Monday, September 18, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #90: The Puzzle at Pineview School (1990)


George just got a job coaching the girl's soccer team at Pineview, which is some fancy pants private school. Her team has the chance to compete in the Canadian Cup, which is a big deal competition for high school teams. Nancy and Bess head over to cheer her on and wind up meeting Kate, the team's coach, as well as Janine, their star goalie. This is all important because both will be on hand at the Soccer Ball later that night.

The Soccer Ball is a big ass fundraiser for the school. Janine's mom, Mrs. Sedgwick, donated two antique brooches that were in her family for years. Though an appraiser already stated the jewelry was worth more than $100,000, he comes out, gives them a second look, and declares that both were fake. Mr. Garrison, the headmaster of the school, planned on auctioning off the jewelry but calls a halt to everything.

As it turns out, Mrs. Sedgwick is short on money. When she originally donated the brooches, she had tons of cash. She later learned that her husband, who died before the book started, made some bad investments and left her with almost nothing. Nancy points out that the woman can use the insurance money to stay afloat until her investments pick back up. Janine comes to Nancy and asks her to investigate the case.

This is seriously the slowest Nancy Drew book of all time and one where literally nothing happens. Someone hits George over the head when she's in the equipment room and then rifles through everything there. Another person shoves Nancy into the boiler room and locks her inside. We also find out that Janine has a big rivalry with Kelly, the back up goalie. That's seriously like 50 pages of the book right there.

Nancy also meets Mr. Morse, the school's art teacher. He's an older man and keeps making comments about how a smart and bright girl like Nancy should have gone to that school and actually makes her promise to send her own daughter there one day. He also tells her that if she were 50 years younger, he'd take her out for dinner. Mr. Garrison pops up a few times to mumble about how the old man should retire already.

Our only real suspects are Mrs. Sedgwick, Mr. Morse, and Kelly, but none of them actually do anything suspicious. Nancy does uncover this strange green gloop in the art studio that she later learns is the molding paste used to make fake gemstones. When she tries to talk to Mr. Morse about it, Mr. Garrison interrupts them and makes her leave. She also suspects Kate after learning that the coach borrowed against her pension twice and is always short of cash. It turns out that Kate cares for her elderly mother and that she just got a much better job that pays a lot more, which takes her off the suspect list.

Though the team makes it the Canadian Cup, Janine and Kelly get into it again, which causes the coach to shout at them about being team players. Janine gets so upset when the paper runs a story accusing her mom of stealing the brooches that she doesn't want to play, and Kelly conveniently misses the bus to Canada and misses the first game. She shows up later, gets into yet another fight, and the whole team splits between the two girls. Garrison finally tells her that she's done and throws her off the team.

Nancy is chilling in her hotel room when Mr. Garrison shows up with the hot chocolate she ordered from room service. She drinks it, passes out, and wakes up in a cabin in the woods. After walking 10 miles through the woods on her own, she comes across two women driving who stop and pick her up. They take her to the game where she tells everyone that Garrison was behind the theft.

He overhears her and runs for the hills, but she and George give chase after asking others to call the cops. They track him all the way to this big ass waterfall, and when he goes to throw the brooches over the side, George jumps in the air, freaking scissor kicks the bag into Nancy's hand, and saves the day. The cops show up and arrest him.

We learn that Mr. Morse helped him but only because he blackmailed the teacher with threats of forcing him to retire. Kelly cries about how Garrison kept her in his office one night and kept her from getting on the team bus, so Kate gives her back her spot. Janine then admits that if it weren't for her competition with Kelly that she wouldn't be such a great player and gives Kelly the starting spot for the next game. And then I assume they win the tournament or something.

*Mr. Morse is definitely a little too creepy for my tastes but Nancy doesn't help the situation. When he tells her that he would take her out if he were younger, she tells him that he can still take her out. What the hell is her problem?

*Though Bess is in the early part of the book, she disappears later and doesn't even go with them to Canada. Nancy explains it away as her not being a sports fan, but you would think she'd go and support her cousin at least!

*Nancy says that she called her dad and that Carson made arrangements for Mr. Morse to fly home. She also says that he won't face any charges because he's already been through enough. Excuse me? He literally helped steal and replace $100,000+ in antique jewelry. Is that not a crime?

*The women who pick Nancy up when she escapes from the cabin don't really believe her story but humor her and agree to drive her to the game. I like when people actually doubt her.

*Carson sets Mrs. Sedgwick up with an accountant who is so good at his job that she now has enough cash to maintain her lifestyle until the market recovers.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Babysitters Club #116: Abby and the Best Kid Ever


Abby is moping around the house because it's still winter or winter again, which means that she can't run and play outside when Kristy shows up with some big news. The Addison family is moving because the dad got a new job in Seattle. Before Abby can really react, Kristy freaks out because it's time for their meeting and rushes her out the door. At the meeting, they get a call that the McNally family is moving to Stoneybrook permanently, which means they'll need to sit for Lou again. Remember Lou, the kid who liked torturing poor Boo-Boo? Yeah, I haven't forgotten that.

The first person to sit for Lou and her brother Jay is Abby. Lou is a perfect angel. She's polite, never says a bad or rude word, dresses like a prissy kid, asks about other members, and even apologizes when she think she's being rude. The only thing odd is that she doesn't seem happy to let her brother walk their dog, Happy. She also flips out when she drops a plastic cup of water, which causes Happy to knock over her water dish, even though her aunt says it's fine.

Abby gets to sit again when the movers bring in their stuff. Lou kind of keeps getting in the way and almost bursts into tears when she drops a box. She also tries to drag a box out of her aunt's hands to help, which leads to the aunt suggesting Abby take the kids outside. They wind up playing kickball at the playground until Lou freaks out because she got some mud on her coat. Since it's Black History Month and the middle school kids get extra credit for doing a project, Abby asks them for help. They run down a whole list of things before she falls in love with Nicky's idea of doing a project on the Underground Railroad.

After talking with Dolly One about her project, she decides to do something in the education realm and teach kids. This leads to everyone going to the library and doing some research. Lou, in her helpful way, knocks over an entire cart of books and then puts all the books that Abby wanted to check out back, which means that she needs to stay there even longer. Though she worries that Kristy doesn't give her any feedback and that she has too many plans in mind, she finally settles on one thing. They'll do a fake television report about the UR, complete with interviews and real footage.

While working on the shoot, Lou accidentally walks in front of a pivotal scene to bring Abby hot apple cider. She kind of goes off on her in a really harsh way, which almost makes Lou cry. Since she absolutely must get in that shot though, she can't run over and check on her, so she just lets her go. This causes a little of the old Lou to come out. She draws mustaches on pictures for the video, pops out of boxes to scare kids, and gives them gum to chew right before the camera goes on.

While sitting for them again, Lou apologizes and asks Abby not to say anything to her aunt and uncle. After doing homework, they go to set the table. Lou jumps out of the closet to scare them all and just laughs it off. Lou later drops a plate and completely breaks down sobbing. While Jay cleans it up, she cries to Abby about how if she's bad, her aunt and uncle will send her back. Jay tells her that's not true and talks about how they went to court, but she tells him that they'll keep him because he's good and she's not. When their aunt and uncle come home, Jay tells them what happened. Their aunt picks her up into a hug and tells her how much she loves her. Abby goes home and sits with her own mom because she eventually realizes that something similar could have happened had her mom not been there when her dad died.

Her video winds up being twenty freaking minutes long. She shows up super early to present the project just like all the other kids do and sets up a special viewing area. At the end, she gets a standing ovation and invites the kids up on stage with her. Lou then invites the whole BSC up on stage too, even though they did absolutely nothing.

In other news, Sean is all butt hurt that no one will miss him when he's gone. Claudia sits for them once and helps Corrie create a funny map of Stoneybrook to take with her, but Sean refuses to help. He then tells Mary Anne when she sits for him that they'll all miss Corrie but no one cares about him. A group of BSC members make Sean king for the hour and let him do anything he wants, which involves sledding. They all have fun until Stacey makes a comment about how it was hard work and she's glad it's over, which causes him to throw his sled against the garage and storm off.

The BSC throw the Addison family a going away party. Corrie brings her map, everyone agrees to help finish it, and Claudia promises to mail it to her. Mary Anne and Abby take Sean a plate of food, which causes him to have a mini breakdown. He explains that he'll really miss everyone and they all kind of make up.

*When they hear about a new family moving to town, Abby just naturally assumes that the family will move into the Addison house, which confuses everyone. Come on, you know they all thought the same thing. One person moves one, one person moves in, that's how it always worked in the past!

*Kristy is in such a hurry to get to the meeting that she drags Abby out of the house before she can even put on her gloves or grab her coat, which seems out of character for her, especially since they still make it to the car before Charlie does.

*Claudia wears a red dress with snowflake earrings she made, a red-orange sash around her waist, a matching headband in the same shade, and red-pink tights, plus ballet flats with rosettes on the toes. That screams color blind to me, but Abby says it's smashing.

*Abby gently turns down an idea about doing a project on Kwanza because so many kids learned about it recently but goes crazy about the Underground Railroad. Yeah, I'm sure no one else will do something similar.

*At one point, Lou scares her and causes her to drop the camera. Totally acting on “instinct,” Abby kicks the camera with her foot. While I get that she plays soccer a lot, I highly doubt her brain would confuse an expensive camera with a ball. Luckily, Jay catches it before it hits the ground.

*Abby notices Stacey reading Finance for Dummies in the library and laughing like it's the funniest thing ever. Given what we know are the type of math problems her “genius” brain can handle, I have a hard time believing she could even understand that book.

*Honestly, even if my kid was in the damn thing, I'm not sure I would want to sit around for 20 minutes to watch scenes of them preparing for the video and the making of crap.

*I get that this is an Abby book, but we really should have had more moments between Claudia and Corrie. They supposedly have that whole artist bond, and Claudia even brings up how Corrie was there when Mimi died, even though it doesn't seem like they talked much since then.

*Yeah, I foresee problems in the future for that family. If Sean is already that unhappy in a place that he loves, can you imagine what he will do when they get to Seattle?

*Ann's notes in the end talk about how Susan will come back, which happened in the last BSC book I did and how other characters might come back too, which totally did not happen. She also says that a lot of kids wrote in and wanted to hear more about Lou, which I find really hard to believe. I seriously cannot get that whole scene of her tossing the cat in the bag and torturing it out of my mind.

*We meet the family that serves as the focus of the next book. He's super grumpy all the time, always shooting daggers at his kids or yelling at them, and keeps grabbing his wife by the arm. I already know he's an abusive douche bag.

*I”m really surprised that not one BSC person thought that maybe Lou was being abused at home. She asked them not to tell the adults what she did, she kept looking to them for approval, and seemed scared to do anything in her home. Those are all classic signs of abuse.

*Jay points out that he doesn't need a sitter since he's 11, which everyone just kind of ignores. Aren't there other 11 year old kids in Stoneybrook who sit or at least don't need sitters? The triplets were 10 when they got their first taste of freedom!

*Ugh, the book ends with Abby thinking about how Stoneybrook really does feel like her home now and how she's glad they made the move, ugh. Didn't we get that summary in another book too?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #84: The Joker's Revenge (1988)



Nancy, Bess, and George head to Chicago to work at Danner & Bishop, a huge department store. Carlin Fitzhugh contacted Carson to ask for their help because of some weird pranks happening around the store. He brings them into his office and shows them these ugly joker cards that the person keeps leaving behind. It started out as little things but then became more serious when someone arranged for a chandelier to fall down in the middle of the store. They all get to go undercover. Nancy will work in security, Bess heads to the shoe department, and poor George joins the janitorial crew.

Before they can even start, a heavy display cabinet almost falls on Nancy but Bess saves her. Someone sawed through two of the four support posts and then pushed it over. There is a joker card left behind. Nancy learns that there was a rash of shoplifters from a nearby private school, though no one thinks they're behind the pranks.

We meet Joe Dane, the head of security. He doesn't trust kids snooping around and isn't happy that Carlin hired someone without his permission. Anne, Carlin's daughter, is a recent college grad and preparing to take over the family business. Lindy works with Bess in the shoe department and dreams of being an actress, which means that she constantly leaves work early and pawns work off on other people. There's also Bennett Lloyd, who started with the company years ago, and Nick, a good looking guy who hangs around all the time.

The pranks continue. Someone causes a ceiling fixture to fall down and almost crash on Nancy and her friends. Someone then causes the escalator to speed up and almost send Nancy crashing into a marble pillar. She finds a matchbook and some other things nearby, which she keeps as evidence, though Nick keeps snooping around. A bunch of women shopping for and trying out new shoes start screaming because someone covered the shoes with itching powder.

Nancy and George see two young boys running away and laughing and give chase. They follow them to a fancy private school for boys down the street and corner them in the basement. The headmaster comes out to see what is going on and agrees to help them search. They find the two kids hiding in the basement and drag them back to the store.

It turns out that both boys were the shoplifters from before and that one is the son of Mr. Paley. He owns a chain of similar department stores and frequently tried to buy this store in the past. Paley comes when they call him and explodes on Nancy, getting right up in her face and coming seconds away from outright calling her a bitch. He then drags his son out and says they won't hear from him again.

Nancy goes to one of his stores to meet with him and he acts like a jackass once again. He tells her that his son had nothing to do with any of the pranks and that he can prove it and even tells her that his son had no reason to ever go to that store, despite the fact that he was literally caught stealing in the not too distant past. Paley then comes into the store and screams at Carlin before claiming that he'll own the store no matter what.

Remembering the matchbook she found, she realizes that it's for an aviation company and calls for help. All the woman can tell her is that someone from that shop ordered a helicopter. Nancy also finds out that someone special ordered the joker cards from a local company.

In the hopes of getting to the bottom of things, the girls hide out in the store overnight. The only problem is that the store has three doberman dogs that patrol at night. The dogs trap them in a storage area, but Nancy climbs up the shelves, gets inside the air vents, and escapes. The dogs track her to a new location but Joe Dane saves the day. He helps the girls out and agrees to work with Nancy. It turns out that he found the matchbook after hearing some people talking about stealing from the company. They got away before he could see them and left it behind, but then he lost it when he was checking out the escalator incident. They agree to meet early the next morning.

When next morning comes though, Joe doesn't show up. Nancy goes to his house, the front door is wide open, there's a mess inside, and someone left a joker card behind. Though she goes to the police, they say there's no proof of a crime. Lloyd starts acting shifty and talking about how he needs to take a vacation now, which is especially odd since someone blows up a cosmetics display case a few hours earlier. The same person then causes all the computers in the shop to break down at once.

Finding this very strange, Nancy goes to the aviation company and learns that someone arranged for a helicopter for that same day. She calls the airport and finds out that Lloyd does not have a ticket for a flight that night despite saying that he did. Trisha, the woman from the aviation company, calls with some exciting news: the same someone who booked the helicopter just called in for it to land on the roof of the shop.

All three gals rush to the roof of the store and find Lloyd, Lindy, and Nick all working together and stealing a bunch of random stuff. When Lloyd realizes they are there, he pulls a gun on them. He felt under appreciated by Carlin and thought Anne would take over the company instead of him, which just wasn't fair. Lindy jumped in on the stealing plan because she needed to move to New York because there apparently are NO acting opportunities in Chicago, and Nick got in on the plan just for the fun of it. They played all the pranks in the hopes of making the store go under.

Joe pops up and pulls a fire hose on them. It turns out that they had him locked up in the store but he got out and found them. The hose causes Lloyd to drop the gun, but as everyone tries to run away, he gets it back again, pushes George in the helicopter, and the bad guys take off. Nancy then jumps on the side of the helicopter, crawls underneath it, and manages to hang on while it flies all across the freaking city of Chicago.

The helicopter starts to touch down on a boat in the river and she's about to pass out, so she lets go. As soon as she hits the freezing water though, she wakes up manages to climb onto the boat. The Coast Guard shows up to save the day, but Lloyd won't let go of his gun, which he still has on George. One agent sees Nancy and distracts him so that she can karate shop the gun out of his hand. They all get arrested, and Carlin is so happy that he gives them all a shopping spree in his store.

*The women and the itching powder make no sense because both Bess and Nancy say the inside of the shoes are literally coated in white powder. Would you put your foot in a shoe coated in white powder?

*Bess says that she never wants to see another shoe again, and Nancy teases her about it when they get their shopping spree. It's easy for her to laugh though. Bess actually worked a full-time job! She went in every day, worked regular shifts, and all that with no mention of actually getting paid. Nancy pretty much just showed up and left whenever she wanted and spent the whole book snooping around.

*This store and the one from the BSC books kind of makes me wish big ass department stores still existed. We had one in Dayton that had the whole 6+ floors and all the different departments, but they tore it down when I was still pretty young.

*Nancy thinks that Paley's stores are bland and boring, and she wonders why anyone would ever shop there when Danner & Bishop is so much more historic and charming. Too bad other people don't feel the same way.

*What kind of freaking store has crazy ass doberman dogs running loose at night? While I get that it's a safety thing, an alarm system would work a lot better and not be such a massive liability. Plus, and I hate to say it, but where do the dogs go potty???

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sweet Valley Kids #37: The Big Race


If you ever wondered when the twins found out that Elizabeth is exactly four minutes older than Jessica, it's in this book.

Their teacher sits them down to tell them about the big soap box derby race coming up. All the kids go a little insane at the idea of building and racing their own cars but especially Ken. Ken's dad not only won the championship when he was younger but he actually made it all the way to the finals in Ohio. Yay! My state!

While talking to their parents that night, Ned tells them that both them and Steven were born in the middle of the night and mentions the twins coming out at different times. It apparently never occurred to them before that they didn't come out at the same time. Elizabeth decides that since she's the older twin, she should act like an older kid.

Alice takes them to buy everything they need for their cars except for wheels. They run into Ken and his dad, who already have wheels, but Ken refuses to give them any help. Elizabeth then acts like she knows everything there is to know about building a race car and keeps talking down to her twin since she's such a kid and all. Jessica is the only one smart enough to talk to Andy, the smartest kid in school, and get some advice. He suggest they use wheels from a lawnmower or a carriage.

When that fails, Alice takes them to the junk yard. They both turn down a bunch of wheels and come across the perfect set at the same time. Liz pretty much rips them out of her sister's hands and claims that as the older sister, she gets them. Jessica finds another pair that Steven claims won't work. They get that if she's right, he'll help her build her car. She really is right and he does help, but he keeps pointing out how she needs to build a better and more stable car like Liz did.

When Liz makes one more rude comment about her car, Jessica stops speaking to her. They go two full days without talking at all. All the kids agree to meet on the hill used for the actual race to practice and check out each other's cars. Jessica's car is one of the fastest, but on her second trip down the hill, it completely falls apart. Liz might have a fast card but speeds scare her, so she keeps stopping before the finish line. Ken has the best looking and the fastest car around, but he keeps rubbing it in all their faces, which causes Liz to come up with a plan.

On the day of the race, she turns her car over to Jess. Jess only finishes sixth but makes it into the final race. Todd spins out and almost causes her to crash, but she gets around him and picks up speed when Ken has to get around Todd too. He gets distracted just enough that she pulls out in front and wins. Even though he was an ass about winning the whole book, he just smiles and says that he'll win next year. The twins then invite their friends to the beach to celebrate with them.

*Liz wakes up after Jess and demands that she get to use the bathroom first because she's older. She then comes downstairs, takes all the biggest pancakes from the stack on the table, and uses the last of the syrup without apologizing.

*Remember that book where Jessica turned up her nose at banana pancakes? In this book, she gets mad because Liz takes the pancakes with the most bananas.

*Winston decides that building a race car is way too hard and gives up after one day, which is probably what I would do.

*Ken shows up with a sleek and professional looking derby car, complete with a bright red paint job. Yeah, I'm sure he built that all by himself.

*Honestly though, there's no way any of these kids could build these cars without help. Do you really think the twins or Todd could build a derby car with steering wheels that actually work and a real breaking system?

*The end sets it up for a book about Eva possibly moving. I've never read that book and don't know if it actually happens, but it would make sense given that she's not in any of the other series.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Nancy Drew Girl Detective #22: Dressed to Steal


In a previous case, Nancy and the gang met a fashion designed named Alicia. She's now a hot star and opening a new shop in River Heights. Scoop, her Chicago store, was such a hit that she picked this random small town for Scoop 2. Nancy finds out that the store will have a secret early opening with big sales on Friday, and Bess can't wait to find some bargains.

The sale goes worse than anyone thought possible. Someone throws a rock through the plate glass window that causes everyone to freak out and run. A young girl gets trampled in the commotion. Since this is River Heights, the Chief of Police himself comes out to shut down the opening. He tells them that they can come back the next day but that they will all get numbers that determine when they can enter the store. Alicia is practically in tears because she never expected something like this to happen.

Nancy learns that a pair of earrings went missing too. Natalie, the editor in chief of Threads, a super popular fashion magazine, borrowed the earrings and some other stuff for a shoot and never returned anything. Her newest assistant is Deirdre, this girl all our girls hate. She's briefly a suspect but not really in the book. Natalie is a suspect though.

Before the store can open again, there's another act of vandalism. Someone breaks in, smashes a bunch of stuff, and leaves threatening messages on the walls. All the messages are about how Alicia will regret using fur in her designs. Alicia tells Nancy that she only uses coyote fur and that she works with a guy who owns a coyote farm right outside of town. He somehow found a way to remove the fur without hurting the animals.

Once the shop does open, a bunch of women come in and demand their money back. They all bought the coyote fur jackets, and they all found threatening messages in the pockets. All the messages feature the signature of some animal rights group. Nancy and Ned check it out and find nothing but do find the leader, Bettina, at the coyote farm. She narrowly gets attacked by a pack of coyotes before Nancy saves her. Though she claims she isn't behind the vandalism, she thinks whoever did it was smart and a real activist.

Nancy eventually finds the missing earrings in Natalie's desk drawer at her office but learns from Deirdre that Natalie has no idea the jewelry is officially missing. She sent Alicia an email to ask if she could keep them for a few days to wear to an awards dinner. Luckily, Alicia thought of another suspect: Jean-Georges.

See, way back in the day, Alicia was a fashion model who lived with this chick Campbell and dated this guy Jean-Georges. After they broke up, he started dating Campbell. After they married, he released a line of fashions that look an awful lot like Alicia's designs. He later claimed that he came up with the idea first and that she stole from him.

Nancy and Bess visit his shop and find that his designs are all pretty boring. While Alicia uses sequins and bright colors, his stuff looks like office wear. They follow him and his wife but decide to go boating on Lake Michigan when he does nothing but act like a huge ass. That's good luck because he and his wife also went boating and their boat capsized. He's so happy when the girls save them that he gives them new clothing from his line.

After learning that the girl injured in the store has a dad who is a lawyer and likes suing people and finding his card in the store, Nancy wonders if he might be a suspect. She follows him and accidentally gets trapped in an elevator with him. When she pushes him too far, he rails about Alicia almost “killing” his baby girl and how she will pay. For some reason though, Nancy figures he's a blow hard and not a real threat.

Cut to the big fashion awards dinner. Nancy winds up sitting close to Jean-Georges and receives a dessert with a butterfly on top. No one else gets the same thing. A waiter admits that someone left him a note and asked him to put a butterfly on the cake. The note has feminine handwriting but no real clues. After the awards, Natalie gives back the earrings, which takes her off the suspect list.

Alicia knows that her designs were all hers and has the proof on her laptop. When Nancy pushes her to check, she realizes that someone deleted all her original designs. The same person also stole the back up copies she saved with the dates. They then head over to see Jean-Georges and sneak into his apartment.

Though they think he's not home, Campbell is asleep and wakes up to them snooping around. She calls the cops to report trespassers and tells them that they're going to jail. She also threatens them with a bottle of nail polish remover and throws it at them before breaking down and admitting the truth. Campbell stole Alicia's designs when they were roommates and gave them to Jean-Georges, telling him that she drew them all. He fell in love with her designs and then fell in love with her.

When he and Alicia got into it over the designs, Campbell realized that Alicia could prove she stole the designs from her. She not only caused the accident at the store but stole all the stuff from her too. Campbell agrees to tell them all this on the condition that Alicia not go to the police. In the end, Alicia treats Nancy and her friends to new dresses and gives Ned a special present to give to Nancy: a pair of butterfly earrings.

*The book opens with George complaining to Nancy about how she hates the dress she wore to some banquet for Carson and how she wishes she dressed better. Not only does it come out of left field because George never cared about clothes before, but it's stupid because it doesn't really pop up again.

*As I primarily wear yoga pants and tee shirts or tank tops, I know absolutely nothing about fashion. That said, is it really possible to take fur from an animal without killing it? All I can picture is Alicia super gluing a bunch of hair to her coats...

*Bettina brings wire cutters and plans on letting the coyotes loose because it's not “fair” to keep wild animals locked up. When Nancy points out that they will wreak havoc on the ecosystem, Bettina claims that they would only kill nuisance animals and would know when to stop. Uh, okay. She also believes that a roving pack of coyotes, the same ones who almost killed her, would have stopped before doing any harm when they realized she was there to save them.

*I realize that getting hit with nail polish remover would not be pleasant, but Nancy acts like Campbell has a bomb. She literally pushes Alicia to the ground and tells her that the “poison” would blind her. Suddenly, I'm not loving the idea of having nail polish remover in my house...

*Ned not only works for his parents' newspaper in this book but is also an intern at Threads.

*Deirdre keeps sneaking around and writing down notes because she thinks she can solve the case before Nancy. She even tells her that once she uncovers the truth, the chief will hire her for all his mysterious cases instead of Nancy. Um, does she realize that Nancy never gets paid for her work?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Sweet Valley Kids #14: Jessica the Baby-Sitter


Jessica and Elizabeth are super excited because their neighbor, Mrs. DeVito – no relation to Danny – just had a new baby. She told the girls they could come over anytime they wanted to see baby Jenny. The girls are so enamored over the baby that they start wishing their mom would have a baby too. Alice gushes over Jenny and how much she loves babies, which doesn't help the situation.

After talking it over, the girls decide that they convince their mom to have another kid. Alice and Ned actually talk about how much they loved having kids and tease Steven because he was super into his new sisters. He even tucked his favorite stuffed rabbit in with Jessica when she cried.

The girls assume that their plan is working and that they can tell all their friends about it. They even make lists of their favorite baby names. When they find out that their classmate Andy's mom is pregnant, they ask him what it's like. He tells them how his mom gets weird cravings and is tired a lot. Since Alice eats weird food and also sleeps a lot, they think she might already be pregnant. More evidence comes when they get home and find her napping on the couch.

When snooping around the house, the twins find plans Alice drew for a nursery. That just adds to their mounting evidence. To make things worse, she takes them shopping and stops by a baby store. After gushing over all the cute clothing, she lets each twin pick out a new baby outfit and claims they can give one to the neighbors and keep the other because you never know when a baby outfit might come in handy.

The twins spend so much time talking about babies that Alice eventually suggests they go over and see Jenny. Mrs. DeVito asks them to watch Jenny while she does some cleaning. Jenny goes from cute and sweet to screaming and bright red in a fraction of a second and literally does not stop crying until they finally leave.

After talking it over, the girls decide that they no longer want to have a baby sister but worry that Alice is already pregnant. They climb into bed with their parents and start talking about how three kids is the perfect amount and how they like being the babies of the family. After finally asking if she's pregnant, she asks why they would think that and then explains that the second outfit was for a completely different pregnant woman she knows. The designs they saw were for one of her classes. Both twins are relieved that they don't need to deal with a new baby, and Elizabeth gets her heart set on trying out for the new soccer team.

*According to Ned and Alice, they dressed the twins in different clothing from the time they were born to help foster their own identities. Someone didn't read Sweet Valley Twins...

*Liz picks out Emily as the name for her little sister, but Jessica picks out all this long and preppy or snooty names. Lila suggests naming the baby Cassandra, which sounds like a soap opera villain.

*The “weird” food that Alice eats? Yeah, she put ketchup AND mustard on her hamburger and had not one but TWO pickles that same night. Man, the twins would flip out if they saw how many pickles I eat. And, now I want pickles.

*Jessica wants a little sister who she can dress up, play dolls with, and treat like a princess. Elizabeth wants a little brother she can build a fort with outside.

*Jessica picks out a white dress with little pink hearts all over it. Elizabeth goes with a blue outfit that has bears and building blocks on the front.

*In case you were wondering, Alice doesn't work and isn't an interior designer yet. She's still in college, hence the nursery designs.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Nancy Drew Diaries #4: Once Upon a Thriller (2012)


Nancy, Bess, and George are off to the small town of Avondale, where they rented a cabin on Moon Lake for the weekend. Nancy and George can't wait to hike and canoe, but Bess wants to just kick back and relax. After getting to the cabin and realizing that Nancy forgot the food at home, they head into town for supplies and arrive just in time to see that the local bookstore burned down.

Mandy, one of the girls standing out in front, whines about how she won't get to meet Lacey O'Brien now. Lacey is the town's resident mystery writer. Though she lives in town, she seldom spends time there and only makes one appearance each year for a meet and greet at that specific bookstore. Alice Ann, owner of the Cheshire Cat Bed and Breakfast, sells Nancy a few of the writer's books and lets it slip that not everyone is a huge fan.

It turns out that the writer's most recent book is about a fire, and the police think the fire at the bookstore was arson. They then learn that someone stole a sculpture done by a local artist who is conveniently married to Lacey. Oh, and one of her older books was about an art theft. Alice Ann helpfully tells Nancy where Lacey lives, which gives the girls an excuse to sneak over and check things out.

While on the way, a storm suddenly pops up when they're on the water, and their canoe capsizes. They see someone on the beach watching them who then runs away. The gals manage to get the boat to shore and empty it of water, but then the cops show up. They claim they got a call from the couple who owns the property about someone sneaking around. The cops take them back to their cabin, and Nancy learns that Lacey wrote a book about someone rigging a boat to capsizes.

Thinking this is all a little weird, Nancy calls Ned, who now works at the newspaper his parents own, and get permission to do a story on all the crimes. Bess and George head back home, and she checks into the Cheshire Cat for the rest of her trip. Nancy questions everyone in town, including Paige, the owner of the bookstore. She reveals that Lacey is the pen name used by a woman she went to high school with and claims she has no idea why anyone would burn down her store.

While on her way back to the B&B, someone comes close to running Nancy down. The couple apologize a bunch of times and give her a card with their names on it. It turns out that the couple is actually Lacey and her artist husband. Nancy does question Nancy and tells her how someone based their crimes on her book, but the writer just gets flustered and starts thinking that Nancy is blaming her.

Nancy then gets a threatening letter on her door that warns her to stay away. She meets with the owner of the art gallery and learns that his insurer canceled his policy a few days before the theft and never told him, which means he's screwed. He also tells her that Lacey and her husband bought the building next to his to use as an artists' colony thing and that the two buildings actually share an entrance.

My future husband Ned comes up to help her out and sleuth around with her. In the middle, Nancy actually solves the case. She runs back to talk with Alice Ann and to get a look at her high school yearbooks. There's a big fundraiser going on that she gets an invite to, and she sneaks away to check out the colony building. That's where she finds Paige just chilling with the stolen sculpture.

We then find out that Paige and Lacey were ultra competitive in high school and that Lacey almost always won. Paige was in love with the artist and even went to prom with him, but he later dated and married Lacey. She did everything in an attempt to make Lacey look guilty in the hopes he would come back to her or something. Lame.

*This is the second to the Nancy Drew Diaries books I've read but the first that actually works with the Diaries name. Nancy writes a short intro and then writes another entry at the end of the book.

*Paige is literally just chilling when Nancy catches her and doing nothing but holding a piece of evidence in her hands. How dumb is she?

*The cop that picks them up after the boat accident is older and really mean, but he has a hot nephew who is also a cop. Nancy asks Bess to use her charms on him to find out if he knows anything. Ian, the younger cop, develops a thing for Bess and talks about seeing her again but then disappears from the book.

*Nancy briefly suspects Alice Ann because after the newspaper story runs, people keep calling in to book stays at her B&B. She's all excited because she was having some financial issues and was thinking about closing before it happened. There really aren't any other suspects though.

*The girls sum up the case while eating treats that Hannah made: butterscotch and chocolate cookies with apple pie. If that combination wasn't disgusting enough, they drink lemonade with it.

*Ned working at a newspaper is a little strange. I know he does in the Girl Detective series, but I still think of him as the insurance guy.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #15: Baby-Sitters European Vacation


In case you missed the multiple books leading up to this one, some members of the BSC are heading to Europe for vacation while the rest remain in Stoneybrook to help run a playground camp. Jessi decides to keep a diary that everyone will write in to tell the others everything they did.

Claudia was excited about staying home and working at the camp until Janine became a counselor at the last minute. Jerry, her ex-boyfriend, called and begged her to help out when one of his other counselors backed out at the last minute. Janine proceeds to make Claudia's life a living hell. She lectures her all the time, puts the blame on her for things that go wrong, and acts like she has no experience working with kids. When Claudia finally snaps and goes off on her, Janine breaks down and says that Jerry kept acting like he was better than her and basically treating her like Claudia, so she sent her frustrations to the one person she loved and trusted. They make up, and Janine winds up telling Jerry off.

Mary Anne spends her chapters moaning and whining about Cokie and how she doesn't deserve to be a camp counselor. It doesn't help that Cokie keeps going after Logan, who has no interest in her, and lets one of the Hobart kids stay outside in a storm. Claudia explains that Cokie's mom is on the Board of Education, which is why she got the job. Mary Anne swears that she will get Cokie back but never really does anything. Cokie volunteers to coach softball with Logan and does a little victory lap when Jerry picks her over Mary Anne, but when she realizes that Logan doesn't want her there, she quits and storms off, which leads to Janine bringing her back.

Dawn doesn't need to go to Europe because she apparently went to France with her dad and Carol. Janine originally planned on working at a camp for special needs kids and found a replacement but volunteered Dawn to help one day when they needed extra hands. She gets to actually see Susan, the autistic girl Kristy worked with, but keeps comparing her to Whitney. Susan uses a special machine that replicates hugs, but it's so big that it freaks Dawn out. She then kind of realizes that all special needs kids are different. Honestly, she didn't need a chapter in this book.

Robert cannot escape Jacqui, the girl Stacey went to the concert with, and just wants to hang out with his boys. Jacqui constantly hits on him and is always around. When she follows him into the elevator and tries to kiss him, he finally stands up for himself and tells her that he doesn't want a girlfriend right now, though he does have to explain that it has nothing to do with Stacey.

Jessi finds out that Dance NY, the dance company she came thisclose to joining, will be performing during her trip and makes plans to see them. Conveniently, one of the dancers hurts herself while her understudy has food poisoning. Since she learned the routine while in the program, the leader convinces her to dance with them. Jessi does such a fantastic job, even though she misses steps and loses her balance, that people can't stop applauding. The whole crew them comes to see her before she leaves to give her toe shoes from the performance.

Mallory gets to meet her mom's cousin who lives in England with her husband and two sons. It turns out that she's an economics professor and a part-time author with a deal for her first fiction book. She also compiled their family history and shows Mallory that they are somehow related to Shakespeare because, of course they are. When they go to his birthplace, the girls find a picture of his daughter who looks almost exactly like her cousin Gillian. Mallory then gets an idea for a new book and spends all her time writing instead of sightseeing until Jessi finally points out that she actually needs to experience life to become a writer.

Kristy meets this guy Michel and immediately puts her foot in her mouth because she tells him that's a girl's name like her sister. He keeps hanging around her though, and she keeps trying to find ways to avoid him. They wind up getting lost from the group and left in Paris for five hours on their own. When she pretends like she doesn't know him, he orders at a pastry shop and walks off, only for her to order and have the clerk not know what she's talking about. It turns out that he asked the woman to pretend that she couldn't speak English. She eventually agrees to pretend that she likes him to get through the day, only she actually starts to like him. Abby convinces her to tell him how she feels. He comes to her hotel room, and they kiss on the balcony. They exchange addresses and agree to write too.

Abby is somehow most excited about seeing Victoria Kent and can't wait to see her castle. They almost miss out because the other chaperon doesn't show up in time. Victoria seriously exaggerated where she lives though, which is just a house, so Abby doesn't believe her when Victoria says she gets to meet the Queen. She really does though and asks Abby to come with her. Abby flips out and keeps talking about meeting the Queen, but she really just gets to stand on the side of the road with other people when Victoria and a bunch of other little girls give the Queen flowers. She does, however, step on the foot on the Prince and get her picture in the paper.

Stacey gets my least favorite story. She flips out right away because she's on this trip with both her ex-boyfriend and her mom. Stacey keeps complaining about how her mom treats her like a child and how Robert is always around. She then finds that she grabbed the wrong bag. Her bag has ashes in it, which leads her to decide she has the luggage of a serial killer. Maureen makes plans for her bag to come to London and for them to drop the other bag off in Paris because the ashes are the best friend of the bag's owner and a man he served with in WW II. Stacey finds the whole thing ridiculous, though she does cheer up when her mom agrees to buy her some new clothes. After touring the War Room, she reads up on the war and can't wait to meet the man. Both her and her mom wind up going with him to put his friend's ashes on the beach.

*Janine goes off on Claudia really bad one time, and when Claudia fights back, Mary Anne tries to calm her down and even tells her to back off. Hell no. Janine was all like, “do I need to spell that out for you?” and acting like her big brain made her a better person. She deserved for Claudia to tell her off.

*We get told that Cokie keeps chasing after Logan, even though he shows her no interest, but that isn't really true. Hasn't he actually gone out on dates with her?

*When Mary Anne and Claudia get soaked by the rain, Cokie says it must be the BSC wet tee shirt contest though no one could tell. Oh, snap. They tell her to stuff it, she says she doesn't need to stuff, and Claudia says she does between the ears.

*Some girl on the bus asks Jessi how she knows the dance guy because she's a dancer also. Jessi proceeds to tell her the WHOLE story going all the way back to DECEMBER! Are you kidding me? The poor girl was probably just being polite, but that doesn't mean she wants your whole life story.

*The first time Kristy meets Michel, he's wearing a black pirate like shirt, expensive shoes made from imported glove leather, and has long hair that sweeps over his eyes. It's like the ghostwriter completely forgot that description though because he's shown with shorter hair and wearing jeans and a ball cap.

*Kristy gets so annoyed with him in the pastry shop that she picks up a cream puff and drops it in his lap, which leads to people applauding for her. Yeah right. I'm pretty sure people in that shop could care less what a couple of barely teen kids do.

*Their chaperons are absolutely horrible! Kristy and Michel literally get separated from the group for FIVE hours, and the adults think it's perfectly okay to jet let them wander around Paris freaking France until they can meet up. AND THEN, Kristy and Michel are actually ALONE in her hotel room! If I was a Stoneybrook parent, I would be mad as hell.

*Despite having major, major allergies, Abby decides to go on a tour of the catacombs instead of going to Euro Disney with most of the kids. She starts sneezing as soon as they get inside and sneezes so much that other kids make fun of her. Why would any chaperon even let her go down there?

*Maureen buys Stacey an outfit for sightseeing, but the next day, Stacey puts on the outfit they had laundered through the hotel that she wore on the flight over. It makes no sense for her to get something new and not wear it.

*Stacey's story is super annoying. She bitches about Robert because he needs to learn to take care of himself but then bitches when he gets attention from other women. She whines that her mom is too strict when she just acts like a normal mom. With the whole ashes thing, she goes from being freaked out, to supportive, to irritated, to suddenly okay with everything. When they meet up with him, she's seriously rolling her eyes and wondering when they can leave before suddenly deciding she wants to go with him.

*The other Stoneybrook chaperon is this guy who constantly keeps going off on his own or making plans for new side/day trips. Shouldn't there be some set schedule they follow? Also, Stacey thinks he's super immature for spending a lot of time at an art gallery while she wants to go shopping. Yes, because the needs of a 13 year old kid are more important than an adult who probably waited his whole life for this trip.

*Michel writes Kristy and teases her about her taste in baseball. She writes back in her super sarcastic way before kid of suggesting that she might come for a visit.

*The owner of the dance company writes Jessi to offer her a role in the Nutcracker at Christmas and explains that she can work in rehearsals around her schedule. Of course he can.

*I do not find the Stacey story moving AT ALL, like some people do. She comes across as really selfish to me. One thing I hate is that she says it's just weird that he wants to spread his friends ashes because the war happened so long ago. Yet somehow, she thinks her own friends are oh so important.

*Michel flips out on Alan when he says that he's from America. He tells him that they are all American and that Alan is from a country called the United States. Yeah, the United States of America. Seriously, I have never heard of someone from Canada saying they are American or from North America. Even foreign languages use a version of American to describe someone from the US.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Nancy Drew Girl Detective #3: False Notes (2004)


It's almost Carson's birthday and Nancy has no idea what to get him, so she starts wandering around town and looking for ideas. While visiting with River Height's resident palm reader and psychic, she sees a black woman in a pantsuit with a man who looks like her husband. The man starts towards the police station before his wife grabs his arm and drags him away. Nancy thinks the woman looks familiar but doesn't remember until later that it's Mrs. Simmons, a woman planning on running for town mayor in the next election.

Mrs. Simmons is also the mother of Leslie, a pianist and a shoe in to win some massive scholarship to the local conservatory. Leslie is so popular that people pay to hear her play already. Also running for mayor is a guy named Granger. He's super rich and owns homes all over the country but somehow just can't get enough of River Heights. The girls all chat about how it's weird he wants to run their town and not live in a better place like Miami.

While sitting down to dinner, Nancy casually mentions seeing Simmons, which causes Carson to drop his spoon and splash soup everywhere. Thinking he's probably working on her campaign in secret, Nancy changes tactics and talks about Leslie instead. Carson sputters, makes a huge mess, and then excuses himself. That gets her thinking and makes her wonder if there's a mystery underfoot.

The next morning, she convinces the girls to snoop around with her. They find nothing until Nancy stops by the Simmons' house to supposedly talk about a charity event. Nancy rushes outside with big news: Leslie was kidnapped! How does she know someone kidnapped the poor chick? Well, it's obvious because no one used the piano for a few days and there were no notes about rehearsals on their calendar. Duh.

Since it's obviously the work of Granger who wants to throw Simmons off her game, the girls start following him around town. Simmons only has until the end of the week to submit her official paperwork to run for mayor, and Nancy assumes that he wants to distract her until the deadline passes. They learn nothing except that Deirdre, the snooty girl they all hate, is working for him as an intern.

Nancy sneaks into his house one night and rifles through the stuff in his basement office. He comes home early and almost catches her but gets distracted by a phone call. Bess pops up and uses her locksmith tools to unlock the padlock he keeps on his basement door to get her out of the house. Since when is Bess the one who can pick locks like a pro?

There's a big music event in town that they all go to in the hopes of finding Leslie and learning the whole thing was a mistake. Not only does Leslie not show up, but her teacher claims that the girl called off because she wanted to practice on her own for the scholarship event. Nancy meets Mrs. Sharon, the mother of Leslie's best friend. It turns out that her own daughter plays the cello and is up for the same scholarship.

Nancy and the gang follow Granger some more and see him secretly enter the children's hospital his company is in the process of building. Thinking he's hiding Leslie there, they follow him inside, only to have them catch them. Nancy tries to bluff her way out of his questions by claiming that she knows what he did and telling him about Leslie. He's in absolute shock and demands that they go see the Simmons right away. Granger tells them that he had nothing to do with her going missing but that he'll put up a $10,000 reward for information leading to her. Simmons tells Nancy that Leslie left a note that said she was going off by herself for a bit but that the handwriting did not match her.

After some back and forth and still no sign of the missing teen, Nancy gets suspicious of the Sharon family. They stop by their house and learn that both the teen daughter and parents left earlier in the day. Their babysitter is there to look after their young son, who is a helpful source of information. He tells them all about how they have a cabin by the lake and how his parents keep taking his sister there and not him.

Even though it's like 10 at night and the lake is four hours away, the girls set off. Between getting lost and the houses having no addresses, it's five am before they get there. Nancy conveniently hears music playing and randomly stumbles across Leslie. It turns out that her best friends' parents suggested they take a trip up there together to get away from it all and practice on their own. The dad came back the day before to pick up his daughter for a dentist's appointment and claimed he'd be back the next morning for Leslie but never showed.

The girls get Leslie in the car and explain what really happened, which sends her into shock because she thought they were actually being nice to her. She uses a cell phone to call her parents and tell them what happened, and they agree to get the auditions held for her. Despite getting back to River Heights, the auditions are over and someone else gets the big scholarship. Leslie is a little bummed because she doesn't know if she'll find a way to go to the music conservatory without it.

Cut to Carson's party. Granger shows up and tells Nancy that since she found the missing teen, she gets the $10,000 reward. After talking with her friends who helped solve the case and deserve a share of the reward, she tells him to give the money to Leslie for music school. Simmons then says she almost feels bad about running against him, but he tells her the people of River Heights deserve a real choice and offers to send someone over to help her with her paperwork. Nancy then gives Carson the best birthday present ever. She rented a piano and asked Leslie to put on a performance for him. Gag me.

*Bess is apparently so afraid of Nancy driving that she hesitates before ever getting in a car with her. It turns out that even though Nancy can solve crimes like a professional police officer, she can't remember to regularly fill her car up with gas.

*Hannah makes a mushroom and squash soup that is so good that George asks Nancy for any leftovers. I like both those ingredients but don't think they really go together.

*The one thing I do like about this newer series is that the Chief doesn't bend over backwards for Nancy all the time. He actually sees her coming in the beginning and suggests she get an actual summer job instead of doing police work. In the end though, he congratulates her on solving the crime without any help.

*One thing I don't like about this series is that they took all of Nancy's traits and moved them around. Bess is now the one who picks locks like a pro, and George is a tech expert. George also has a penlight that she takes everywhere with her. It kind of seems like they could solve most of these cases without her.

*This isn't one of those Texas cheerleader murder cases. The parents apparently spent way too much money on cars, a huge mansion, and a vacation cabin and didn't have enough money to send their daughter to music school. George finds all this by hacking a bunch of records.

*Ned is only in the book because he's still working at his parents' newspaper and can help Nancy get an interview that leads nowhere.