Friday, July 21, 2017

Sweet Valley Kids #32: Left Back!


Elizabeth and Jessica cannot wait for school to start because there's a new boy joining their class. Kisho turns out to be super cool. He was born in Japan and moved to New York as a kid. His parents are college professors and moved a lot, but they most recently moved from Oklahoma.

All the kids in school think he's super cool. When he tells them that his birthday is coming up and that his parents want to throw a party at the park, Lila convinces him to do it at Secca Lake instead because it's bigger and has more room. He makes friends with both the boys and girls, and both the twins like him.

That all changes when they do some math problems in school. He's so good at math that the teacher gives him advanced problems to do. Kisho says that he learned this before. Jessica asks if he learned it in first grade or if he studied it earlier in the year, but he finally confesses that he was held back and that this is his second time in second grade. Cue the bullying.

First up is Lila. She calls him a dummy and turns everyone else against him. When Liz remains friends with Kisho, Lila tells Jessica that her twin must be a dummy too. All the kids gang up on him, make fun of him, and call him stupid all the time. The only kids still on his side is future shoulder patter Liz and Charlie. Liz – and me – think it's weird that Charlie, who makes fun of anything that moves, still wants to be friends with the new kid.

Kisho invites them both over to his house the next day. Jess is less than happy to see her twin hanging out with the dummy and doing things without her. They hear him speaking Japanese to his grandmother on the phone and learns that he speaks the language fluently. He actually has problems with English because he learned Japanese first and because his parents still speak it at home. Kisho shows them some of the Japanese books he has. Charlie then admits that his grandfather is Italian and still speaks with an accent. People make fun of him, which is why he wanted to be friends with Kisho.

At school the next day, Jessica calls Kisho a dumbo in front of a bunch of kids. Caroline then picks up on it and makes fun of him, not knowing the teacher is behind her. Liz and Charlie come up with an idea and lord it over the other kids, especially Jessica, that they'll find out what it is later. The teacher gives a speech about not picking on each other and how all people are different, which seems to affect no one but Jess.

The plan the kids had is a special presentation. Kisho brings in his grandfather, and Charlie brings in his too. The two men talk to the class about their first impressions of America and how much they loved the country right off the bat. They also talk about some of the problems they faced, which makes the kids realize that they're all a bunch of stupid heads.

Jessica feels so bad that she suggests buying Kisho a 64-count box of crayons for his birthday because he really loves drawing. All the kids go to the lake for his birthday and have a good time. He also manages to get Jessica to eat one of those dumplings with red bean paste inside and laughs at her expression when she finds out what it is. I think he'll fit in just fine.

*Am I the only one who totally pictures Kisho as Stephanie's friend from Full House?

*There's a horrible scene where Lila, Ellen, and some other girls are on the swings. When Kisho comes over, Lila loudly says that she doesn't play with dummies and convinces the other girls to leave. Kisho gets sad and goes off by himself, which causes her to say they can stay and play after all. Second grade Lila needs a smack upside the head!

*Kisho draws a card for his grandfather with a picture of himself on the front. When he can't find the black crayon, he gives himself blue hair. Winston then confesses that his grandmother really does have blue hair.

*Jessica really isn't the sharpest crayon in the box and neither is Lila, so I don't know where they get off making fun of someone else.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #173: Danger on the Great Lakes (2003)


Carson surprises Nancy with a cruise around the Great Lakes for her and her friends, and she surprises Bess and George by jumping out at them in a new bikini, seriously. After delivering the news, she suggests that they head to this new boutique where she got her swimsuit to get some new clothes for their trip. They meet Amber, another woman heading off on the same cruise. She explains that her boyfriend, Craig, works on the ship and got her a discounted ticket. They shop together and agree to meet up later.

Almost as soon as they board the ship, they see Craig and Amber in the middle of a big fight. Amber keeps complaining about him to her new friends because even though he's working, she thinks that he should spend more time with her. When Craig learns who Nancy is, he gets her alone and reveals a big secret. He's actually an Interpol agent working undercover on the ship to catch a jewel thief. Nancy agrees to help after seeing his badge and fills her friends in on the case.

The only problem is that this causes them to sneak around together a lot. Amber picks up on it and accuses the two of them of having an affair. She stops spending time with Nancy but does stick to Bess and George. Bess meets an older woman named Laura, who always wears a gold necklace and nail polish that matches her outfit. She encourages Bess to design clothing and says she'll even buy some of her pieces. When she comes to look at Bess's drawings though, she hates everything and acts like a bitch. The next time they see her though, she's completely back to normal and acting like their best friend. Bess and Nancy both wonder if she has an emotional disorder like split personality disorder.

At one shore excursion, Laura tells them to visit one particular shop and to check out all the amazing finds in the basement. While down there, someone locks them in a room and they almost don't get back to the boat before it leaves. Nancy also gets a note from Craig about how Amber is sick and wants to see her but she should take a specific set of stairs to get there. Bess goes in her place, falls down the stairs because someone left slick stuff there, and ends up on crutches for the whole book.

After another excursion, they come back to the boat to find Amber in tears. She tells them that she and Craig went out to dinner, he went to the bathroom, and just never came back. Since he's been acting weird and pulling away from her, she assumes that he dumped her, which might explain why he didn't even come back to the ship. Nancy calls her dad for help because now she wonders if Craig even works for Interpol.

Then, the other shoe drops. Amber comes to her and confesses the true story. Craig really isn't an Interpol agent, he just told her that to throw her off his scent. He and a friend case the ship to find the most expensive furs, purses, jewelry, etc. and steal it. Craig planned one last job and asked Amber to come with him. They agreed to meet at a restaurant after he walked off with the riches, but he never showed up. Since she had nowhere to go, she came back to the ship.

That night, a storm hits right above the ship. Nancy is snooping around outside when someone grabs her and tries to push her overboard. They succeed, but a wave moves the boat in a way that she just lands HARD on the floor below. Unlike other books, where she would just get up and brush herself off, this Nancy is actually so hurt that she can hardly move for awhile.

Laura tells the girls about all these delicious candy shops at the next stop and how she wants to check them off. Since she's acting weird again, the girls follow her but lose her when Amber tries to catch up to them and falls down. By the time they take care of her skinned knees and get her back to her room, Laura is waiting there with a gun.

I bet you're wondering what the hell is going on, right? Apparently, Laura is Amber's mother, and the two worked together to steal a bunch of diamonds, the same diamonds Craig wants. He really is an Interpol agent too. Amber arranged to meet him and make him fall in love with her, both to confuse him and to make sure that she was on the boat. I guess actually buying a ticket was way too hard. She met him at the arranged time, drugged him, and left him in an abandoned house with some food and water.

Amber, seeing all the boxes of chocolates, makes a comment about if those are the gifts for Uncle CN. They then tie the girls up and put them in the bathroom, saying that the porters will eventually find them but not until they get off the ship. They jam the door lock to prevent a key from working, which means the porters will need to remove the whole door to get inside. That happens much sooner than anyone expects, and the door opens to reveal both Carson and Craig.

Craig had a tracker in his watch, and when he didn't call Interpol at his appointment time, they tracked him down. He looked up Nancy's name and learned that she was that girl detective and the daughter of Carson, who is apparently super famous, so he called him. Nancy remembers the Uncle CN comment and realizes that the women are at the CN Tower.

Everyone rushes over there and finds the two about to sell the diamonds, which Laura hid inside boxes of chocolates, to some international man of mystery. Craig makes a call, the cops come, and everyone gets arrested. We also learn that Craig knew Amber was in on the crime the whole time and only “pretended” to fall in love with her. Oh, and the reason Laura acted so weird is that she was actually her much nicer twin sister who allegedly knew nothing about the crime sometimes. Since they're already there, Carson decides to treat everyone to dinner.

*Ned is in New York and doing an internship for an insurance firm. Ugh, how can someone so awesome work in insurance? He's on his way to Oklahoma City for a work trip and takes time out just to take a layover in Chicago so he can drive to River Heights and surprise Nancy with a bottle of expensive perfume. Aw.

*God love Nancy. Bess picks up on random things wrong with Laura like how she quit wearing her necklace and stopped wearing matching nail polish. Nancy's first instinct is a mood disorder or maybe split personality disorder before even considering it's two different women.

*George keeps going to the pool and tells them that she needs to stay in shape to make the swim team next season. Wait, what? Are they in high school and ready to start senior year, or are they getting ready to go to college? Since they keep taking trips like this, I assume they're out of school, but if it's already warm enough for swimming in the Great Lakes region, George should know if she made a college team already.

*When she tells George about Laura's reaction to Bess's designs, George points out that this is an adult woman with lots of money who maybe just doesn't like the clothing an amateur designed.

*They go out to dinner, so both Nancy and Bess wear elegant dresses, but George sticks with brown slacks and a striped button up shirt.

*George meets a professional football player on the ship and starts spending all her free time with him. Bess thinks they like each other, but George explains that he's married with kids and just likes talking about football. Um no. Professional athletes don't just hang around with hot teenage girls because they like talking about sports. To make it even worse, he gives her tickets to the next big game and says he can't wait to see her. Friends, my ass!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Sweet Valley Kids #31: Elizabeth and Jessica Run Awayk




Ned's old friend from law school, Mr. Nelson, has two sons: Eric and Wesley who are the same age as the twins and one year younger. Since he and his wife want to attend a conference in LA, Ned and Alice agree to watch his kids for the weekend. The twins actually can't wait to meet some new people and plan all the fun things they can do together. Jess is a little hesitant though because she doesn't really like hanging out with boys.

While hiding out in their fort in the woods, they hear their mom calling because the boys are there. They almost immediately start pulling pranks on the twins. Jessica freaks out when she realizes that her stuffed bear, the one she always sleeps with, is missing. After searching the whole house, the boys tell them that they stuck it in their parents' car and that the bear is now on a trip.

The guys also replace the sugar bowl with salt, which leads to Liz and Steven putting salt in their lemonade. To get back at them, the girls make a bunch of water balloons, hide upstairs, and then toss the balloons at them from the window. The guys get drenched just after drying off and changing clothes after a swim. Ned lectures the twins on how they need to be nice to their guests.

Eric and Wesley then put a bunch of bugs in the bathroom. They think all the bugs are fake until a grasshopper almost jumps on them. When they try to leave, the boys hold the door closed. Alice and Ned finally hear their screams and just roll their eyes at the situation. The twins get a lecture on how they shouldn't overreact and how boys will be boys.

What really sets them off is when they see Eric and Wesley playing in the living room. Apparently, Alice recently spent a lot of time and money on redecorating the room and made it a rule that no one can play there. You're right Alice, who actually lives in a living room? The boys keep goofing off and break her new vase. Alice lectures the twins and tells them they should have told the boys not to play there.

After stomping upstairs, the twins decide that their only choice is to run away. They pack some food, leave a note on the refrigerator, and run away to the fort. It doesn't take long before they run out of food, and both get scared by the sounds they hear outside. They finally hear their parents calling for them and decide to keep hiding for a bit, but then the boys find them.

Everyone compliments them on their awesome fort. Ned apologizes for not listening to them, and Alice says that she probably should have told the boys about the no playing in the living room rule. Gee, you think? The boys apologize too, and everyone gets along until their parents come home and Jessica gets her bear back.

*Steven is kind of funny because he moans about the house being full of babies and when the twins point out the boys are basically the same age as them, he says it proves his point.

*Alice makes lemonade but doesn't put any sugar in it and tells the kids to add as much as they want. Who does that??

*The twins' parents refuse to believe that the boys would lock them in the bathroom. You're right, there has to be another logical reason for your kids to scream bloody murder first thing in the morning.

*The note they leave is hysterical. It's pretty much, “we'll come back when you learn how to not be so mean to us.”

*They take two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, some chocolate chip cookies, and two apples with them.

*So apparently, Ned and Alice do not know about the fort because they don't bother looking in there and are shocked by how cool it is. Way to be parents.