Thursday, October 19, 2017

Sweet Valley Kids #49: Jessica's Mermaid

Lila can't stop bragging about the trip her dad recently took to Hawaii for business. Not only did he promise her that he would take her when she turned 10, but he also brought her back a necklace made from seashells that you can't find anywhere else in the world. Hating that her friend is the center of attention, Jessica keeps claiming that she sees monsters in the school yard and on the road. Elizabeth eventually reminds her of the boy who cried wolf.

The kids are all excited because they're taking a field trip to a water preserve. While all the other kids wore practical and sensible clothing like shorts and running shoes, Jessica refused to wear anything but her new outfit, which consists of black patent leather shoes with slick soles and a blue sailor outfit. This limits what she can do and leads to her walking way slower than everyone else.

While looking at a pool of water, Jessica sees a figure with long hair and big eyes that then disappears. She runs off to tell her friends that she saw a real mermaid. Naturally, no one gives a crap or even believes her. They would rather pay attention to Ellen because she decided to find all the same seashells as those on Lila's necklace and make one of her own. Lila keeps saying she'll never find the same ones, but Ellen finds all but one and then finds that one too. This makes Lila pout more than usual.

No one believes Jessica, not even her own twin. Every time that they ask her to play or do something with them, she refuses unless they say they believe her. Liz finally says that she believes her twin saw something in the water and convinces her that she should tell their teacher. The teacher agrees with Travis, their tour guide, that they should do back and take a look.

This time, Travis does see something in the water and pulls out a sea lion cub. The hair Jessica saw was some seaweed wrapped around her. Travis says that cubs often get abandoned and that they can save and rehabilitate her. Jessica gets to cuddle with the lion for a few minutes. Travis says she can name the cub, and Jessica picks the name Mermaid, so she can really say that she saw a mermaid.

Their teacher takes her to the side and has a long talk with her about how you should always tell the truth. Jessica agrees, they share a brief moment, and then she runs off. Carolina gives her a pair of spare shoes so she can have fun with all her friends before they all go off on something completely different.

*Jessica puts out that 10 is a long time from now and that Lila's dad might forget about his promise. It's an ouch moment given how often he forgets about her later.

*You would think that the teacher might call the Wakefield house and let them know that their second grade child keeps lying all the time, but that might have stopped Jessica from becoming even worse as a teenager.

*I love that Ellen actually found all the same seashells and made her own necklace. It's nice to see her being a normal kid who everyone likes!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #147: The Case of the Captured Queen (1999)

River Heights must be like one of the top cities in the world or something. The last book had the big Olympic type event and this one hosts an international chess tournament. Even though most players stay in the same hotel downtown, Donna, one of the top players, is staying at the Drew house with her twin sister Danitra. Their father is close friends with Carson and when he and his wife couldn't fly out, Carson offered to look after them.

Donna's biggest competitor is Greta, a young woman from Germany. Her sister, Anna, is already in River Heights as an exchange student, but her brother, Eric, and trainer, Esther, come with her. Esther approaches Donna and tells her to play up the rivalry between the two because it will make the tournament more exciting. Donna puts out that she just wants to play. She also shows Nancy this super fancy chess set she has, which belonged to her grandfather.

During the first tournament, we also meet some other people. Donna's coach Stricker comes around and whines about how she needs to play better without actually doing anything. He also demands that Nancy give Donna the quietest place in her house to practice. Eric also comes around a few times to complain about how he never wants to go back home. That makes Greta feel bad because she's homesick and really misses their parents.

Before the first game, someone breaks into the Drew house and steals some of the pieces from her chess set. They leave behind a note stabbed through the case with a knife that says to lose the first game or else. Donna ignores the note, plays her best, and wins. The person then sends a bouquet of flowers to the house with some of her pieces inside and another threatening note. Since this is a Nancy Drew book, we must get one scene of her brakes failing out and a mechanic telling her that someone deliberately cut the brake line.

It turns out that Greta got some threatening notes too. The notes seem to play the two women off each other, as if someone wants to build up their rivalry. River Heights also built a massive chess set with pieces that costumed players move. Someone rushes out of nowhere, knocks over a bunch of pieces, and tries to run away. When caught, he says that someone paid him to do it but that he didn't get a name.

Greta grows close to Bess because Bess is close to Anna or something. Bess comes to Nancy and tells her that someone kidnapped Anna. They left behind a note that told Greta she would never see her sister again unless she won the tournament. Eric flips out that she keeps telling people and points out that the note said not to tell anyone or they would kill Anna.

Nancy thinks Esther, Greta's coach, is behind everything. She sneaks into the woman's hotel room and finds a German magazine that has letters cut out, letters that match those used in the note Greta got. Nancy also hears Esther talking to someone about how Greta will win the tournament and how she has a plan in place to make it happen. Esther very nearly catches Nancy coming out of her room.

Greta almost breaks down during a match and concedes. Lucky for her, this is a double elimination tournament, so she has one more chance. Her and Donna get into it in front of a lot of people, with both girls shouting about how she is a better player. Greta wins her match and gets back in the tournament, and it somehow all comes down to the two of them.

Right before the match starts, Donna gets a note that someone kidnapped her twin sister and that unless she loses, she'll never see her sister again. Nancy starts putting all the pieces together and heads over to the house where Anna was staying. The woman of the house tells her that Anna went to the hotel to stay with her brother and sister while they were in town.

Nancy immediately rushes over and bangs on the door to the room number the woman gave her. Anna answers but pretends she's someone else until Nancy threatens to break the door down. She finally answers and confesses the whole thing. Eric hates Germany and never wants to go back. He made a bunch of deals in Greta's name to make money, but she has to win the tournament before he gets any of that cash. Anna agreed to work with him but didn't think he would take things that far.

After calling the cops, Nancy finds that Eric left his hat behind, sees a woman with a beagle, and demands that she let her borrow the dog. The woman refuses until the mother flipping Chief of Police tells her that it's a police matter. Nancy uses the dog to track Eric's scent and finds him hanging out in a storage closet with Danitra. The cops show up to arrest him while Nancy and Danitra run to the match.

Since Danitra and Donna conveniently know American Sign Language, they talk with each other. Danitra tells her twin that she's fine and everyone is safe. Donna comes back from certain defeat to win the game, and Nancy has to explain to poor Greta what happened. Donna then thinks that maybe it's time to give up chess and take up a new hobby.

*Nancy points out this girl Emily, who is the youngest player in the tournament. They talk about her for almost an entire page, which made me think she had an important role in the book. Nope. She literally gets one other mention later.

*Bess is so rarely in this book that when Nancy mentions Anna at the end, she asks what happened and why they were looking for her.

*There's a B-plot about a coach from Emerson College who wants to give Donna a full scholarship to run for the team. He keeps popping up and trying to convince her that she should give up chess to run. The coach even comes back at the end of the book to try one last time. There's really no mention of why he thinks she's a good runner though. If she's on the track team in high school, how does she have time to focus so much on chess?

*Nancy and Donna accidentally wander into a modeling show when trying to find the tournament. The head organizer refuses to believe that someone as gorgeous as Nancy isn't a model and offers her cash to model for him. Gag me.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Sweet Valley Twins #111: Sisters at War

Even though this is book number 111 and the first book started the school year, it's somehow Thanksgiving in Sweet Valley. Alice goes completely bonkers because it's their turn to host the big family dinner. Her sister Laura is coming from Arizona with her daughter Kelly and her sister Nancy is coming with her husband and their kids Robin and Stacey. The twins have a vacation from school and want to relax, but Alice gives them tons of chores to do like dusting all the light bulbs, mopping the kitchen floor, and vacuuming the stairs.

The twins are both tired and start getting really snippy with each other. Jessica acts like Elizabeth is a slob for leaving a sweater downstairs and not taking it to her room and throws a fit when Liz points out that Jess actually borrowed that sweater and lost it. They also fight over who will do what chores and what they'll do when their cousins get there. Alice tells them to knock it off. Jessica overhears Alice on the phone and saying something about Aaron and how it will surprise “her.” Jess gets giddy because she just knows this means her mom arranged for Aaron to eat with them on Thanksgiving day and throws it in her twin's face that she'll have the better holiday.

Though they instantly bond with Robin and Stacey because they see them more often, they try to make Kelly feel like part of the group too. Jessica tells Robin that Kelly speaks fluent French and loves poetry. Since they have sooo much in common, the two girls take a walk together. Kelly confesses that she doesn't like poetry and speaks Spanish. She sees her old home and almost breaks down but finds some things in common with her cousin and focuses on that instead.

Steven needs to make a family tree for one of his classes and keeps asking Alice questions. Since she keeps blowing him off, he starts sneaking around and listening to other people talk. He hears Alice, Laura, and Nancy talking about someone named Darren and asks Alice about him. She accuses him of going through her mail and tells him to leave. Alice also lets it slip that someone special is coming for dinner and it's definitely not Greg, Laura's ex-husband.

Jessica really wanted to watch some movie called Too Cool for High School with Robin, but Liz rented this British flick based off a book. Robin wants to watch that movie first, but it's so boring that she can't handle it. They switch to the other movie, so Liz storms off to the den to sit by herself and read a book. She doesn't come out until it's time to eat.

Nancy notices that there is one extra place setting, which makes Alice reveal that she invited Darren to dinner. See, Darren was Laura's high school boyfriend. They planned on going to college together and even talked about marriage. When she got her acceptance letter and went to his house though, it was empty. He enlisted in the military and left town. He wrote her letters that she never opened and made calls that she never answered.

Laura screams at Alice about meddling and demands that Kelly get her stuff together so they can leave. Before they leave though, Darren shows up. As soon as they see each other, she kind of gives up and tells him that she could never resist him. They hug as the adults leave to give them some space.

Ned explains that Darren had a learning disability and never got into college. He enlisted and wrote Laura a letter but sent it to the wrong address. When he didn't get back a response, he assumed she moved on and gave up. After learning what actually happened, he tried to call her multiple times and wrote her letters. She was so devastated that when she met Greg, she just decided to marry him because she was ready.

When they go to sit down, they realize that Kelly is missing. The girls head off to look for her and find her sitting and crying in front of her old house. Kelly says that she has no friends in Arizona and really only has her mom. Now that her mom has a new guy though, she won't have time for her. Stacey tells her a story she made up about a girl who had no friends other than a rag doll. The girl saved a butterfly, which made her deepest wish come true and turned her doll into a real girl. Kelly sniffles a little because it's such a sweet story before heading home.

Though Alice kept telling her kids that she and her sisters never fought, they fight over anything and everything. They even fight over things that happened when they were kids like Laura accidentally breaking a collector cup that Nancy had. The girls come home to find them still fighting. Kelly apologizes for running away and tells them that they're lucky to have sisters because she doesn't have that. Laura tells her that she will always have her, they hug, and finally sit down to eat dinner.

*Jessica complains that Liz made her watch an incredibly boring movie about an ice skater with a terminal disease. Does that not sound like a Unicorn approved movie?

*Liz gets all sad because she wants to do a family tree too, and Steven tells her that she'll get the chance when she's older. Um, I totally remember doing a family tree in elementary school.

*Jessica tells Kelly that she's crazy for thinking her mom will ditch her for a guy before remembering that her dad really did leave her. She might recall that her best friend's mom disappeared too...

*Kelly gets upset at one point and goes upstairs to be by herself. Jess offers to talk to her, and Liz decides to go to because Kelly will want to “confide” in her. God, how did she get so condescending at such a young age?

*Alice was in a grocery store, someone called her name, and Darren just happened to be there and somehow knew that she was Laura's older sister. They started talking, exchanged some letters, and she eventually invited him to dinner.

*Not cool Alice, not cool. You do not under any circumstances invite your sister's ex to a family dinner like this without telling her. I don't care if he told you what happened or not, you don't do it. Laura was within her right to slap her across the face and storm out.

*No offense to Darren or anything, but why would she believe his story? How do we know that he didn't just have a run of bad luck with women and decide to get back together with his ex? Maybe he just realized he dumped her in a bad way and quickly made up some story to make it seem like he was a good guy.

*It's a little strange too that Laura got her acceptance letter in the middle of April, rushed over to his house, and he was gone. Since they were going to go to school together, that would make it seem like he dropped out of high school to enlist.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #96: The Case of the Photo Finish (1990)

River Heights is randomly selected as the site of some massive games event like the Olympics but for high school students. Both Nancy's family and George's family agree to take in girls running against each other. Nancy winds up with Cheryl, but George winds up with Marta, a girl from Germany who kinda seems like a bitch. Her trainer Helga shows up with her and demands to stay in their home.

It turns out that someone wants Cheryl to lose real bad. Among the suspects are Eric, a photographer, Steve, his main competition, Willy, some random dude who barely turns up in the book, and both Helga and Marta. During the first celebration event, someone pushes Cheryl off the stage, but she manages to catch herself at the last possible second. A random Swiss girl claims she saw someone push Cheryl, but when Nancy talks to her, she can't actually remember what she saw.

Cheryl gets threatening phone calls at Nancy's house, someone coats her gym bag in honey, and someone leaves a threatening note on their doorstep that warns her to drop out. She thinks the honey is a clear sign that Marta is behind everything because apparently Germans use honey when training or something. Someone then puts something in her path that she trips over and almost injures herself so bad that she needs to drop out.

Nancy kinda suspects this girl named Barbara. She pops up and requests that Marta do an interview with her but Helga refuses. Though she claims that she's there on assignment, she later admits that she's a freelancer. She approaches Nancy while wearing a very visible wire and tries to get her to say on record that she's investigating something. Barbara is also there with Steve when Cheryl trips. She admits that someone tipped her off that a big story would unfold and that when she realized what the person meant, she wanted to run away before anyone suspected her.

Annelise is another runner and one of the only ones from Germany. She agrees to help Nancy and keep an eye on things when she can't be there. They find her upset in the locker room because she spilled guava juice all over her warm up suit and had to get a new one. Nancy has stuff on her mind though because someone tried to run her and Cheryl off the road, which led to her finding out that she had no brakes. It turns out that someone actually cut the brake line.

As much as I would like to recap this book more in depth, not a lot happens. Carson and George's parents invite a whole crap load of people out to dinner one night, but George's dad then finds that his car won't start. Annelise briefly disappears and comes back just in time to fix the car. When Eric realizes his bag is missing, he freaks out and blames Steve because the bag has ALL his photos from the events over the last few days. Annelise conveniently finds the missing bag but the photos are gone.

Cut to the next day and the big race between Cheryl and Marta. They tie, which leaves the founders checking the camera footage to see who finished first. Nancy somehow puts everything together and realizes Annelise was behind the threats. She hoped to get Cheryl to drop out and frame Marta, which would help her win the big race. The cops show up and make her open her bag, where they find all of Eric's missing film. They presumably take her away, and the organizers come back with some big news. It turns out that Cheryl and Marta crossed the finish line at the exact same time, so they get to share the gold medal. Whatever.

*There's a random suspect named Ramsey who keeps showing up and shooting daggers at Cheryl or just acting really snappy around her. It takes Nancy way too long to realize that they dated and he isn't happy that Cheryl dumped him.

*Bess doesn't care though. She joins his cheering section and mentions that there are many women rooting for him.

*When I say that nothing happened, I really mean it. I kept skimming big chunks of the book because it was like Nancy chatting with someone and adding them to her suspect list when they didn't do anything.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Sweet Valley High Super Edition #1: Perfect Summer

How the hell have I gotten this far in this blog without doing this one?? I probably read this book a dozen times or more when I was a kid!

So, it's the first summer in between the twins' junior and senior years. That means they won't confront some serial killer out to get revenge on Ned and that they won't be working in the newspaper office or heading to summer camp. Nah, those come later in the summer?

This is the summer of the long ass bicycle trip. Sweet Valley High planned a trip for 10 kids and two chaperons. Roger Collins and Nora Dalton will be along for the ride. That makes things a wee bit uncomfortable because the two broke up and she's now back with George Fowler. Lila is less than thrilled about this new development. Also along for the ride is Barry, Chrome Dome Cooper's nephew. They all think he might be some super hot guy, but he's actually a nerdy and slightly overweight kid from Ohio.

Here's the way it works: they start out in SV and work their way up to the northern part of the state on bicycle. They'll stay in campgrounds, hostels, and other places along the way with a few nights where they'll have to make their own accommodations. Everyone must agree to carry their own gear and carry a portion of the group gear or food daily too.

One of their first stops is in Los Angeles. Bruce's dad is friends with Steve Thomas, some hot shot Hollywood producer. He offers to let them spend a few days at their palatial spread. Courtney, his daughter, is your classic spoiled rich girl. She barely looks at them when they arrive and immediately puts her sunglasses back on. When her dad asks her to show them around, she acts like it's some huge chore. Her boyfriend, Nolan, then arrives on motorcycle. Courtney hops on the back of his bike in just her bathing suit and takes off.

Poor Steve is at the end of his rope. He tells Nora and Roger all about how he can't control his daughter anymore and how she fell in with the wrong crowd. She – gasp – even started shoplifting. The horror, the horror! They agree to let her join the trip.

It's like a light flips on in her head. Courtney suddenly wants to be the most helpful person in the world. She shows up with freshly baked muffins the next morning, asks for advice about the ride, and even has their chef make them a gourmet dinner. A trace of her old attitude comes out when she learns they eat canned food, but she manages to cover it up. Elizabeth feels a little uncomfortable about the way she looks at Todd though.

That feeling grows as Courtney throws herself at Todd. She's always right by his side and always there to ask him for advice or for help. Liz tries to talk to him about it, but he tells her that Courtney needs a friend and it's no different from her helping Barry. Except for the fact that Barry isn't a ridiculously hot girl! Todd keeps telling Liz that this new girl means nothing and then bending over backwards to help her whenever she needs it.

When Liz brings it up once again, Todd finally sighs and tells her the “true” story. See, Courtney's dad is a huge drunk. He drinks all the time and manages to hide it from everyone but takes out all his frustrations on her. Liz tries to point out that it would be impossible to hide something like that with a job like his, but Todd is all shocked that she would think someone could make that up. It's clear he didn't read the letter Courtney wrote to Nolan about how she would do anything to get back to him and how Todd will help that happen.

Liz wakes up in the middle of the night to the sounds of Courtney crying and worries that she was wrong about her. By the time she tries to comfort her though, Todd is already up. Liz sees the two of them asleep and still holding hands. The next day, she refuses to talk to him because she knows that she'll just cry. When she finally does break down and tell him why she's unhappy, he just sighs and once again tells her that it's no different than her being friends with someone like Ken Matthews. Man, will that ever come back to bite him in the ass.

They have a small fight that leaves Liz upset and crying. She finally tells him that it's clear they can't reach an agreement on this and that it's best if they just end things. Todd kinda stands there for a few seconds before telling her that she's probably right and then leaving. Annie comes back crying her eyes out and makes it all about her. See, she and Charlie, one of Bruce's friends from the tennis team, had a minor flirtation. Bruce dislikes this and kept making snide comments about her past. Annie overhead him say that people don't change and Charlie saying that maybe he was right. That is somehow way more important than Liz and her boyfriend of like 37 years breaking up.

Jessica gets her sights set on Robbie October, some good looking but random guy she sees on the road. He and his brother are on a bike trip together and are bad news. Others tell her that he got tossed out of his last hostel for throwing beer bottles out the window. She pretends that he's a completely different guy and a long lost friend to introduce herself and cop a feel. Though he invites her to come to a bar with them after she kinda invites herself along, she has to stay and cook for the group.

Though Lila agreed to help her get rid of Courtney on the trip, she's more concerned about Nora. That's why she gets excited when she meets two guys on a cycling trip. They think Nora looks like their old French teacher, but that woman's name was Beth. Lila approaches Nora, makes some small talk, and then drops the news, which makes the woman go pale and pretty much agree to do whatever she wants like carrying the heavy equipment for her when it's Lila's turn.

Jessica and Lila get into a fight that leads to them not talking for a few days. She runs into Robbie and learns that he's leaving the next day, so she suggests they sneak off to a waterfall around midnight that night. Jess makes up with her friend just so she won't tattle on her when she sneaks out in the middle of the night. Lila wakes up, realizes what happened, and doesn't know what to do, but she does eventually confess that Jess took off the night before and never came back.

It turns out that Robbie got lost on the way to the waterfall and didn't bring a flashlight. When it started raining, they hid in a cave without realizing that bear cubs were already there. The mother came back and trapped them inside. Liz, Todd, and Courtney take one trip to the falls while the rest of the group takes another. Courtney almost immediately starts complaining and whines about how they should leave the job to the pros. Todd doesn't know what to do, especially when she sniffles and says that finding Jess is more important and that she'll just go back on her own. Liz hears the other group and tells them to leave, but when she looks back, she sees Todd staring after her.

Barry spent a good portion of the book trailing after Jessica like a lost puppy dog and acting like baby, but he suddenly grows a pair and tells them all about how this is a certain type of bear that doesn't attack people. Charlie tries to hit the bear with a rock, but Barry runs up to hit, swats it, and then runs off. The bear chases him, which lets Jess and Robbie escape. Barry starts running out of steam, but just as the bear catches him, its babies cry and she runs away. Mr. Collins picks him up and carries him back to the campsite.

Jessica kind of apologizes to Lila and makes up with her. Lila then tells her the dirt on Nora Dalton and how she was once married to a man, stole all his money, and made him so depressed that he killed himself. After Liz puts out the fire, Courtney smokes a cigarette and wakes up Todd to talk to him. She throws herself at him and cries about how lonely and horrible her dad is right now and how she really needs to go back home. Courtney asks him to come with her, and when he hesitates, she says that she understands he has Liz. Todd tells her that she's just like the old Liz and the kind of woman he likes. They kiss, and Courtney even offers to help him find some film work.

Elizabeth wakes up in the middle of the night to flames everywhere. Mr. Collins asks some of the guys to help him, Roger volunteers, and Bruce tells him no because they can't risk two Patmans at the same time. It's a sweet moment because this was back when Bruce didn't approve of having a formerly poor cousin. Of course, this was also back when Roger was still alive!

Nora breaks down and tells Roger all about her past. She married a guy who was rich and sweet, but it turned out that he had a drinking problem and was horribly mean. His family basically walked away and told her to deal with it. He hit her once, so she left. He kept begging her to come back, and when she refused, he shot himself. His family ran her out of town and told everyone she caused his death. It turns out that George knew the family and figured out who she was. Though she says he never blackmailed her, she does say that he just took up a lot of her time.

Roger then needs to run after Liz as she runs off in a panic through the woods. She tells him that Todd and Courtney just announced they were heading back to LA. He's pretty confused about why her boyfriend is leaving with another gal and shocked that Todd isn't her boyfriend. Liz goes on and on about Steve's drinking problem until Roger tells her the truth about why Courtney came on the trip. Liz then confesses that she started the fire and because of some talk he gave on day one, she'll have to leave because she didn't put the fire out properly. He tells her that he really doesn't want her to leave and gives her Nora's back story, which she's apparently telling everyone else at the moment.

When they go back to the group, Liz tells everyone that she's leaving and why. Todd then reveals that Courtney actually had a cigarette later that night and threw it into the bushes where the fire started. Courtney immediately starts screeching and calling him a liar, which makes them all realize she never actually changed.

Liz comes home at the end and tells Enid what happened. Jessica and Lila made up, everyone loves Nora again, Lila begrudgingly thinks she's an okay person, and Roger put Courtney on a bus to her aunt's house in New Mexico. And, Liz and Todd are officially back on.

*Nolan is described as having a mohawk, lots of piercings, and wearing all black on a motorcycle. Does he sound like someone a spoiled rich girl would even look twice at, let alone date?

*If you wonder why Enid isn't along for the ride, it's because she's spending the summer working at the ice cream parlor in town. Cara skipped out on the trip because she's working at a summer camp and not because she's currently living with her mother in England.

*When it's Bruce and Charlie's turn to cook, they make canned beef stew and burn it. That is way more realistic than Liz and Olivia making individual chicken parmesan cutlets for each person or Annie making salad, cheese fondue, and chocolate fondue over a campfire.

*The Annie and Charlie story actually annoyed me. She hears him say, “maybe you're right” and runs off in a panic to never speak to him again. Bruce tells her that he actually said, “maybe you're right but I don't think so.” She seriously didn't hear him say that? Of course they make up and become a couple.

*Barry mopes to Liz about how he knows he doesn't stand a chance with Jessica but how he just wants to be close to her. He also says that if Jess were nicer to him, the others would be too. Um, probably not. The fact that he keeps trying to be around her all the time and asking her to dance and stuff when she's made it clear that she's not interested just made things worse.

*The whole bear story cracked me up. Charlie literally just stood there with a rock that he kept trying to aim at the bear. What did he think he was going to do? A rock that he can pick up, hold, aim, and throw isn't heavy enough to do anything but piss off a bear.

*Nora's story just made me roll my eyes. Her “confession” that he hit her once was so cheesy and straight out of a TV movie. She literally put her hand over her eyes when saying it and then collapsed in his arms. Also, if she was so devastated by what happened, how the hell did she go through two new guys since then? She's seriously dated both Roger and George while supposedly on the run, fearing for her life, and worrying about her ex-husband's family coming after her.

*Todd is a massive tool. Oh, I'm sorry. Some random girl you never met before and hated on first sight suddenly has a terrible back story and needs your help. Yeah, you should totally be on her side and not your girlfriend of the last year's side. Given the fact that the old Courtney came out multiple times too, there is no way he should have believed a word out of her mouth.

*And, come on! There is no way Jessica would get through high school without either getting date raped or losing her virginity. When she complains about Robbie not bringing a flashlight, he tells her that he didn't think seeing things was on her mind. She sneaks out of her tent, meets a guy at midnight, goes to a secluded waterfall with him, and what, thinks he just wants to play checkers?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #139: The Secret of Candlelight Inn (1997)

Bess, the same Bess who hates getting dirty, passed all the requirements to train a seeing eye dog and needs Nancy to go with her to the old Candlelight Inn to pick up her new puppy. The women who owned the inn inherited it from her family and ran it as a hotel before turning it into a private home. Before she died, she changed her will to leave the contents to her granddaughter and the property to Guiding Eyes, a nonprofit that trains seeing eye dogs.

The girls arrive in time to see Bess's neighbor Amber running wild with her brother Devon and his girlfriend Marisa. Marisa is the granddaughter of the former owner and a blind woman herself with a seeing eye dog named Misty. She gives Bess a sewing machine that her grandmother owned and refuses to take any money for it. Bess picks up Casey, her new guide dog in training, and agrees to let Amber help her work with the dog.

Before they can leave, Marisa gets a phone call from her friend Erik. He was arrested after trying to use two counterfeit twenty dollar bills. Nancy calls her dad who meets the whole group at the station. Erik claims he is completely innocent and would never steal, but Nancy is a little suspicious because he's supposedly poor but has new designer clothing on.

Between her dad and some research she does at the library, Nancy learns that there was a counterfeiting ring operating out of River Heights 25 years ago. Two men were busted with thousands of dollars in a truck on their way to Chicago and served time. The police doubted that either men actually made the money but they never named any names.

It doesn't take long before someone starts going after Marisa. The someone leaves a threatening voice message on her computer, breaks into her apartment and goes through her stuff while she's asleep, and even follows her around. When a second break in happens, she temporarily moves in with Bess while her parents are on vacation in Florida. The very first night, someone gets inside and steals her dog.

Bess finds this strange because there is no evidence of forced entry. When Amber comes over, Bess notices her clothing is coated in dog hair and wonders if Amber took the dog because she wanted one so bad. The girls help Marisa get around without her dog and try to keep the surprise party that Erik planned for her birthday a big secret.

We find out that Erik and Devon do not get along. Erik dated Marisa until she broke up with him, and Devon isn't happy that they're still close. Devon also doesn't like that Marisa turned down his proposal because she doesn't feel ready to get married. Devon turns up at Bess's house with the dog and confesses that he stole it because he wanted Marisa to need him more. He used the key her parents gave his parents for emergencies. Marisa tells him that she needs some time and sends him home.

The leader of the nonprofit finally tells Marisa that they aren't sure they want the house. It will cost way too much money to fix up. She suggests using the cash on one of their other properties, but Marisa tells her that her grandmother wouldn't want that and that they can't go against her will. The girls also go out to dinner, leave Marisa alone at the table, and come back to find that someone sprinkled broken glass all over her plate.

Nancy finds out that Marisa's mother and grandmother stopped talking at some point in the past and that the woman's mother was an artist. The police believe that someone with an art background made the template for the counterfeit bills, which makes Nancy wonder if her new friend's mom was the one behind the original case. They then find thousands of fake bills hidden inside a room in the house.

Marisa confesses to Nancy that she hates surprise parties and absolutely does not want one but worries that Erik planner her one anyway. When they get back to Bess's house, they find a completely different surprise. Erik is there waiting with a loaded gun, which he points at them. Nancy almost knocks it out of his hands before he knocks her down and ties her up.

Since this is Nancy, she fights back, manages to get untied, and attacks him at the same top that Marisa's dog does. They then tie him up and move him to another room. While this is all going on though, he confesses everything to him. He met Marisa's grandmother while doing volunteer work and later became her paid helper. Since she was also blind, he figured she wouldn't notice if he stole from her, but she did and fired him. He found a note she left behind for Marisa in Braille and spent weeks trying to decipher it, only to learn that it was a coded message about where she hid a fortune.

Erik also learned that she was the one behind the old counterfeit ring when she paid him in fake bills. He planned on telling the police that she had fake money hidden in her home but she passed away before that could happen. Marisa realizes that the note is about an old secretary/desk that was left behind. The two girls find a hidden draw and discover $1,000 in antique bills hidden inside.

It turns out that the money is worth more than $80,000 to collectors. Marisa takes half and donates the other half to the organization on the promise that it will use the money to fix up the old inn and turn it into a training center for future guide dogs. She and Devon get back together. Bess, realizing that caring for a future guide dog is way too much work, hands Casey over to Amber.

*Casey pees all over Nancy's shoe the first time they meet. Bess gets all embarrassed but Nancy acts pretty cool.

*So, I'm pretty sure that if someone leaves a house behind in a will for an organization to use as a training center that the organization can't just sell it and use the money for something else, which is what the nonprofit suggests.

*Amber's parents won't let her have a puppy because they think it's too much work, but then relent and let her take in Casey at the end because she did so much work with the dog. That “work” is like her taking the dog for a few walks and playing with it sometimes, which is not at all like actually owning a dog.

*Also, I'm pretty sure Amber will be heartbroken when she has to give the dog up. How can you expect a little kid to do something like that?

*In this book, the dogs spend 15 months with their trainers before going to a forever home. Didn't the BSC only have that dog living with Kristy for like a month?

*Marisa's mom apparently found out what her mom did and walked away from her without another word. The poor old lady sent her dozens of letters over the years that she always sent back unopened. That kind of made me sad. Yes she was a counterfeiter, but it's not like she killed someone!

*The cops eventually let Erik off at the beginning because they realize the bills were made 25 years ago. You'd think that's something they could figure out on the spot.

*While I get that counterfeiting is wrong, this book is kind of ridiculous. The cops literally show up, arrest Erik, and take him to the station in cuffs when he uses two bills. Bess later turns a fake bill in at the bank and almost winds up cuffed and arrested by a security guard.

*Bess clearly has no idea how to train a guide dog and should not have gotten a spot in the program. She buys Casey like 10 new toys and stocks up on all these new treats for her, which kind of violates the rules.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Baby-Sitters Club #48: Jessi's Wish

So, I swear that I already reviewed this book. I even have it crossed off my list of books to do, but I went through all the BSC tags on this blog and found no mention of it, so who knows?

Becca is super upset because she's in the Kids Club at school and just learned that the club has to shut down. Mr. Katz and another teacher run the club, but that teacher wants to take some time off to travel with her husband while he works, and Mr. Katz doesn't think he can handle all the kids himself. Jessi approaches the club with an idea: they take a month off to do volunteer work. Everyone thinks it's an amazing idea.

Jessi stops by to talk to him, and he agrees to a trial run. They'll try things out for two weeks to see if it's a good fit. Becca is also upset because she heard that Danielle Roberts, a former SES student, has leukemia and is in the hospital. At her first minute, the kids get letters from a bunch of kids in the hospital because they got shops to donate toys for them. One of the letters is from Danielle and is about how she's coming back to school soon.

When she does come back, the kids her age are almost afraid of her and won't really talk to her, but the younger kids flock to her. She gets really close to Becca and Charlotte. Despite them not being in the same grade, they hang out all the time outside of school. Danielle also gets close to Jessi and reveals that she wants to graduate from elementary school and go to Disney World. When MA hears, she naturally bursts into tears and then tells Jessi about an organization called Your Wish is My Command, which uses donations to make the wishes of sick kids come true. Jessi calls, tells them about Danielle, and gets her on the list.

Danielle comes over to the house and hangs out with the girls. They play with dolls and chase Squirt around the house before she gets so tired that she almost passes out. Jessi's parents try to call Danielle's parents but can't get an answer. They come back, kind of apologize for not being home, and announce that they will get to go to Disney once enough donations come through.

When the donations come through, all the kids are in awe of Danielle. They keep telling her what to do on her trips and asking her a bunch of questions. Her hair also starts coming back in, which makes her a little uncomfortable but she lets one of the girls style her hair. Jessi, Becca, and Charlotte all come over to help her pack. Greg, her little brother, throws a fit. He gets upset when she gets a piece of candy after taking her medication while he doesn't and throws a tantrum when the girls have to leave so Danielle can sleep while he still wants to have fun.

Danielle sends them a bunch of postcards and brings them all back gifts. When they show up for another meeting though, she's not there. One of the kids says that she heard from a teacher who heard from Greg that Danielle is back in the hospital. Jessi takes the two girls to the bathroom and helps calm them down.

That night, she asks her mom if she can call the hospital. Her mom tells her it isn't a good idea but does agree to let her call their house. Greg tells her that his sister is back in the hospital for some tests but seems really uncomfortable so she hangs up. She writes Danielle a letter and hears back from her in the end about how she now knows that wishes come true and won't stop wishing.

*Not just calling it Make a Wish is ridiculous because Ann tells us in the end that proceeds from the book go to that foundation. Of course, they only got like four cents per book sold, which is somehow even worse than the pink ribbon scam.

*This family must have some dough! Danielle brings back all the kids a Mickey Mouse sticker and gets special gifts for others. Charlotte gets a book on the park, Mr. Katz gets his own mouse ears, Becca gets a Donald shirt, and Jessi gets a necklace with a wishing star charm.

*How in the hell did they get Kristy to agree to basically shut down the club for a month? They say that members will show up when they can and take jobs when they can and that they'll rely more on Logan and Shannon but it seems out of character.

*Kristy also annoys me because they get together to talk about what they find and she just automatically decides that she can go first because she's the president.

*Kristy volunteers at the after school center that David Michael once attended. The head teacher gives her the option of choosing where she wants to work, and she decides to work with the babies because she falls in love with this little girl Joy. The kid cries her head off until Kristy sings multiple songs to her and then rocks her for a really long time, but the teacher is all in shock because Joy NEVER goes down that easy.

*Only a few girls get their own chapters. Stacey works for a program designed for those recently diagnosed with diabetes, Mallory volunteers at some park program, and Mary Anne helps a family friend with their special needs son.

*Claudia works for an arts program for seven and eight year old kids and winds up with Jackie, Karen, and Margo in her group. Poor Claudia! Karen freaks out when they work on clay sculptures and says the elephant, snake, and tree in hers is actually moving. It scares all the other kids until Claudia says they can't put living things in the kiln, which causes Karen to say everything stopped moving.

*Dawn volunteers at the Baker Institute for kids with special needs and rides the bus to the city. She bonds with a girl in a wheelchair who wants to be a writer. Funny how this never came up later...

*When Jessi asks why they don't live in the barn, Dawn explains that it's too hot in the summer and too hot in the winter. Just wait!

*The Kids Club convinced shops to donate toys to the hospital, cleaned up litter at the park, has plans to make gifts for the Meals on Wheels group, and creates things for the retirement home. Pretty sure when I was 7-8 that I wouldn't do any of that LOL.

*They want to make gift baskets for the elderly and get together to make popcorn for them, but while working, they are still trying to figure out what else to put in the baskets. How old will this popcorn be by then? Stale popcorn is disgusting!

*So, Jessi's parents tell Becca that she can have her friends over, but then they're just like, “hey, we need to work in the garden. Jessi, you take care of the kids for us.” Given that Cecilia takes care of them on weekdays, you'd think they might want to spend some time with their children on the weekends.

*Becca invites the girls over, but when Danielle gets there, she has to go call Charlotte and tell her to come over. Why not just give them a time to get there?

*Not a big fan of Danielle's parents leaving her at a friend's house and then just taking off. If my kid had cancer, I would be sitting by the phone whenever she was away from home.

*It's kind of shitty that Jessi's mom tells her not to call the hospital but gives her permission to call their house.

*I also dislike Kristy's story. When David Michael was in daycare, we heard about how he didn't always go because their mom couldn't afford it. If this place actually charges parents, I can't imagine then letting 13 year old volunteers work wherever they want. If I paid money for my kid to stay in one of these programs and later found out some volunteer was taking care of him/her, I'd be pissed.

*Maybe it's just me, but it seems like there should be more to getting a kid on the wish list thing. Jessi calls, tells them about Danielle, and they just tell her to have the kid's parents call. They and Danielle then gush about how Jessi helped make one of her dreams come true. Then again, I guess it's more realistic than Frank and Carl on Shameless...