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.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Nancy Drew Files #41: Something to Hide (1989)

Ned is back in town for a class project and desperately needs help from Nancy and the gang. Though he refuses to tell them what they'll do, he picks them up and takes them to the mall. It turns out that he has an assignment for his marketing class. His team will hand out samples of Spotless, a new acne cream, and get feedback from users.

The team consists of: Justin, a smart ass and super smart guy who reminds me a lot of Winston; Marcia, a kind of rich girl who seems nice; Brad, a super hot guy who falls head over heels for Bess despite her being super sick; and Heather, who makes it clear from the very start that she's out to snag Ned for herself.

Bess volunteers to try some of the cream for herself, but Justin freaks out when she grabs one tube. He laughingly claims he poisoned it before running out to his car for more. After doing some work, Bess starts feeling even worse. Brad volunteers to grab her a lemonade and winds up with so many things to pick up for others that he has to take help with them. Not long after finishing her lemonade, Bess passes out and winds up rushed to the hospital. The doctor determines that she was poisoned.

To make things worse, five more kids show up at the hospital with the same symptoms. Tests reveal that everyone has arsenic in their bloodstreams and that they most likely used something on their skin with arsenic in it. Gee, I wonder what that could be?

Since Bess is recovering nicely, everyone goes to a party at Heather's house. She gets Ned alone to give him a tour of her house that probably leads to her bedroom and seems pissed when he ignores her in favor of his actual girlfriend. Marcia gets Nancy alone to warn her that Heather has a reputation on campus, I bet she does!, for breaking up happy relationships.

Though she doesn't have any suspects, Nancy does learn that Justin did an internship at Asco, the maker of Clearly, which is the main competitor to Spotless. She sneaks into the head office, goes through their employment records, and learns there is no proof he ever worked there. Nancy calls and pretends that she's checking references for him, but HR tells her that no one by that name ever worked there.

Not a whole lot happens for a good chunk of the book. Nancy and Ned double with Brad and Bess to some concert. I guess being in the hospital isn't an excuse to miss a party. She also overhears Marcia having a heated phone conversation, which makes it odd when Marcia suddenly gets sick and winds up in a coma. The doctors announce that someone gave her a lethal dose of arsenic.

Though everyone seems to think it's Justin, I have my doubts. Heather claims she's so scared that she's changing majors and dropping out of the competition. George, while in Chicago though, sees Heather dressed smartly and walking out of an advertising agency. Ned and Nancy talk things through and decide it might not be Justin working for the competition because corporate espionage doesn't happen in the real world. Sigh.

Brad's family conveniently owns a big ass orchard, and since it's Halloween and there's a big party coming up, Bess convinces them to visit and pick up some pumpkins. Brad's dad lets it slip that they use arsenic in the greenhouse where they grow the pumpkins, and Brad then gets Nancy alone to gossip about Justin. He tells her that he doubts the guy did it and that he thinks Marcia just used too much of the cream. Too bad the doctors already determined that was impossible. Nancy then hears from Ned, who talked to his professor who is best buddies with the owner of Asco. The owner vehemently denies that his company would ever stoop to such low tactics.

The gang shows up to the big party dressed like characters from The Wizard of OZ. Bess is Dorothy, Nancy is the Scarecrow, Ned gets the Cowardly Lion, and George is the Tin Man. Nancy tells them her suspicions about Brad, and even though she literally has absolutely no evidence, they all agree with her. Bess, who was in love with the guy 60 seconds ago, now agrees it was him and says she won't go anywhere alone with him.

Brad cuts in on Ned and Nancy dancing and begs her to go outside with him to get away from the crowd and talk. As soon as she tells him she knows he's behind everything, he attacks her. The two fight, and he hits her over the head and knocks her out. When she comes to, she has her hands tied in front of her. They fight some more until she head butts him and runs away.

This leads to a fight in the woods that has Nancy clasp her hands together and punch him in the throat, which slows him down until Ned arrives. The cops are right behind him and take Brad away. We then learn that Heather was at the ad agency in Chicago to tell them in person that she was no longer interested in the job. Also, Justin really did work for the company, but his personnel file was on someone's desk because they were calling to offer him some work. Ned jokingly says that he wants to fight for the Spotless job, and Nancy silences him with a kiss, telling him that marketing is way too dangerous.

*Nancy sneaks into the Asco corporate office by walking in with her toolbox and claiming she's a computer repair tech. I realize this was the 80s, but what kind of repair tech carries around a normal toolbox?

*Bess wears a black leather miniskirt and a bright blue silk shell top on a date with Brad, which is just about the most 80s thing I can think of right now.

*So, Nancy and Ned are on their way to see Marcia and find a bunch of cop cars there because of her poisoning. The freaking chief of police pulls them aside to ask how they knew the victim and acts super suspicious of Ned. Like my beloved Ned would ever do anything wrong!

*How realistic is it anyway that the chief of the whole police force would come out for this?

*Ned has a good point in that if the cream was tainted, it might turn people off from using all kinds of acne creams and not just one brand. That's why he doubts Asco was behind the poisonings.

*Asco must not be a very big company if it literally has one file for everyone who works there!

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Nancy Drew Files #86: Let's Talk Terror (1993)

Nancy and George scored two tickets to Marcy!, the hottest teen talk show around because their high school friend Susan works for the show. Poor Bess is stuck at home sick. Susan invites them to the studio, shows them a brand new publicity shot for the host Marcy Robbins, and introduces them to people working on the show like Jack, the stage manager. He makes a joke about Marcy sending him out for a magazine just as the star herself shows up and shouts at him for taking too long.

Marcy then brings them back to her dressing room and opens the package with her new publicity shot in it to find that someone ripped it into pieces. When Nancy puts it back together again, they find a threatening message on it in magenta marker. Her and George scour the building for the same marker. Nancy eventually finds it just about to get tossed in the dumpster and decides that since it's almost empty, it must be the one used to write the message.

After the show, Marcy has an argument over the phone with Vic, her ex-boyfriend. He suggested she sell an idea for a talk show, and then instead of asking him for help since he was/is a television producer, she went behind his back. Vic now wants to sue her because he thinks he deserves some of the profits. I have to say that I kind of agree with him. He's also touting some new chick named Samantha. Marcy watches Samantha on another talk show talking about how Marcy is a hack.

Susan invites them to a fundraising party/silent auction at the country club. Nancy finds a note that falls out of Samantha's pocket, which is from some guy named Morty telling her to just ignore Marcy. She stumbles across Jack backstage and listens as he tells her all about knowing Marcy as a kid. They also overhear Marcy and Vic fighting because he volunteered a date with himself and Marcy deliberately ignored some of the bids. Nancy and George head back to Susan's apartment and find a note warning Nancy to get out of town or else.

The only clue they find is a slip of paper left behind with a number on it, which is for a popular parking garage. Nancy and George check it out, get permission to tour the facility, and see Vic and Samantha having a very public fight. Vic sees them and throws a hissy fit, but they pretend that they're just fans. Nancy also goes to the magazine's office to get copies of all issues with Samantha or Marcy in them and find that all are missing.

During the next call in show, someone calls in and threatens Marcy again. The cops somehow trace the call, but the caller is naturally gone when they get there. Nancy then gets a note from the woman she talked to at the magazine, asking her to meet her in another building. When she gets there, someone locks her in and sets it on fire.

Luckily for Nancy, she gets to the second floor as George arrives to help. George drivers her car down the ally, wraps the rope that Nancy keeps in the trunk around an AC unit, and hits the gas. The AC falls out, letting Nancy escape through the hole in the wall. Damn, that's like Jason Statham level stuff. Anywho, they also hear a rumor that the producers want to fire Marcy and offer Samantha her job.

A newspaper runs an article about Samantha and Vic going out on the town together and how she'll sign autographs, so they go to the same club. George gets Vic to dance with her so Nancy can get closer, but Samantha flips out at him ignoring her to dance with someone else and explodes. She reveals that Vic will be the new producer of the Marcy show but that he's replacing her with some random woman. Vic then sees Nancy, shouts at her, and the girls run away.

The next couple of chapters are pretty boring. A random woman who had like four lines at the silent auction is the one chosen as the new host. Nancy and George visit her, pretending to be reporters for a new magazine. She grants them a short interview that is just long enough for Nancy to put it together that the woman is somehow involved. They confront her again, and she breaks down, reveals that she made the threatening calls, and tells them that Jack was involved. It turns out that he's secretly been in love with her for years and wanted to get back at her for rejecting him in the past.

This book really annoyed me, so I want to kind of wrap it up quickly. Jack knocks Susan out and ties her up before kidnapping Marcy. Nancy and George find where they are, try to talk some sense, into him, and when that fails, Nancy attacks him. She literally kicks him several times hard enough that he cracks his head on the concrete wall, which knocks him out.

The cops show up, Marcy thanks Nancy, and she invites them women to dinner at a fancy restaurant as a treat. When they all go out, they find her there with Vic. The two of them got back together, and Samantha even called to ask Marcy if she could come back on the show. Marcy then thanks them for saving her show.

*They go to this party at the country club and meet the editor of the biggest teen magazine around. She has them call her by her first name and not Mrs. because, as she explains, that's for women 40 and older and she still has a decade to go. Um, I don't think there were 30-year old magazine editors back then.

*Nancy's marker theory is just plain weird. She says that the marked used must be almost empty because it would take so much to write the message. The message is like six words long and written across a standard picture.

*Samantha hates Marcy because Marcy revealed on her show that the other woman's image was fake. Samantha always build herself as a bad girl who grew up on the streets, was beaten by her parents, and experimented with drugs. It turns out that she's actually from a middle class family in the suburbs and was even a Girl Scout.

*Of course Nancy keeps a big ass length of rope in her trunk just in case she might need it, of course.

*Um, I'm pretty sure if this show was as big of a hit as everyone says that the producers wouldn't fire the host and replace her with someone else for no reason.

*The suspect list in the front included Jack but mentioned that he had romantic feelings for Marcy. That actually never came up until like page 120-130 of a 150 page book.

*This book was super confusing. Jack was pretty much behind everything but never really did anything suspicious. I also think he only had maybe three scenes before the end too!

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Babysitters Club Mysteries #34: Mary Anne and the Haunted Bookstore

Thanks to some random English assignment, Mary Anne keeps reading Poe stuff while home alone. That naturally makes her think about and miss Dawn. During the net BSC meeting, she takes a call from Mr. Cates, a new client who is conveniently opening Poe & Co., a bookstore in a historic mansion. Kristy kindly gives her the job.

See, Stoneybrook was apparently home to Benson Dalton Gable. Not only was he a compatriot of Poe's, but there are rumors that Poe maybe stole ideas from him or even killed him. She meets Tom and Gillian, the two kids of the bookstore owner. They hate living in the old mansion, hate that it keeps raining, and hate that their mom isn't there. They also really dislike Ms. Spark, the bookstore designer (is that even a real job?), but that might be because she and their dad have a clear spark.

Mary Anne also meets Professor Kingslover, an English professor from the local college who has an unhealthy obsession with Poe and Alex Gable. His dad sold the family home, and it's pretty clear that he hates it. She also meets Andy, the foreman for the construction crew. These names are important because all become suspects later.

Since this is a mystery book, you know weird things must happen. Mary Anne and Logan wind up in the building alone one night and hear what sounds like a thudding heartbeat. Though she tells Cates about it, he blows her off and explains that it was probably just rain. She also finds a letter signed Annabelle Lee that he asks her not to tell Mrs. Spark about, and she later finds a raven carved in an old shelf.

Alex always seems to be around to piss and moan about something. He goes off on the professor about how Poe stole from his ancestor and “proves” it by showing a series of raven carvings on the fireplace. Alex keeps whining about all the renovations they keep doing to “his” house, and makes a huge pain of himself. The only time he seems like a normal teenager is when he pops up to flirt with Stacey.

Claudia gets a job sitting for Tom and Gillian, which means taking them to the movies. Tom acts like a huge pain, whines about not getting to play in the arcade, and ditches Claudia to play games when he's supposed to be in the bathroom. He also complains about the Pike kids being there with their mom and mopes about being “forced” to see Star Wars. He's apparently so mean to Ms. Spark when she picks them up that she actually heads home early.

Since Cates clearly has no idea what he's doing, he hires the BSC to come over whenever and help him out. This leads to random members showing up at random times and doing random things like painting, watching the kids, or organizing book shipments. At one point, Pluto, a black cat named for the cat in The Black Cat, gets trapped behind a wall during the renovation. Mary Anne decides to keep track of everything in the BSC mystery book until they find the solution.

Mary Anne pretty much suspects everyone. She thinks it's Andy and his crew because he complains about how much work the house needs and how he'd do better finacially if they tore down the house and built new ones. Alex is a suspect because he makes it clear that he wants his house back. She even suspects that the kids are doing it to to scare off Ms. Spark.

Somehow, a big black raven shows up in the bookstore. Cates adopts it and names it Lenore. Mary Anne checks with the bird store and finds out that someone matching Alex's description came in asking if anyone bought a raven recently and that a woman purchased the bird under the name Lenore. They also find a headstone in the basement that looks like a real grave, and one of the construction workers thinks he sees a ghost.

Mary Anne, Stacey, and Mallory find a boom box that plays the same heartbeat sound she heard before. Mallory borrows the triplets' fingerprint kit, they make coffee, and make everyone drink. After pulling prints from the cups, Claudia uses her artistic eye to determine that the fingerprints on the stereo match Cates.

Realizing he did this all just to get some publicity, Mary Anne sets him up. Mallory turns on the boom box, Mary Anne catches him, and he gives up. The kids get excited because they spent the whole book looking for that boom box. He confesses that he did it all with the help of Ms. Spark, who once worked in Hollywood with her special effects expert ex-husband. The only thing they didn't do was wall up poor Pluto.

Gillian runs off and hides from her brother, but they find her hiding in a secret spot inside the desk in the original writer's old desk. She tells them about a second hidden spot, which conveniently has his lap desk inside. It turns out that Poe only visited once, they made plans to meet again, but then Gable passed away. We still have no clue what happened to him, where he died, or even where he's buried.

At the big launch party, Cates awards Mary Anne the grand prize, which is an exclusive luxury version of Poe's collected works. She gladly accepts it but doesn't remember entering the contest. Alex takes center stage and tells everyone about his ancestor's work. As Mary Anne leaves, she swear she sees the ghost of Dalton standing by his desk.

The B-plot is all about how it won't stop raining in Stoneybrook, which drives all the kids crazy. Kristy and Jessi, while sitting for a bunch of kids, decide to hold a rainy day festival. They all wear sunglasses, build sandcastles, and play sunny day games. In a completely unlike her move, Stacey gets excited about making mud pies and encourages all the boys to make their own. It naturally stops raining on the day of the festival.

*It's funny that when Ms. Spark asks Logan and Mary Anne to paint, she means literally paint a wall. When she asks Claudia for the same thing, it somehow means paint an intricate trim/border around a room.

*Claudia is such a fantastic artist that she can paint a life size version of Nancy Drew on one of the walls.

*Kristy volunteers the BSC to write “reviews” of their favorite books as a selling feature, which everyone goes crazy over. All they really do though is write short recaps, which I'm pretty sure are already on the backs of those books.

*Stacey comes across as pretty bitchy a few times, and the ghostwriter almost makes it seem like she knows more than she does. It's things like her smirking at the idea of a real ghost being in the house, she's described as having a smile playing on her lips when others freak out, and stuff like that.

*Cates tells Mary Anne that he can use as much help as they can provide but that he isn't sure how much he can pay them. Does that mean they just randomly show up to watch his kids without knowing if he'll pay their full rate?

*Abby comes over to “help” but because of her allergies, she instantly has to run upstairs and watch the kids. Given that she's allergic to dust, paint, and a million other things, why would she even bother to show up?

*Professor Kingslover is basically your stereotypical superstitious person. She flips out at the idea of a black cat, refuses to walk under a ladder, snaps at Alex for opening an umbrella in the house, and walks around rubbing her four-leaf clover necklace. Mary Anne notices that she has a rabbit's foot on her bag too.

*Mary Anne has a bunch of ideas for her English project and runs them by her teacher. The teacher likes the idea of her doing a diorama but wants some written component and suggests she also write fake letters between the two men. Are you kidding me? It's eighth grade English, pick one or the other!

*Despite Tom being a whiny brat throughout the whole book, it's okay because he just really misses his mom. Haven't we heard this story a million times? Also, the letter Mary Anne found from Annabelle Lee was from their mom. It's nice that she has time to write her ex-husband but not her kids.

*Stacey brings Charlotte to see Star Wars because they watched it on television and loved it, which seems out of character for both of them.

*Claudia wears some outfit with rain drops painted on jeans, which seems like a waste to me, a vest over a long sleeve shirt, and earrings shaped like umbrellas.

*Jessi makes some random joke about tossing out an idea to see if it floats. I know she's supposed to be the “funny” one, but I cringe every time she tells a joke.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #155: The Mystery in Tornado Alley (2000)

Hannah's cousin Berta passed away and left her a farm in Oklahoma. Since she doesn't want to move away from River Heights, Carson offers to go with her and settle everything so she can sell it. Nancy is waiting for them to come home so they can head to the airport when Carson shows up with a big surprise, an RV! He thought it would be fun to drive there instead of flying and surprises her with the news that Bess and George are coming with them.

It turns out that Hannah is petrified of tornadoes but brought along a book with lots of information on tornadoes. That comes in handy when they one hits the highway. Nancy luckily remembers what to do and gets everyone to lie down in a ditch and hold on. The tornado nearly lifts her up, but she holds onto a patch of grass to survive. Seriously? Even I have a hard time buying that one.

As soon as they arrive, Nancy spots a green duffel bag stuck in a tree. The girls dig through the nearly demolished barn and find a ladder as well as Berta's old car. Nancy gets the bag and finds threatening letters inside about some kidnapping. Just then, a random man shows up at the farm. He claims the bag is his, fights with Nancy, and stalks off but does tell them that he helped Berta a lot. He claims his name is Joe and that Berta promised the farm to him.

While putting the bag in her trunk, someone shoves her head against the car and runs off with the bag. Nancy then meets a waitress named Trudy who she tells about the bag. She also goes to the police station and learns that the cops don't even want to hear her story because it sounds like a prank. Since a university is so close by though, she heads over and finds the tornado research center. One student helps her out by explaining that the bag could have blown in from up to 20 miles away.

When a storm breaks out, everyone goes crazy and heads out in these specially designed VORTEX storm chasing vehicles. Derek, a man in the center, offers to take her with him. He tells her that he was once a student but had to drop out to support his mom and hopes Dr. Johnson, the professor in charge of the research center, will offer him a scholarship. They do some storm chasing, but Derek seems really off putting. He keeps forgetting where he is, starts staring off into space for no reason, and sometimes even forgets Nancy is with him.

After the storm, Nancy heads back to see Trudy again. Trudy introduces her to Mary, a woman who claims the bag belongs to her. When Nancy asks her a few basic questions and then tells her someone stole it, Mary suddenly takes off like a bat out of hell. It turns out that Trudy is still pretty new in town and doesn't know many people, so she has no clue who Mary is and has never seen her before.

Luckily though, Nancy and her friends go into town with Carson and Hannah to stop by the local bank and see Joe inside. He's conveniently having a huge fight with Mary and storms off. They then meet up with Derek in the student union on campus and find him with this woman named Candace. Candace claims that he found her books when she lost them. Bess is the only one who thinks there is something a little off about this guy. Nancy has to agree that something is weird when she asks if he can drive them somewhere. He tells her that he'll be back in a few minutes but is gone for over an hour.

Feeling a little suspicious, Nancy heads over to the research center and finds him in the middle of a huge fight with Dr. Johnson. The professor asks Nancy to take care of her friend and get him out of there before they call the police. Derek kind of apologizes but tells Nancy that the professor wouldn't even listen to his ideas. I've been out of school for awhile, but I'm pretty sure fighting with him won't result in a scholarship.

After Joe comes back to the farm and yells about them stealing his property, Nancy decides to follow him. Derek drives her and the gals around as Joe picks up Mary and takes her to a fancy neighborhood. To get a better look, she sneaks into the backyard and sees Mary with Candace. They seem to fight a bit before Candace breaks down and Mary has to comfort her. A dog starts barking, so Nancy runs off, but she finds that Derek and her friends are gone.

Joe catches her and forces her into his truck with Mary. Nancy tells them all about how she figured out their plan and how they want to kidnap Candace, but Mary reveals that they are actually half-sisters. Joe and Mary though Nancy's crew found the letters that he wrote Berta while he was in the military and the letters she wrote him back, which he saved in a matching gym bag. They thought the group kept the letters a secret because they didn't want to give up the farm to him.

Still unsure over whether to trust him. Nancy sets up a ruse. The girls pack up and head out of town in the RV, but they actually stop long enough for Nancy to sneak out. Joe follows the RV, not realizing she's not in there. Derek then picks her up but starts acting stranger than ever. When she sees the bag in the backseat of his car, she realizes that he was behind everything.

Derek tells her that Candace is actually Dr. Johnson's daughter. He planned to kidnap her and demand a ransom large enough for him to go back to college. Since Nancy screwed it all up, he'll just kill them instead. Nah, he'll really escape first and let people think he died but leave Nancy to really die. He drives them directly into the path of a tornado, which lifts them up into the funnel. Derek then gets hit on the head by flying debris and passes out.

Our brave hero decides that she's close enough to the ground to survive a fall. She kicks open the car door, jumps into the freaking tornado, and survives a fall all the way to the ground below. Not only does she survive, but she's barely winded. Joe shows up with the girls in his truck. They somehow figured out what happened and came to find her.

While getting ready to leave the farm, they conveniently come across Berta's letters that really do state she wanted Joe to have the farm. Carson draws up the paperwork, which lets Joe buy the whole property from Hannah for just one dollar. He then tells Mary that they can finally get married and live happily ever after. Nancy then suggests they hop in the RV and take off to beat the storm that's a coming.

*There's a scene where they come across a couple who had their house knocked down by the same tornado in the very beginning. They both keep worrying about their “son” who turns out to their dog who survived the storm and comes bounding out of their house. It's a completely random waste of five pages or so because they never show up again.

*Nancy, Bess, and George worry that Berta's car won't start because it's “so old,” but she then says it's roughly 10 years old. Man, what would she think of my 2000 Toyota?

*Bess and George both go crazy in the student union cafeteria because there is so much food to sample. George gets an Oklahoma burger the size of her head, Bess orders spaghetti with massive meatballs and garlic bread, and sensible Nancy sticks with soup and salad.

*The cafeteria really is pretty impressive. It has random stalls set up for different cuisines like Mexican, Chinese, and Italian, but there are also separate areas for salads, desserts, burgers, and other foods. This place makes my college's cafeterias look like crap!

*Bess makes a comment about how solving a case is much more fun than what they did yesterday and how boring it was. Hannah acts all offended because Bess spent the whole day with her. It's hard to describe but was actually a pretty funny scene.

*Joe kept all the letters Berta sent him in a green gym bag he stored in her barn, yet somehow, Nancy found those same letters wrapped up in a bundle in a drawer in the kitchen. That makes absolutely no sense. Even if she found the letters he sent Berta, him saying stuff about her giving him a farm isn't proof of her wishes. What's to say he didn't just plant the letters there?

*Berta supposedly loved him like a son and wanted him to have her farm when she passed, but she actually left a will. Hannah didn't get it because she was her last of kin but because of her will. If she loved him so much, why wouldn't she change her will?

*The outfit Nancy wears on the cover looks like an Elizabeth Wakefield outfit! Also, I'm pretty sure pleated khaki shorts were no longer in fashion in 2000!