massimo. All the woman at the front desk can tell them is that the only people who can get inside the hotel are guests. She remembers someone new checking in, and her description matches Massimo. When they go to his room though, it's completely empty and unused.

A few more pieces of jewelry go missing, so Nancy sets up a sting. Fabio plans a huge party and tells everyone that it's to show off a new antique piece he found. He invites her friends and those on her suspect list to attend. After the party, Nancy goes to the hotel room where Fabio told everyone he would store the necklace. Someone sneaks inside and gets the necklace, but when she goes after him, he knocks her down. She runs outside just in time to see the robber take off on a moped.

Big news comes for Nancy. If you read the last book, she met a cute guy named Mick and instantly cheated on Ned with him. Claudia arranges for him to come to town as a surprise, and they pick up right where they left off. Taking a page from the Ned Nickerson playbook, he even offers to jump right in and help her with the case. Meanwhile, Claudia acts really shifty and is so not her usual self.

Claudia finally comes to Nancy with some big news, way bigger than Mick. She shows her a moped, which is the same one the robber used, and it belongs to Sandro. Claudia admits that she thought it was him for awhile now. Sandro admits to stealing not only his mom's necklace but all the other jewelry. He wanted to open his own computer business but didn't want to ask his parents for help, so he stole his mother's necklace to pawn it. Oh, it's totally okay though because he thought he could get it out of the pawn shop without his mom knowing.

Instead, he asked Paola for help finding a good pawn shop. She instead offered to give him a loan on it, but she then took the necklace and demanded that he steal more for her or she would go to the cops. With Mick's help and Sandro's help, Nancy thinks she can catch her in the act.

After following her around for hours, they see her go towards some artists, where she keeps stopping to see what Karine is drawing. Karine tells Nancy that her dad calls her every morning and tells her what to draw, which she doesn't find odd at all. Nancy puts it together that Karine's dad, who is conveniently an importer and exporter, is on the thefts. It probably helps when she actually sees the two of them together.

Since this book was kind of lame, I'm just going to sum things up. They use Karine to set up Paola. Karine draws something completely different from what her dad asked her to draw, which causes Paola to go to the wrong place. They manage to capture the importer exporter dad, but Paola almost gets away until Sandro comes out of nowhere and tackles her.

Nancy reveals that they let Sandro out on bail and that his mom got her necklace back because Paola couldn't bring herself to sell a friend's necklace. The cops let him out on bail, and if they can find the two still missing pieces, he'll probably get off on probation. Bess tells everyone that she is done with both shopping and romances from here on out. Mick packs his bags to take off with them, explaining that he let Nancy leave him once before and won't let it happen again. That might be sweet if she didn't have a boyfriend waiting for her back home. Mick then asks if she's done with romance too, Nancy smirks at him and tells him she's okay with just one more, and they kiss. Gr.

*Fabio offers them the equivalent of a little under $7,000 for the necklace. Is it bad that I would probably sell it?

*The girls all ride around town on mopeds, which I think is awesome. It does make me wonder though if you can really pick up riding one so fast.

*If you noticed that I hardly mentioned George, it's because she's never there. She makes friends with a bunch of thrill seekers who want to head to Greece. Since they weren't planning on going to Greece for at least a week, George decides to go ahead with them. Yes, she literally leaves for a foreign country with complete strangers and no one says a word or finds it odd. I see a horror movie in her future...

*Nancy spends an entire chapter chasing Fabio all over Rome because she sees Paola give him a package and assumes he's in on the thefts. It turns out to just be a belt she gave him from her shop.

*You have to feel bad for Karine when she realizes that she's in love with a guy who can't handle being with one woman at a time and that she helped put her dad behind bars.

*Nancy very briefly mentions Ned and says that they're going through a difficult time right now. Well, maybe if you stopped cheating on him every time you left the state, things might be a little easier.

*You might notice a sudden increase in Nancy Drew books over the next few weeks/months. My best friend and I were at a thrift store that had Nancy Drew books for 49 cents. I had no clue which ones I owned, so I just bought them all, and I'm trying to recap as many as I can before they go missing like all my other books. I seriously spent $27 on Nancy Drew, Unicorn Club, Sweet Valley Kids, and a few Point Horror/Thriller books. :)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sweet Valley Kids #33: Caroline’s Halloween Spell


So, it's Halloween again in Sweet Valley. Jessica can't wait to dress up as a cheerleader, but Liz isn't sure what she wants to be. While chatting on the bus, kids start picking on Caroline for seemingly no reason. Todd tells her that her hair is already orange and she should stop eating carrots. Their literally five seconds away from telling her that she has no soul. She later hears Elizabeth mention something about being a witch and bluntly tells her that she knows nothing about witches. Ah, poor poor Caroline, wait until high school and see if you still feel the same way.

Their teacher takes them to the library and asks everyone to pick out a book about Halloween to present a paper on in front of the class. Liz picks out a book on witches and decides that Caroline might be an actual witch. She has a cat, which they see her with outside, they hear her reciting a spell, the twins catch her standing over a large pot in her kitchen, and she can apparently predict the future. Caroline knows that their neighbor, Mrs. Frankel, who always puts up a spooky skeleton will use a ghost this year. They later see her hanging up a ghost decoration on her porch.

Since Liz is so “good” at sleuthing, she decides to dress up as a detective. The girls all get together and come up with a plan to prove that Caroline is a real witch based on the witch movies they know. Since the only one they know is The Wizard of Oz, they wait until she stands up in class in her witch costume and throw water at her. Seriously?

Their teacher freaks out until they tell her why they did it and then laughs, as does Caroline. She tells them she just dressed up as a witch and freaked out in the beginning because she thought Liz would go as one too. The spell was just a few lines from Macbeth her dad taught her, she was helping her dad cook chili in that pot, and her cat is just a cat. The only reason she knew about Mrs. Frankel was because she saw the woman throw out her old skeleton and bring home a new ghost. After laughing some more, they all go trick or treating together and start eagerly talking about Thanksgiving.

*Liz is super proud of her costume because she looks just like Sherlock Holmes. What kind of second grader knows Sherlock Holmes?

*They also think Caroline is a witch because they see her sweeping. Yeah, I can see why they were so confused. See, some kids actually have to do chores at home and don't get to do whatever the hell they want to do.

*While out at the mall, they see Caroline and her mom. Caroline gets snippy when Alice asks what she bought, so her mom yells at her. How about telling Alice to stop being such a nosy bitch and asking about what's in the box?

*Liz is such a little brat. She says that even though other people are mean to Caroline that she tries to be nice to her all the time, but she then just sits there when they say nasty things to her on the bus.

*Mrs. Frankel, who I swear is in a SVT book, lives in an old rundown house. Other kids are too afraid to even knock on her door, but the kids that do get these huge bags filled with big candy bars and stuff. I would totally knock on her door...