Monday, February 19, 2018

Nancy Drew Girl Detective #4: High Risk (2004)

Evaline Waters is an older woman who lives in River Heights. Most people know her because loves gardening and lives in an old house. Rackham Industries, which is like the evil corporation in town, recently announced plans to kick her out of her home. They claim that they found proof that she doesn't own the land she says she owns and that they have a claim to the property. Nancy agrees to help her find evidence to prove she really owns her home and land.

Before she can do that though, she needs to have dinner with Ned, his parents, and his dad's friend, Colonel Lang. Ned's dad mentions getting weird calls at home from someone who says the package is on its way. Lang offers to give Ned flying lessons, and they make plans to go out the next day with Nancy. Nancy has a bad experience at the airport because of a man with a bad attitude. Once she gets up in the sky though, she falls in love. Carson agrees to let her take flying lessons and calls this guy Frank to set up lessons in advance.

While out with Bess and George, Nancy sees angry guy driving around in circles. They follow him for a bit and then park to watch him keep driving for over an hour. He then heads to Berring Antiques, which is the new antique store in town. When they go inside to check things out, Nancy mentions seeing him at the airport, but he claims he was never there. She also brings him up to Frank, her teacher, who claims he never met the man.

George finds mention of a law online that could help Waters keep her home, but they need to find the actual law in the town archives. The courthouse actually doesn't have those records because they're all at the university archives. Nancy luckily knows a former professor and history buff who takes them over. They find out that someone broke in and stole all the files they need.

Nancy and George then go to the county courthouse to look for information. The woman in charge talks about the area's leading archivist, Mr. Williams, and how he pickets outside the courthouse because he thinks the public should not have access to those records. He thinks they'll just mess everything up. To no one's surprise, the files are also missing from there.

Another thing on her mind is the fact that Lang never actually left town. She keeps seeing his rental car everywhere. While staking out the antique store, because she still doesn't trust the owner, Lang hops in her car. He reveals that he's an FBI agent and actually tracking the owner. Berring was a former criminal who bought and sold stolen antiques.

During her next flying lesson, Nancy looks at the teacher's business card to see the time of their next lesson and makes a comment about how his phone number and her boyfriend's phone number are one digit off. She then realizes that someone could easily make an error and call Ned's house when trying to call Frank. Frank puts things together and tries to attack her, but he trips, hits his head on the dash, and gets knocked unconscious. Luckily, Lang is at the airport and can tell Nancy exactly how to land the plane.

Nancy and Lang then start putting things together. Frank was the distributor for the stolen merchandise that Berring sold. He accidentally called Ned's house a few times when sending along a message. The FBI checks out his store and finds all the proof that they need to put him away. Nancy begins wondering if Mr. Williams had something to do with everything. They head to his house and find all the stolen documents, which apparently Berring stole and then sold to him.

Ned shows up with Mr. Shannon, Deirdre's dad and the head lawyer for Rackshaw Industries, when Lang calls them to tell them he found. The two men then run outside, but Mr. Shannon tells Carson that he's on his own and then drives off. Apparently the official document said that someone could claim ownership of a piece of land if there was so proof of ownership by getting to the courthouse and making a statement three times.

Lang lets them borrow his car, they pick up Waters, run her to the courthouse, and she heads inside and makes her claim right before the head of the corporation shows up with his lawyer. The gals all visit her in the end and let her know how happy they are that she gets to keep her home. Ned and Nancy then have a little talk about her spending so much time with the Colonel and Ned finally confesses that he's terrified of flying. Nancy then decides to keep taking lessons but to let Ned stay on the ground.

*I hate to be Miss Factual here, but no matter what the deed says, Waters owns that land. Once you live on and take care of a piece of property for a set period of time, it becomes yours. That's why you hear horror stories about neighbors taking over the yards of others.

*Nancy knows the professor because he was the father of her best friend in first grade. She talks about how the girl, her mother, and her brother died in a car accident. The dad was so devastated that he quit his job and could barely function. That's kind of deep and sad for someone who is only in two chapters!

*Just to let us know that the internet is way better, all the archives they visit are dusty and dirty with messed up files that no one ever visits. The university archives are so rarely used that they have to track down a security guard and have him try multiple keys before they can even get inside the room. Um, yeah, no. Even at my fairly small college, the archives were in a special area of the library.

*Nancy spends a good portion of the book worrying about how Ned will react and not telling him about her flying lessons because she doesn't want him to think she stole something from him. It's kind of cute how it ends.

*The Waters house is over 70 years old and was built on top of the original home, which burned down. The foundation of the old home is still visible, which makes me think it should be a protected property.

*Deirdre pops up a few times just to annoy Nancy and talk about her dad is such a better lawyer. Nancy takes delight in the fact that Deirdre changes boyfriends the way some people change clothing but could never get her hooks into Ned. George just likes calling her Dee-Dee because it irritates her, which I love!

Friday, February 16, 2018

Sweet Valley Twins #52: Booster Boycott

Hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen because Winston wants to join the Boosters. He took gymnastics classes over the summer and got really good. When he brings it up though, it's a hard no from Janet. She tells him to take a hike, even though some of the other girls think he would be a good addition to the squad. Todd think it's a little odd but would be a good way to meet girls.

Since Jessica could not stop talking about it at dinner, Liz knows the whole story. She thinks it's a good idea and that other people would too. This gives Winston the confidence to approach Janet again and ask her how many people would need to sign a petition before she will let him audition. She tells him 100, which is almost the entire sixth grade.

Winston gets Amy, Grace, Jessica, Todd, and Ken to sign. Jessica and Lila decide to put a stop to the nonsense when they see him talking to Randy and Leslie, two nerds. They act like a boy on the squad is crazy and pretend to be their friends. Randy actually tells them that they're sexist before signing. Jessica tells Leslie that they can be friends if she doesn't sign. When Leslie wants to know what she means by friends, Jess explains that they'll say hi or wave in the hallways. Leslie signs and says she would rather have Winston as a friend than the Unicorns.

When he gets over 100 signatures, Winston gives his petition to Janet. She says that it does change things but then calls for an emergency meeting of the Unicorns at Casey's. She rips the petition in pieces and has the other girls do the same thing. Liz shows up with Todd and Amy and see what happened, though Jessica tries to lie and say it was a quiz. Grace is unhappy with what they did when she shows up too. Winston seems pretty cool with the whole thing though.

The reason why becomes clear when the cheerleader coach calls them in for a meeting and tells them to give him a shot. When she brings up the petition, Janet tells her that it doesn't exist, but then she pulls out a copy. Winston actually made a photocopy in case they did anything shitty. Jessica almost breaks down because he will absolutely ruin the Boosters.

To keep him off the squad, they make the most challenging audition imaginable. Janet tells him to do no handed cartwheels, which he nails. When she asks him to do hand springs, he asks which way and then does both. He does everything they ask of him, including holding a handstand for 30 seconds. He then does a move where Grace stands on his shoulders and does a somersault.

Even though he makes it on the squad, the Unicorns all hate him. Grace is the only Unicorn on his side, but Amy likes him too. At his first practice, Lila puts peanut butter in his shoes, Ellen arranges to glue him to the bleachers, and Kimberly puts a baby doll in his bag. He still smiles through the whole day and asks about their next practice.

Other people aren't quite as happy as Winston. Charlie Cashman really seems to hate him. The Unicorns cover his locker with flowered wrapping paper and bows, which makes everyone laugh at him. Charlie starts calling him Winnie all the time and does a cheer in the middle of the cafeteria to spell out that name. Winston just takes a deep breath, tells him that he did a good job, and suggests he try out next.

Charlie shows up after school with two big eighth grade kids in tow. He makes a big deal out of how no one makes fun of him. His friends hold Winston down while he punches him in the face. The girls are a little shocked when he shows up to practice, but some think that this might finally get him to quit.

Grace thinks he's really cool and starts doing sketches of him. She shows some of her work to Liz and suggests putting one of her cartoons in the paper to welcome him to the squad. They pick one of him dressed in a whole cheerleader uniform, complete with a skirt. That sets Winston off and makes him quit, though some of the girls are sad that he did.

Elizabeth notices that Winston keeps ignoring her at school and finally gets him alone. He tells her that he quit because of the cartoon and because it meant that no one liked him. She explains what actually happened, and he reveals that he only joined the squad because he had a crush on Grace. Winston tries to join back up, but Janet tells him he had his chance and blew it.

Meanwhile, Todd doesn't like that Liz and Winston are always together and that she's always taking his side. She wishes there was a way to show him that he's being stupid and comes up with a plan with Amy. Amy tells him that she needs help on her science fair project and starts taking up a lot of his time. Liz actually starts feeling jealous when she sees them together.

Liz heads to Amy's house one night and finds them together again. She makes a big deal out of it, Amy acts uncomfortable, and Todd just gets confused. Liz then cries about how he could do something like that to her, and Amy gives her tissues while pointing out that they had problems anyway. Todd says things were fine and tells Liz there's nothing going on with Amy. She dumps the tissues and tells him that she believes him as long as he believes her about Winston, which makes him realize they duped him.

This marks the first time the Boosters will compete in a tournament, which is conveniently a major California championship hosted at SVMS. When the day comes, they find out that almost every other squad has at least one guy. They mess up really bad in the first round and basically have no shot at winning. Winston shows up to wish them luck, and they all pass around who should ask him to join back up before Grace does.

In the end, Winston becomes an official cheerleader. They do so well in the second/last round that they get second place. Liz notices at the end that he and Grace are holding hands. She and Todd make up too. Jessica loves being a star and loves hearing people talk about her, but she gets disappointed when her peers move onto the next hot topic the day after the tournament.

*Liz also wants to get back at Jessica for gossiping all the time and doesn't tell her about the plan she concocted with Amy. Jessica thinks it's weird that Amy always needs help and wonders what's going on. She finally works up the nerve to tell Liz and finds her with Todd. Jessica flips out until Liz tells her what they did, which makes Jessica admire her because Liz is almost as sneaky as she is.

*Charlie and his friends show up at the tournament specifically to attack Winston again. Jessica comes out with the rest of the Boosters and threaten them. Lila tells them that if they hurt him, they'll spread so many rumors that no girl will ever look at them again. His friends take off running, but Charlie tries to act like a big man before running away.

*How does no one get punished for Winston getting a black eye? That seems like something worthy of a suspension.

*Lila comes up with a brand new cheer: Go Sweet Valley, Please Don't Dally. Jessica comes up with one that involves a pyramid with her getting the top spot.

*So they do the pyramid, which has Jessica leap off, and a cheer with Grace jumping off Winston. Considering that tricks like that are illegal at the high school level, I'm pretty sure they're also illegal at the middle school level.

*Winston teaches them how to do a proper pyramid and how to distribute their weight so Jessica doesn't feel like a lead balloon. He also helps them with other stuff, which is why they start liking him.

*The girls apparently had to raise the money to buy their own uniforms. When Winston makes the squad, she buys his for him. And since when do they have a coach?

*The Unicorns cheated when buying uniforms. Their school colors are blue and white, so they picked a dark enough purple that it could almost pass for navy blue. Why does no one ever call them on their shit?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Fear Street Sagas #4: The Sign of Fear (R.L. Stine)

The Sign of Fear starts out with Matthew Fear bricking William Goode up in a room. He starts thinking about the family amulet and what he did to get it from a girl named Christina.

Christina, as it turns out, lived in the New World in the early 18th century with her dad and Aunt Jane. When we first meet her, it's at her father's funeral. She keeps crying about how her aunt was so horrible to her when he was alive and how it will just get way worse now. Aunt Jane snaps at her as they put dirt in his grave for showing too much emotion and how it will make people think bad of them.

Some poor woman walks by with her two kids, one kid falls, and crows come out of nowhere to attack the poor kid. She fights the birds off and manages to get her hands on something silver in one of the bird's mouths. Christina loses her balance and falls right in her father's open grave.

She apparently passes out because she wakes up later back at home. Aunt Jane is right outside her door and whispering to another woman about what she'll do with Christina now. They make it seem like they might kill her, so she decides to escape. Jane catches her and chases her back to her own room, but Christina fights back, throws a chair through the window, and dives through the broken glass. Jane grabs her by the ankle to pull her back inside, which results in her kicking her aunt right in the throat. Nice.

While wandering through the woods, she realizes that she still has the silver piece from the bird. It's a funny looking amulet with a Latin phrase on it that means power through evil. A random – and handsome! - young man stumbles across her in the woods and introduces himself as Matthew. He wants to take her to the Peterson farm, but she worries because there are rumors in town of servants going there and never returning. Matthew convinces her that it's fine and that he knows the family well.

As soon as she gets there though, she realizes that Mrs. Peterson was the woman she overheard talking to her aunt. Aunt Jane actually sold the poor girl to the family as their new servant. She also meets Emily, the woman's daughter, who clearly has a thing for Matthew. Mrs. Peterson takes her to her new room and hisses at her to clean herself up.

While trying to wash her hands, Christina freaks out and accidentally breaks the pitcher and slices open her hands. When she rushes downstairs, Emily goes all “my precious, my precious” on her as she squeezes her hands to make the blood come out before running away. Mrs. Peterson tries to calm the situation by explaining that her daughter was just trying to squeeze her hands to stop the blood from flowing. Once they clean her up and Matthew leaves, Christina gets locked in the cellar.

Her new life sucks balls. They expect her to do all the cleaning and work outside, but if she doesn't do exactly what they want, they refuse to feed her. One night, she hears a moaning sound coming from Emily's room. When they leave for the day, she sneaks inside and sees creepy stuff like a wrinkled hand, jars of eyeballs, and other body parts. There are also mirrors everywhere. The amulet burns her as she hears something calling her voice, and she breaks every mirror. Christina then finds a vial of her own blood and smashes it on the floor.

In other parts of history, 50 BC to be exact – there are two warriors named Fieran and Conn. Fieran is in love with Brianna and thinks they will live happily ever after. When the old tribe leader dies, everyone waits to see who his spirit will pick as his successor. Though Fieran feels the spirit enter him, Conn claims it was him. To prove it, he carries Brianna into a massive fire and walks out unharmed. Conn tells the others that Fieran went crazy but that they should still exile him.

Fieran becomes convinced that he's the true successor and stalks Conn. Conn tells him that Brianna has magical powers and that she protected them in the fire. He also claims that they are in love. Fieran doesn't believe him until he sees the two embracing and hears her gush over her new love. This leads him to do a bunch of spells to gain more power and end Conn.

All these leads to a big fight between the two. Just when it looks like Fieran might win, Conn comes back swinging and actually knocks him on the ground. That's when the ancient stones come to life and kill Conn. Though Fieran thinks this is proof that they picked him, it was actually Brianna controlling things from behind the scenes. She professes her love to him, and he assumes that they'll get their happy ending.

What actually happens though is that he begins doubting her, especially when she starts telling him the same things she told Conn. Fieran creates the legendary Fier amulet, does a spell, and tries to kill her. Brianna takes him down like he's nothing, reveals that she has all the power, and then tells him that she's pregnant with his child. As he bleeds out, she uses his blood to power for the amulet for future generations.

Back in Christina's day, she waits for the Peterson family to leave and takes the amulet to see her good old aunt. Jane is just about to take a pie out of the oven and snaps at her about getting in the way and ruining everything. The amulet takes control and makes the juices from the pie bubble up and land on the woman's arms. Jane slowly burns to death as the juices spread all over her and eat through her clothing. By the time that Christina can walk away, her aunt is just a pile of bone and ash.

Outside, she runs into Matthew. He tells her that he keeps going into the woods to look for a family artifact and that he felt the power of it. She tells him all about how awful the Petersons are and begs him to go back to their house. He agrees that if he sees anything bad that he'll take her away with him.

What happens is that Emily flips out because Christina destroyed the blood vial. Though she tries to drag her away, she doesn't have the strength or energy and slowly starts aging in front of her. Emily is actually Mrs. Peterson's mother and used blood and rituals to remain young. They all start fighting, which causes the Fear amulet to flash. Matthew is shocked because that's his family artifact.

The amulet feeds off fire don't cha know, and it causes the candles in the room to go up in flames. Christina manages to get away from the two women and yells for Matthew to help her. Instead, he takes the amulet from her and runs off. She manages to crawl outside on her own, just in time to see him get on his horse and take off. All Christina can do is weep because she loved him so much and he chose evil over her...

*The whole Fieran and Conn thing was way longer in the book than my recap. I found it so boring though that I kept skipping sections of it to get back to the main story.

*Matthew bricking up William happens in one of the other books, but I cannot for the life of me remember which one!

*Christina is all in shock and upset over what happened to her aunt, but I have to ask, why? The woman literally sold her and then apparently stole her dad's property!

*Matthew kind of acts sad/down in the beginning because of what he did to get his family amulet back. When he actually does though, he doesn't seem to care. It's also random that he just took off and that the story ending with Christina being sad instead of going back to him again.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Sweet Valley High #73: Regina's Legacy

The hot new thing at Sweet Valley High is that Jim, that guy who only pops up when they mention Shelley, just started a photography club. Even though Liz never expressed interest in taking pictures before, she's one of the first people who joints up. She takes pictures all the time and lets it become her latest obsession.

Jim comes up with an idea to give something back to the school and do a huge mural. They'll all go out and take photos, put the pictures together, and present it to the school. If there's one thing a public high school needs, it's a mural done by a bunch of teenagers who think they are professionals. Thank god there weren't cell phones around back then. They also decide to make it a huge secret, which pisses off a bunch of people, including Shelley.

While hanging out at home, she gets a call from Sky Morrow, Regina's mom. She wants to stop by and talk to Liz for a bit. When she shows up, she has a present for Liz that she found when cleaning out Regina's room. It's an almost brand new camera. Even though Regina was way too busy hating her boyfriend for cheating on her and her friends for lying to her about her boyfriend cheating on her before she died, she somehow had time to get really into photography.

Liz heads to the beach with Prince Albert and the new camera to take some photos and winds up shooting all these random strangers. She sees an older guy with some other people and takes a picture. When he sees her, he comes over and demands the photo back. They have an argument that ends with Prince Albert saving the day before she hops in the car and takes off.

Jessica keeps fighting with Liz over the car because Liz has it all the time. When she finally gets her day, she takes Lila to the beach. A dude in a car starts tailgating them and getting really close until she pulls over. He thinks she's Liz and keeps talking about that day on the beach before asking if she can get him a copy of the picture. Since he's hot, she agrees and gives him her number. She then tells Lila that after one date with her, he'll forget all about the stupid picture.

Liz and Todd see a report on the news about Ron White, some random guy who was helping bring down drug smugglers. He suddenly recanted his story, which left law enforcement with no case. Liz says he's the same guy she saw on the beach, but Todd points out that's crazy talk because the guy was in Washington DC that day. She plans to enlarge her photo and see if she can find any details.

That can't happen though because someone broke into the school and ransacked the photo lab. Most photos are okay, but most of the machinery is toast. Amy's dad is a photographer, I completely forgot about that, and agrees to let Liz use his studio. She and Todd get the photo as big as they can and see the name Rick's Place on a shirt one of the guys wore. They look it up in the phone book and decide to stake the place out.

Chad, the random guy from the road, calls Jessica once to ask her out, but she wasn't home. He calls back and asks again, reminding her to bring the picture with her. She tears apart Elizabeth's room, doesn't find it, and figures that he'll forget all about it when he sees her. Jessica does take the time to grab her cheerleading jacket on her way out the door.

Elizabeth comes home to change, finds her room torn apart, and instantly knows that it was the same guys who hit the school. Todd thinks it was probably just Jessica looking for something to wear. They go to Rick's Place and find that it's just an upscale hamburger place. Both the hostess and the bartender recognize the young guy from the photo but have no info on him.

Chad conveniently takes Jessica to the same restaurant but does not see her identical twin hanging around. He starts pushing her about the picture and eventually gets rough before demanding she get up. When she claims she left it in the photo lab, he tells her that he already looked there. She then claims she put it in her locker, so he drags her outside.

Liz and Todd follow but get distracted by a big party coming in to the restaurant. They manage to catch up to their car, but Chad thinks Todd is just a rich kid with a fancy car and leaves him in the dust. The cops stop them, Liz blurts out the story, and the random cop decides to just believe them. Since Jessica pointed at the SVH logo on her jacket, they know where they're going.

Jessica is so scared that she keeps messing up the locker combination, which makes Chad extremely angry. Just as he's about to hit her, the cops rush him. He runs away and runs straight into Todd who knocks him down. It turns out that he was one of the drug smugglers. They used Rich, Ron's identical twin brother, to recant the story. They then kidnapped Ron, but he escaped one day and made it to the beach, which is when Liz took the photo.

Jim and Shelley keep fighting all the time because he keeps blowing her off for the club's secret project and refuses to talk to her about it. He shows up over an hour late for dinner one night and finds her with douche nozzle Greg, who is somehow still one of her best friends. She refuses to talk to him and hangs out with Greg instead. Jim gets advice from Elizabeth to do something special for Shelley.

Cut to the unveiling of the new mural. He took photos of all the club members for his section but made the center picture the one he took of Shelley. She sees it, realizes she was lame for not trusting him, and they get back together. Liz's section is all about teachers, but Todd likes someone who did one on sweethearts because there was a picture of them. Mr. and Mrs. Morrow then show up and are so moved by seeing a photo Liz included of her and Regina that they agree to pay to fix or replace all the lab equipment.

*Liz is relieved when Jeffrey does not join the club because he's too busy. She though it might make things uncomfortable. You think?

*Liz can't understand why the dude would be so unhappy with her taking photos and thinks he overreacted. I don't know, if some random high school kid started taking pictures of me without my permission, I think I'd be pissed off too.

*Why did it have to be a gift from Regina? Not only does it not make sense because she had no interest in photography, but it's also crappy because Liz acts like they were such best friends when (a) she hasn't mentioned her in months and (b) she totally did not tell her supposed best friend about her boyfriend cheating on her for weeks.

*Why did the guys make such a big deal of the photo? Even if Liz went to the cops, she has no proof that she took the picture on the day when Rich was in Washington DC. They could have just lied and said it was before or after he testified.

*Elizabeth makes a comment about how maybe Regina was with her in spirit and was what convinced her to take a second look at the photo because of the whole drug connection.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Nancy Drew Files #4: Smile and Say Murder (1986)

Even though Nancy and Ned had plans to spend his spring break from college at his parents' lake house, she begs off to check out a potential case at Flash, the hottest new teen magazine. Yvonne, who started the company, recently received some threatening letters and think Mick, her art director, is behind it all. She offers to help Nancy pose as an intern to get to the bottom of things.

Ned is less than happy that she's once again blowing him off for a case and equally unhappy when she drags him along. Nancy convinces Yvonne to sneak Ned into the magazine too without telling him. She then can't figure out why he's so unhappy with her.

It doesn't help that Nancy doesn't get along with Mick very well. He keeps putting her down all the time, and his sister, Sondra, who also works for the magazine keeps accusing Nancy of being a spy. She finds out that Yvonne loves mystery books and sees a copy of a best seller in Mick's desk. He also does a photo shoot with spiders, and someone leaves a tarantula in Yvonne's desk.

Mick has a soft side too. He leaves a note for her on what to do in the darkroom and how to stay safe. Nancy notices that he misspells a lot of words that whoever wrote the threatening notes actually spelled correctly. She then learns that Yvonne's boyfriend David is the former editor in chief of a big law review. The owner of that law review keeps trying to get Yvonne to sell the magazine to them.

Ned then starts spending an uncomfortable amount of time with Sondra. She's always draping herself over him and acting like he's the hottest thing on two legs. When someone shoots at Yvonne in her office, Nancy finds Mick in his studio with a gun in his hands. She knocks him out just as the cops arrive and without bothering to take a pulse, they decide to just automatically arrest her for his murder. He wakes up, they smooth things over, and then the cops arrest him.

The main problem is that Ned comes to pick her up and has Sondra with him. He and Nancy have yet another fight, mainly because Ned comforts Sondra over what's going on with her brother and kind of ignores Nancy. She basically tells him it's over, but because he's Ned, he doesn't take no for an answer. Ned calls her all the time and begs for her forgiveness.

Nancy finds proof that Mick wasn't even in the offices on the night someone shot at Yvonne and helps get him out of jail. Yvonne then fires her because she just knows Mick was behind everything. Nancy and Mick bond to the point that he asks her to be his date for the Maggies, some big deal magazine awards show. Ned shows up with Sondra who, once again, is all over him. When Mick and Yvonne win an award, a chandelier overhead comes loose and crashes down on them.

Mick recovers and bonds with Nancy while getting treated in the hospital. He reveals that Yvonne is actually a successful mystery writer with a pen name, which causes Nancy to put everything together. She calls Ned to come and pick her up, and when he shows up with Sondra, all hell breaks loose. Sondra finally gets in the middle and makes them make up.

They go to the Flash office, and Yvonne manages to lock Ned and Sondra in the darkroom. She then confesses the whole thing to Nancy. Yvonne fired a gun into the wall after the office was closed for the night, fired her gun the day someone “shot at her” out the window, and then hid it in her bag. She wanted to drum up interest in the magazine to get the best offer and make people want to read her mystery novels when she dropped her pen name. After confessing, she takes the tape recorder Nancy hid in her bag and marches her to the darkroom.

Yvonne pushes Nancy inside and makes her tie the other two up before tying up Nancy. She mixes together a bunch of chemicals in a bowl, puts the tape nearby, and then lights the mixture on fire before leaving and locking the door behind her. Nancy saves the day by untying Sondra with her teeth, which lets the girl untie them.

The fire causes an explosion that knocks down a wall, but Sondra passes out from the fumes before they can move. Nancy has Ned carry her to safety while she goes back and finds the tape. They get outside just in time to hear the fire trucks and police cars on the way.

In the end, Ned and Nancy finally do get to go on vacation. She casually mentions having plans with Sondra for the following week. They make up, do some more kissing, and decide to try and not let cases come between them again, which will probably last until the next book.

*Mick, at one point, wears skintight black pants with a tight white shirt, shoes with a zebra print, and an ascot with a matching print. When he's in the hospital, Nancy brings him a remote control car in a zebra print.

*Nancy wears a light blue angora sweater for her first day on the job and then wears a gold dress with matching gold sandals for the awards show.

*When talking with her friends about Ned, Bess and George claim that no guy would ever matter to her the way he does. She then mentions cheating on him with some random guy in another book, and they just tell her that guy doesn't count. Uh-huh.

*I side with Ned in this fight and not just because I've read so many of these books. He points out that she blew off plans at least twice to go the lake house because of a case. It's also his spring break, and he just wants to relax and spend time with his girl. She not only blows him off for a case, but then she makes him actually work on his spring break!

*Ned's college, which I always thought was on the small side, is big enough that it plays Notre Dame in football. That's pretty damn big. Also, Ned is a good enough player to be on a football team that competes against Notre Dame!

*Want to hear the weirdest thing about this book? Mick tells Nancy that he grew up reading The Hardy Boys, which means that the boys are fictional. BUT, there are Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew crossover books. I know, because I have them and haven't read them yet...

Monday, February 5, 2018

Sweet Valley Kids #67: The Secret of Fantasy Forest

Apparently, Jessica won a radio contest in the last book and got tickets to Fantasy Forest, some huge amusement park. The contest was only open to kids 13 or older, and Liz freaked out and told them the truth. They were so happy about her being honest that they got enough tickets for their whole family and Joe.

When they get to Fantasy Forest, Jessica will not STFU about the Princess Pageant, which is some show where real girls model actually dresses owned and worn by real princesses. It seems like even Alice is tired of hearing this story. The twins want to ride some rides, but the boys want to go on roller coasters. Ned and Alice decide that since the park is “so safe” that they'll let them all go out on their own as long as they meet up for lunch and dinner.

The girls head to the Enchanted Castle first for some ride that seems like It's a Small World. Elizabeth thinks she sees someone peeking out from a window on the castle and freaks out, but Jessica convinces her that that's crazy talk. They go on a few different rides and then see this kid with a red pass around his neck. He introduces himself as Billy and helps them skip the line. They go right up to the front and get right inside.

Billy winds up taking them all over the park and getting them to the front of each line. He even gives each one her own red pass. Liz keeps seeing this bald guy following them around and freaking out because he looks like the same guy she saw in the castle window. Billy is all secretive too and won't tell them who he's at the park with or where he got the pass. When they have to meet their parents for lunch, they make plans to meet later before he takes their passes.

After a quick lunch, they find Billy and get their passes back. Jessica suggests doing something else, he says he can't, and the he abruptly changes their mind. Billy convinces them to get out of the ride they're on in the middle and sneak away. Bald dude is right behind them and tries to catch up but can't get out in time. He eventually finds them and makes Billy leave, and Billy takes back their passes.

Liz just knows that the guy kidnapped Billy and that they need to stop him, so she convinces Jessica to skip the Princess Pageant and help Billy. They see him enter the castle and crawl through an open window. Instead of looking like a ride or an attraction, the castle actually looks like a home. They follow the sounds of someone crying and find Billy as the bald man finds them.

It turns out that Billy is the only child of the couple who own the amusement park. They wanted to be as close as possible to the action and decided to make the castle their home. This lets Billy come and go whenever he wants, which is why he knows the park so well. Bald guy is actually Butch, his bodyguard. Billy's parents show up and invite the girls to dinner. They even call the restaurant where their parents are and have security bring them over too.

While having dinner, they start talking about the wait times at some of the rides. Liz suggests letting Butch be the main ride operator because he looks scary, which will keep the line moving, and because he looks like he would love it. Butch agrees, and the parents then agree to give him the job. Jessica mentions being sad over the whole pageant thing, so they arrange to have a special showing just for the twins. They even get to wear some of the dresses! Billy's parents then say that they might just have one last thing for the twins...

*Jessica says Joe had to come to keep Steven company but she and Liz didn't need friends because they had each other. That seems like an excellent way to keep your kids from making new friends...

*I understand that this was a different time, but there is no way I would let my second grade girls loose at a freaking amusement park without any supervision!

*The idea of them living inside the amusement park absolutely kills me! What happens if they run out of milk in the middle of the night? Does Billy not go to school? How do they get in and out for doctors' appointments?

*I feel like this would be really bad for a kid to grow up this way. He pretty much just wanders around the park all day with a bodyguard following him around. Billy is either not in school or just has a tutor come to him, which makes it even worse.

*Do the ghostwriters not know how ride operators work or what they do? They make it out like there's one guy at the one ride who does nothing but operate it. Replacing him with Butch and moving the old guy to a ride he likes better will somehow make things go way faster. It's not like people aren't getting on and off any faster! Also, does that mean one poor kid is stuck working a single ride all day every day?

*They meet this mean girl while waiting for a ride with her little sister. Her sister is scared and wants her to ride with her, but mean girl refuses because she wants to go by herself. Billy makes the little sister feel better and lets her ride with them. When they later see Pigtails, what they named her older sister, refusing to go on the ferris wheel with her, Billy talks to the ride operator. He arranges for her to get stuck at the top for 5+ minutes by herself, which freaks her out so much that she apologizes to her sister and agrees to ride with her from now on.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Friends Forever #1: Kristy's Big News

Kristy is hanging out with her whole family, enjoying dinner and probably being super smug about them when the phone rings. Elizabeth, her mother, comes back with a concerned look on her face. The caller is Patrick, their father, and he wants to talk to Kristy, Charlie, and Sam. He has some big news, which is that he's getting married and wants them to come out for the ceremony.

Charlie doesn't even make it through the call before hanging up and leaving. Elizabeth lets them know that Patrick is sending plane tickets and wants them to stay for almost a whole week. It's their decision whether to go or not. Charlie instantly decides that he is not going, which makes her decide that if he doesn't go, no one else can. Kristy and Sam badger him for way too long because they really want to go and see Patrick again until Charlie finally gives up.

After Charlie takes the window seat on the plane, Kristy suggests they break up who sits in the window to keep Sam from exploding. Since Charlie made it very clear that he didn't want to go, they should let him do whatever he wants. They arrive and pick up Patrick's car at the airport. See, even though he totally wanted them there, he was way too busy to actually pick up the kids he hasn't seen in decades. He sent them car keys and left directions to his new house in the car.

They get to his house and discover that it's absolutely nothing like Patrick at all. Kristy finds his office and sees photos of him with a beautiful woman. She also finds one of him in an apron outside of a restaurant. Though all the kids wander around a lot, they don't find anything that reminds them of the father they actually knew.

Patrick shows up with Zoey, his future wife. Though he tries to hug them all, Charlie is visibly unhappy and walks away. He and Patrick later get into it, with Charlie accusing him of not giving a shit about them. Charlie also makes it clear that he has no interest in being Patrick's best man alongside Sam. Sam kind of goes overboard to make up for his brother and winds up spending a lot of time with his dad.

It turns out that Zoey owns a restaurant and that Patrick gave up sports writing to be her head chef. They even met when they were both taking classes at a cooking school. Kristy actually really likes her and bonds with her when they go shopping. Zoey is very down to earth and just seems like a cool chick. Kristy does feel a little uncomfortable about her dad though. She always thought he left to focus on his career and then he just ditched that job.

Though Zoey manages to bond with all three, Charlie still refuses to spend any time with Patrick. This comes to a head the night of the rehearsal dinner. Patrick literally hisses at him and tells him to grow up and act like a “good son,” which causes Charlie to decide against attending at all. Sam and Kristy stay behind with him, but he makes it clear that he doesn't want to hear about their dad. They talk things through and get to the rehearsal dinner just in time, though it seems like they mainly do it for Zoey and not their dad.

While shopping for dresses, Kristy finally works up the courage to talk with Zoey about how Patrick is kind of shitty. That's when Zoey reveals that she thinks the experiences he had with them will make him a better father when they have kids. Kristy almost cries because she never thought that her dad would have any more kids. She kind of tries to talk to Zoey about how this might not be a good idea, but Zoey knows that Patrick is a good man.

The book then cuts to Kristy back home in Stoneybrook. She tells her mom all about the wedding, and Elizabeth says that she just wants to see her dad happy. Kristy then heads over to a BSC meeting and talks things through with her friends. She tells them that it's still possible her dad might change for the better but that she's still lucky for what she does have. They then talk about weddings until Kristy rolls her eyes and announces that it's time for pizza.

*Kristy says that Karen and Andrew live with them every other month, but didn't Andrew move away with his mom and Seth while Karen stayed with Watson?

*She also makes the comment that “we adopted Emily Michelle” instead of saying her mom and Watson, which I thought was sweet.

*I don't understand why she pushes Charlie so much to go to the wedding or why any of them would even want to go. Patrick has had no contact with them in so long and was such a horrible dad that I don't think I'd ever want to see him again.

*It's also kind of ridiculous that Patrick invites them out for almost a whole week! That seems like way too long. If he actually wanted to reconnect with his kids, why not come back for a long weekend to see them first?

*Kristy tells a story that almost made me cry. For the first year after their dad left, Charlie couldn't play baseball because he had to take care of them. Sam bought him a glove for his birthday and agreed to take over one day a week so he could play.

*Charlie gave them all extremely short haircuts once to save their mom some money. Kristy and Sam did laundry to help, accidentally mixed in a red shirt, and everything came out pink. Charlie redid the laundry with a yellow shirt thrown it that turned everything orange.

*Patrick does not ask about David Michael, doesn't ask him to come to the phone, and doesn't send him a plane ticket. Elizabeth says he's just too young to go, but it does lead some weight to the theory that he isn't Patrick's kid.

*During their BSC meeting, Claudia wears cut off jeans with bicycle shorts, a paint splattered tee shirt, and suspenders covered in buttons that she made. Kristy wears a WNBA shirt and cut offs. Mary Anne pairs khaki shorts with a polo shirt, and Stacey wears a ribbed and sleeveless shirt with linen shorts.

*Just in case you missed it, Patrick and Zoey not only live together before getting married but actually share a bedroom!

*This book really got to me because I've been in Zoey's position before and dating a guy who had kids with someone else. He seemed like the perfect guy to me, despite what everyone said. It took me way too long to realize that he wasn't a good guy and that good guys don't just ditch their kids.

*Zoey has her whole family there for the wedding, including her parents, each of her dad's ex-wives, and even her grandmother. Patrick literally just has three of his four kids. How does she not find that a red flag?

*It's pretty clear that Patrick only asked them there because he wanted to show his new in-laws that he's the perfect guy to marry Zoey. The fact that he hisses at Charlie about being a good son cements it. That's why I hated that Sam and Kristy kept pushing Charlie to be good and talk to their dad. I also hated that they seemed willing to forgive him for all his shit over the years.

*They have an uncle who is Patrick's brother. They stopped talking after some fight he won't talk about, and when Patrick sent him a wedding invitation, he wrote back “best wishes, but no way.” Is that not a red flag for Zoey??

*Zoey even admits that she knew there was something up with him and his kids because all his stories are from when they were really young and he has no photos of them anywhere. Yup, sounds like someone I would want to marry!

*Charlie snaps back at Patrick that he shouldn't be a good son because Patrick wasn't a good father. Patrick then literally tells Charlie that they didn't do a good of staying in touch with him. Are you kidding me? Watson's been more of a father to them in a year than he was their whole lives!