April 12, 2016

SVU #54, Rush Week: I Really Wish People Would Stop Rewarding Chloe’s Horrible Behavior

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:49 pm by Jenn

Is that Chloe? I want to bite her

Is that Chloe? I want to bite her

Summary: When Chloe first arrived at SVU, she was very much against joining a sorority, since she didn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. But now that everyone in her dorm thinks she’s a dork, and she’s kind of become friends with Jessica, she’s desperate to join Theta and move into the sorority house. Chloe befriends a girl in her dorm, Val, and is so eager not to lose her that when Val says she also wants to become a Theta, Chloe decides to work extra-hard to get them both inducted.

Theta has just elected new officers: Denise is president, Alex is vice president, Lila is treasurer, and Jessica is pledge chairwoman. Jessica is immediately inundated with requests to consider new pledges. She was really excited about her new role, but that wears off pretty quickly since people only want to talk to her to kiss up or ask for a favor. Chloe doesn’t like that other girls are sucking up, either, but it’s because she can’t convince them that she and Jessica are totally BFFs. Chloe has totally deluded herself into thinking she’s not annoying and that Jess really wants to spend time with her.

The first step in making Val a viable pledge: a makeover! Chloe wants to turn Val from dorky to glam. Val has un-rush-worthy clothes and spends too much time with her dumpy roommate, Deena, which disgusts Chloe. Chloe, by the way, becomes a huge witch in this book, to the point where I can no longer tolerate her. She thinks that if Val keeps hanging out with Deena, Deena will ruin Val’s chances with Theta. Chloe takes Val shopping, buys her a bunch of new clothes, and pays for her to get a haircut. Val continually objects to letting Chloe spend so much money on her, but Chloe’s family is so rich that she doesn’t think her parents will even notice.

Rush week events begin, and Jessica is already sick of them. The girls rushing Theta are all idiots. Two of them make the huge mistake of saying homophobic things about Neil, not realizing that he and Jessica are best friends. They figure they’ve lost their shot at Theta because of that, but Jess tells them it’s really because Theta doesn’t want bigots. It’s a pretty awesome moment.

Chloe is shocked when Val hits it off really well with the Thetas – much better than Chloe herself does. Jess can see that Chloe’s trying really hard and reminds her that the whole sorority votes on new members. In other words, sucking up to Jess is a waste of time. But Chloe doesn’t catch the hint, and she hatches a plan to win Jessica over. She buys scalped tickets to a concert Jessica really wants to go to and offers them to Jess, pretending her mom bought them but Chloe can’t go. Even though Jess was really hoping to get tickets, she turns Chloe down, knowing it’s wrong to accept a bribe.

Val meets Chloe’s horrible roommate and her horrible friends, and again, Val manages to make a good impression. Chloe worries that Val will end up surpassing her in the popular department and ditch her, so she invites her to the concert. But then they run into a couple of Thetas who want to go to the concert, and Chloe gives them the tickets, deciding that a bribe is more important than having a good time with a new friend.

At the next rush event, Chloe goes on and on about how she’s a Theta legacy and her family’s rich and her mom is BFFs with some designer. Jess is irritated until someone calls Chloe out for lying about dating Tom. Jess comes to her defense, saying that Tom led her on. That night, Chloe starts worrying that she won’t get into Theta, and even wakes Val up to get reassurance. I really don’t know what Val sees in Chloe, especially since she’s starting to get that Chloe thinks Val will ruin her chances with Theta.

When it comes time for the Thetas to discuss pledges, it first seems like Chloe will be turned down. Jessica starts talking her up, though, and everyone begins to spin Chloe’s negatives into positives. I don’t understand this. Jess clearly can’t stand Chloe. Why is she going to bat for her? Anyway, the officers decide to give Chloe a little test.

On Bid Day, Val gets an offer from Theta, Jessica invites Chloe to breakfast off-campus. Chloe thinks she’s being taken somewhere private so Jess can break bad news to her where she can’t make a scene. They meet up with Lila, Alex, and Denise, and everyone but Chloe orders a huge breakfast. When they’re done, the Thetas all pretend they haven’t brought any money with them, so Chloe will have to pay. Chloe says she will, since she’s desperate to be a Theta and will do anything for a bid.

The girls imply that they’d like Chloe to buy new furniture for the house (didn’t Alison do that?), so if she agrees to, they’ll make her a Theta. Chloe says again that she’ll do anything because being a Theta is the most important thing in the world to her, despite the fact that she was so against it just a couple books ago. When bids go out, Val gets an offer from Theta, but Chloe gets nothing. Then Jessica tells her in person that Theta wants her, but they wanted to teach her a lesson about sucking up. I can’t believe they want to voluntarily spend time with this trainwreck of a girl.

Elizabeth is still seeing Finn, and since she hasn’t talked to him for a little while, she goes by the med school to see if she runs into him. She does, and she has to pretend she’s there to meet up with someone else. This makes Finn jealous, and he quickly invites Elizabeth to his place for dinner. Sam is also jealous because Liz likes Finn, but I really don’t care how Sam feels about anything.

The couple’s date goes well, but when Finn is ready for dessert, Elizabeth backs off. Oh, and by “dessert,” I mean sex. Elizabeth isn’t quite ready to take that step, so she asks Finn if they can slow things down. He’s all, “Yeah, that’s completely fine. Now I’m going to take you home for a completely unrelated reason.” Smooth, Doctor. He tries again after another date, using the excuse that he’s so into Liz that he can’t help himself. Red flag!

Elizabeth tells Jessica what’s going on, and Jess says she’s doing the right thing – Finn will be more interested in her if she keeps denying him sex. Yeah, that sounds like a foolproof plan. Off-screen, so to speak, Liz tells Finn about her relationships with Todd and Tom, and why she’s a little gun-shy. She’s still thinking over what to do the next time Finn brings up sex. Also, somehow their relationship has made her feel like she needs to stop fighting with Sam over stupid things, since she’s dating a man instead of a boy, which makes her more of an adult. Oh, just hook up with Sam already. We all know it’s going to happen.

Nina decides to move out of the duplex, thank God – her constant fighting with Sam was bugging the crap out of me. She gets a single in a dorm, but I guess she doesn’t have any friends other than Elizabeth, because she gets lonely pretty quickly. She meets a classmate named Francesca and agrees to go see a band with her. Nina has to study, so she plans to only go out for a few hours, but she ends up staying out until one in the morning. Then she decides to keep partying since she’s already out. Never mind that she has an 8 a.m. class.

After falling asleep in class, Nina goes to her dorm to take a quick nap before she has to go to her part-time job. The nap turns into an hours-long sleep, and Nina misses work. Francesca is completely unconcerned. Nina doesn’t seem to get that Francesca only cares about having fun. Then again, Nina’s decided that she needs to have more fun, even if it means her grades suffer a little. There’s no way this will turn out badly!

Todd gets the really boring plotline in this book. To make a long story short, Dana has moved out, and Todd wants to become a big ol’ bachelor. He decides to drop some classes and work more hours at the bar, possibly using some of his money to buy a motorcycle. He meets a girl named Lucy and they hit it off, but she cools off on him when she finds out he works at a “townie” bar. He hangs out with a friend all night and decides going to class isn’t that important, now that he’s a grown-up with a grown-up job. Yeah, good luck explaining that logic to your parents.

Thoughts: In a throwaway moment, we learn that Neil lost the election. Boo!

Finn wears “a black Armani jacket, Levi’s, and loafers without socks.” Run away, Elizabeth! Never trust a guy who wears loafers without socks.

A girl named Angela asks Jessica if she can eat coconut, since she’s allergic to nuts. Jessica can’t believe she’s never had coconut before. Angela says it’s because she’s from Michigan. Jessica doesn’t know what that has to do with anything, but she realizes she doesn’t know if coconut is a nut. My head hurts.


March 29, 2016

SVU Thriller, Killer Party: And Then There Was One

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 5:02 pm by Jenn

Jessica, what is UP with your hair?

Jessica, what is UP with your hair?

Summary: Lila’s throwing an exclusive party on New Year’s Eve, having only invited a few dozen people. Making the cut: the twins, Denise, Alex, Chloe, Todd, Neil, Sam, and Nina, who I didn’t think Lila had ever even met. She’s barely in the book anyway. And I’m not sure how Chloe made the cut, but whatever. As Lila’s boyfriend, Bruce is also invited, of course, but he hasn’t yet made it back from his semester in France. An anonymous girl who wasn’t invited calls Lila to complain, warning that Lila will be sorry for not including her on the guest list.

Bruce calls Lila from Europe to tell her that his father has their private jet, and since Bruce would never in a million years fly commercial, he’s stuck until the jet is free again. He can’t just hire a private plane? Lila is furious that Bruce would rather sit around and wait than come home to her. She tells him they’re over. Jessica, of all people, tries to cheer Lila up by reminding her that she doesn’t need a guy to make her feel fulfilled. They’re going to have an awesome time at the party with or without Bruce. Chloe meets some grungy guys at the mall and invites them to the party. Chloe, NO. Lila tells the guys there’s no party, and for some reason doesn’t disinvite Chloe on the spot.

The party starts, but Lila’s sad because of what happened with Bruce. She distracts herself by dancing with Sam. Todd learns of the breakup and tries to convince Lila to give Bruce a second chance. Why does he even care? Chloe’s new friends from the mall crash the party, but Lila and Neil chase them off, threatening to call the cops. The guys warn that Lila will be sorry. After they leave, someone watches Lila from the bushes.

The partiers go back to partying, but suddenly the lights go out. The Fowlers’ house is apparently right near some woods, and far enough from the rest of civilization for it to be pitch black with the electricity out. Chloe’s on the deck and has to feel her way back into the house. As she’s getting there, someone grabs her and takes her into the woods. She figures the guys from the mall have come back to get revenge.

Inside the house, Todd heads off to check out the circuits. Lila gets another call from the girl who called before, making Lila think this is what the girl was planning when she warned that Lila would be sorry. Lila, Jessica, Elizabeth, Denise, and Alex light some candles, slowly realizing that a bunch of the partygoers have vanished. In fact, they’re being dragged through the woods by people they can’t see.

There are only a dozen or so people left at the party, and they can’t figure out how everyone else disappeared without anyone noticing. No one heard cars driving away, and it’s pretty unlikely that 25 just randomly decided to leave all at once without anyone seeing them go. They don’t think the guys from the mall could have kidnapped everyone, since some of the guests were big football players and would have fought back.

Lila gets two Theta pledges to go look for Todd, who never came back from checking the circuits. But since this is basically a horror movie, the pledges don’t come back either. The person watching from the bushes has himself a good laugh when he realizes how spooked Lila is by all the disappearances. The 13 remaining guests lock themselves in a room together, realizing that there are only girls left.

Alex and Denise talk Lila and the twins out of calling the police, because why do something logical? They don’t think the police will believe them without any evidence, like, if 13 girls tell the police that 27 other people disappeared, they’ll have to do something. I’ll just say that it turns out to be a good thing that the police never get involved, because someone would be in a ton of trouble. Lila suspects that her caller is responsible, and worries that the girl’s warnings about something happening at midnight mean more danger.

A few of the girls head back to the ballroom to get cigarettes, and another little group heads off to the bathroom. Only Lila, the twins, Alex, and Denise stay behind. Alex and Denise follow the other group the ballroom, since Denise hurt her ankle and needs ice. Jessica follows a minute later, wanting her sweater. This leaves Elizabeth and Lila alone, not wanting to accompany Jess in case someone comes back to the room they’re hiding in.

Jess checks to make sure the deck doors are locked, but while she’s there, someone comes inside and grabs her. Jess realizes that this person must have keys to the house. When she doesn’t return to Lila and Elizabeth, they go looking for her, then decide to call the police, finally. But now the phones don’t work, and Lila’s cell phone is missing. When she finds it, she gets another call from the girl, reminding her that something big is coming at midnight. Lila’s so spooked that she faints. Yeah, I bet.

Elizabeth hears someone in the house and ditches Lila to hide. Sorry, Lila! The person in the house knows Liz is there and is specifically looking for her. She gets grabbed, leaving only Lila in the house, like the only survivor in an Agatha Christie mystery. When Lila regains consciousness, she gets another call from the girl – but this time it’s a confession. The caller is Marnie, a girl from down the street who Lila has babysat for. She was mad about not getting to come to a glamorous party with college students, so she pranked Lila as revenge. Her mom caught her and made her come clean. Since there’s no way a 12-year-old could have orchestrated everything that happened at the party, the calls were a red herring.

The kidnapper comes back into the house, looking for the last woman standing. One of the rooms in the house has a secret room behind a bookshelf (of course), so Lila hides in there. I’m surprised the Fowlers don’t have a panic room, but the movie didn’t come out for a couple more years, so maybe they got one then. The kidnapper stumbles around in the dark for a whole (weird, since he had a flashlight earlier), then figures out where Lila is. He grabs her, blindfolds her, and takes her through the woods to the Patmans’ house, which is apparently right next door (since when?).

Lila realizes that the other partygoers are probably all at the mansion. The Patmans are out of town, so what better place to stash 40 people? She wonders if this is all a scheme to get revenge on the Fowlers and Patmans. But the truth is much, much more annoying. When Lila’s blindfold comes off, the partygoers all yell, “Surprise!” Then she realizes that her kidnapper is Bruce.

The whole twisted story is that Bruce wanted revenge on Lila for being mean to him on the phone. SO HE KIDNAPPED ALL HER FRIENDS AND MADE HER THINK SHE WAS GOING TO BE MURDERED. A totally fair response, right? Bruce enlisted some crew guys to help him “kidnap” the guests, many of whom were in on the game. And most of those people only agreed to participate because they were told that the twins were in on it and approved of the “joke.”

Instead of a New Year’s kiss, Lila gives Bruce a punch in the face. He deserves that and much more. The twins promise that they weren’t in on the plan (neither were Denise, Alex, or Todd). Sam and Neil were given the story that the twins were in on it, so they went along. Bruce tries to make up with Lila, who spends about 15 pages hating him before forgiving him. Lila, no! He’s messed up! That is not normal behavior! Let’s hope she’s just stringing him along while she comes up with a proportionate revenge plan of her own.

P.S. Chloe wasn’t part of the mass “kidnapping” – she was actually kidnapped by the guys from the mall. They took her to a treehouse and then ditched her. If she were anyone else, I would feel bad for her, but she’s really annoying in this book, so I just have to laugh.

Thoughts: Jessica mentions that all of her and Lila’s friends are “guyless and happy,” so I guess Denise and Winston broke up.

Jess thinks the partygoers’ disappearances are like something out of The X-Files, and that Elizabeth is like Scully. Okay, but Jessica is no Mulder.

“Eyewitnesses to the kidnapping – none! So that rules out any proof that the guess were kidnapped.” So Elizabeth’s logic is if no one saw a crime take place, the crime didn’t happen? That might be the dumbest thing she’s ever said.

Lila: “I’m not budging from my decision not to budge, and that’s final!” Hee.

“If there was one thing Jessica knew she could do, it was use her smarts.” Me: “…”

February 2, 2016

SVU Thriller, Loving the Enemy: These Robbers Are Armed, But Not With Intelligence

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:37 pm by Jenn

The Daniel sisters weren't very good at modeling, were they?

The Daniel sisters weren’t very good at modeling, were they?

Summary: This book isn’t as bad as the summary on the back makes it sound. Well, in some ways. The blurb makes it out like Jessica falls in love with a guy holding her hostage. And though she has some sympathy for him and maybe a little crush, it’s not quite that ridiculous.

Jessica, Lila, Denise, and Alex decide to have dinner at the Red Lion Diner. It’s a week before their sophomore year, and not everyone is back on campus yet. They’re staying at the sorority house until their dorms or apartments are ready. (The twins will be living with Neil, so he’s decided to transfer to SVU after all.) On their way inside, Jessica spots Trevor Paley, a guy she had a class with the year before. He’s fighting with another guy, so he’s distracted when Jess says hi to him. She thinks he’s just not interested in her. The nerve!

The girls banter with the waitress, Stella. Picture every diner waitress you’ve ever seen in movies or TV. That’s Stella. While they’re waiting for their food, two masked men burst in with guns and demand money. Everyone gets on the floor and tries to stay calm. Instead of just keeping her mouth shut and getting the money, which is the smart option, Stella has to be sassy about the whole thing. Hey, Stella? Did you see the guns? Yeah. They have ouchy bullets inside. Shut up and give them what they want so you don’t get shot.

Willie, the owner/cook, comes out of the kitchen and tries to intimidate the robbers into leaving. They won’t, so Willie gives Stella the go-ahead to empty the cash register. While the bigger robber is off his guard, thinking things are going his way, Willie swings a baseball bat at him. Unfortunately, gun beats bat, and Willie gets shot in the arm. Stella yells at the robber, like, do you want to get shot, too? Just give him the money!

The second robber yells at the first, upset that their brilliant scheme isn’t going the way they’d planned. I guess he thought that everyone would cooperate and they would get the money without having to hurt anyone. Jessica recognizes the second robber’s voice and realizes it’s Trevor. Through bits of conversation, she figures out that the first robber is his brother, Jason.

Despite the bullet in his shoulder and the fact that he’s about to lose a bunch of money, it’s kind of Willie’s lucky day. One of the diner patrons is a med student named Clark, and Jason allows him to help tend to Willie’s wound. Things go south, though, when Jason realizes that their take for this robbery is just over $175. Well, what did he expect? It’s a diner and no college students have been there all summer. Willie laughs because he’s dealing with idiots. Yeah, but they’re the ones with the guns.

Trevor and Jason start arguing, and three other patrons take advantage of their distraction to try to sneak out the door. Way to secure all the exits, guys! One patron escapes, and Jason shoots another. Trevor wants to minimize the loss of innocent life, so he tries to stop Jason by…shooting him in the arm. This is not a healthy family relationship. Jason threatens to shoot Trevor so they’re even, but he decides he can’t hurt his own brother like that.

While Clark tends to his new patients, Jessica quietly lets Denise know that she knows one of the robbers. Denise smartly tells Jessica to keep it to herself. Jason tells Denise to close all the blinds, and she uses the opportunity to try to negotiate: She’ll do it if he lets the injured hostages go. Nice try, Denise, but I don’t think Jason’s getting enough out of this deal to see it as a good trade.

Denise closes the blinds anyway, then tries again to talk Jason into letting the injured people go. While I admire her for trying, her methods just make Jason mad. The police arrive, having been called by the escapee, so at least now we have a negotiator here who knows what he’s doing. But Alex and Trevor are also on Denise’s side, and eventually wear Jason down. Not only does he let the injured hostages go, but he sends Denise and Alex out with them so he doesn’t have to deal with them anymore. Note to self: If you’re ever taken hostage, just annoy the guy in charge until he releases you. A fool-proof plan!

Thanks to the magic of shifting narrative points of view, we get to find out why the Paley brothers are in this mess. Trevor tells us that Jason has always been a little monster. Recently he racked up some gambling debts and decided to rob the diner so he could pay off a loan shark. Trevor agreed to help because he’s such a good brother. Yeah, listen, I love my brothers, but if they ever tried to get me to commit a crime with them, I would draw the line of sisterly devotion there.

Jessica decides to tell Trevor that she knows who he is, though I’m not sure what she thought this would accomplish. She can’t believe the quiet guy from her class is now holding people hostage. Trevor gets sick of the whole situation and tells Jason he’s done. Jason thinks about killing his brother but doesn’t. Aww, they’re making progress. Their brief standoff allows a couple other hostages to try to escape, but Trevor stops them. So I guess he’s not really done after all.

Since Jason is losing a lot of blood, Trevor decides he needs to get him out of the diner. He takes Jessica with him to check out the back of the building, telling the others that if they try anything, he’ll shoot Jess. Jess starts to warm up to Trevor a little, despite the fact that he just threatened her, but he turns mean again and she realizes he’s still a bad guy. They find a storm drain, and Trevor realizes that he could escape and just leave Jason to deal with the fallout of the hostage situation.

On the outside, Denise and Alex find Elizabeth and tell her what’s going on. The three head back to the diner, where Denise decides they could call Lila’s cell phone to find out what’s going on inside. Alex deems this an okay idea since Lila keeps her phone on vibrate, so Jason and Trevor won’t hear it ringing. But won’t they hear her talking? This is dumb. Also, apparently the police have told everyone outside not to try to communicate with anyone inside, so this is a horrible idea.

The girls call anyway, and are able to speak to Lila for a minute. Elizabeth comes up with an escape plan for her, telling her to climb out through the bathroom window. Jason catches Lila on the phone and takes it away before Lila can even hear the plan. Another hostage, Steve, tries to get Jason to leave Lila alone by basically telling him to pick on someone his own size. The two men fight, and Steve manages to grab Jason’s gun.

Trevor and Jessica return just then, and Trevor threatens to kill Jessica if Steve doesn’t drop the gun. So Jessica’s definitely not in love with him now. Steve tries to shoot Trevor, but Jason jumps in front of his brother, taking another bullet. Steve’s now out of bullets, but Trevor’s more concerned with losing his brother than he is about teaching Steve a lesson. He comes up with a new plan: Let the hostages go, get medical attention for Jason, and run away.

Trevor takes Jessica back to the storm drain and they escape the diner. He asks her to help him hide out, so she takes him to the sorority house. Meanwhile, the other hostages are freed, and everyone learns that Trevor took Jessica with him. The police start looking for him, and it doesn’t take long for them to show up at the sorority house. When she’s recognized as one of the hostages, Jessica lies that she’s Elizabeth. This news reaches the diner, and Elizabeth tells the police that Jess lied.

Everyone heads to Theta house, where Jessica has managed to leave a note on the back of the door in lipstick: “Train.” Trevor’s ingenious new plan is to take a train out of town and, I guess, hope the police don’t bother looking for him anywhere outside of Sweet Valley. The police show up before Trevor can flee, so Trevor threatens to shoot Jessica. She basically talks him out of it, saying she knows he won’t hurt her. Like, he stands there with a gun pointed at her and she just walks away. Weird.

Trevor lowers his gun, but the police shoot him anyway. He and Jason both survive the ordeal, and I guess will get to bond while they’re in prison together. The police are kind of mad that the girls called Lila when they weren’t supposed to, but I guess they can’t do much about it, since it didn’t lead to anyone getting hurt. Anyway, this book had the potential to be good, but ended up being dumb, though not as dumb as it could have been.

Thoughts: Trevor: “Nice to meet you, Steve.” Steve: “Don’t talk to me, scumbag. If I didn’t have a gun pointed at my back, you’d be choking on your teeth.” I like you, Steve. Let’s be friends.

“I have a really brilliant and potentially stupid idea.” I like you, too, Denise.

“If you’re ever in a situation like that again, leave it to the professionals.” They never have before; why would they start now?

August 18, 2015

SVU Thriller, Don’t Answer the Phone: Sweet Valley Is Still the Murder Capital of the World

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 8:15 pm by Jenn

I thought Enid decided against plastic surgery at that death spa

I thought Enid decided against plastic surgery at that death spa

Summary: Good news, people who have been dying for an Alex book – your day has come. Alex is still dating Noah, though things aren’t going very well for them. She has a habit of being late to meet him, and he blames her tendency to spend too much time with her sorority. He doesn’t like the person she’s become. Alex, however, likes who she is. She hated herself as Enid, but in college, she’s been able to reinvent herself. She’s the person she always wanted to be, especially since she’s quit drinking.

Alex still works at the SVU substance-abuse helpline, which is how she met Noah. She’s able to use her own experience abusing alcohol to connect with the callers. She takes a call from a guy calling himself Rodin, after the sculptor, and helps him stay strong while he tries to lay off the booze. Then she meets Rodin face-to-face in art class. He’s a guy named Luke who’s in love with her, even though they’ve never spoken.

After another big fight with Noah, Alex goes to the helpline hoping to put in some extra hours. She meets Fred, the new supervisor, who’s a huge jerk. He wants to schedule everyone’s time (even though they’re all volunteers) and dictate how they speak to callers. Alex talks back to him, which is partly awesome and partly dumb, because you don’t want to tick off someone who has that much power over you. But I guess it’s just another example of the kind of person Alex is now compared to who she was as timid, always-follows-the-rules Enid.

Alex takes a call from someone she thinks is pulling a frat prank. He guesses what she’s wearing and calls her “baby” and is generally someone you wouldn’t want to talk to. She tries to brush off the incident. However, she can’t brush off Fred, who’s mad that she’s listed as Enid in his files but uses the name Alexandra. Apparently this is a big deal to people, which I don’t get. It’s like using a nickname.

Another call comes from the creepy guy, who tells Alex that she’s supposed to be his. She’s still not sure this isn’t a prank, but she’s definitely freaked out, as she should be. As he calls more frequently (and accidentally IDs himself as Travis, though it’s not clear if that’s his real name), Alex considers calling the police, but she’s incredibly mistaken about the helpline’s confidentiality policy. She’s been told that under no circumstances is she allowed to tell anyone what someone has told her on the phone. Alex, dear, this doesn’t count. A guy threatening you is no longer subject to confidentiality. Your personal safety is not more important than his anonymity.

Here’s where things really start going off the rails. The caller goes to the sorority house and murders someone he thinks is Jessica. It’s actually a pledge named Susan, Alex’s “little sister,” who had borrowed Jessica’s sweater. She was also wearing a pair of Lila’s earrings, which the killer rips out of her ears (ow) and later puts in Alex’s room. Alex thinks the killer is targeting her friends, so she breaks up with Noah to protect him. She should really break up with him because he’s a jerk and thinks she’s psychologically screwed up because she has two personalities, Enid and Alex. Shut it, Noah.

Alex decides to sculpt a limestone memorial for Susan (just go with it), and the extra hours in the art classroom have her getting to know Luke better. They have a lot in common, between their love of art and their experiences with drinking. Alex is late to her next shift at the helpline, where Fred is upset that a girl who used to have a drinking problem is now giving advice to people with substance-abuse issues. Apparently Fred doesn’t know that tons of recovering addicts work in these kinds of positions. Fred asks Alex out, which is really weird, but she tells him off.

Not long after, Alex gets a call from Travis and starts thinking he’s Fred. She finally decides to call the police. She has to make the call from her dorm, since the phones at the helpline don’t make outgoing calls (what?), but in her room, she finds Fred’s body. Minutes later, Noah arrives, claiming he found Alex’s keys (which went missing days earlier). Alex now thinks Noah’s the killer. After all, he’s been showing his temper more and more, he’s been verging on violence, and he had access to Alex’s room to leave the earrings and Fred’s body.

Alex tries to distract herself by working on the memorial sculpture and hanging out with Luke. The two of them kiss, and Alex thinks she’s made a great new love connection. After she leaves the classroom, Travis calls a nearby pay phone (sure, of course). He announces that he’s behind her and grabs her. He’s wearing a ski mask, so Alex can’t see his face. She asks if he’s Noah, then Luke. But Travis has already kidnapped Noah, tying him to a chair, and there’s what looks like a body in the classroom, which Travis says is Luke. With Fred dead, Alex has no other suspects.

Travis decides that he’ll give Noah one chance to save his own life. If he can correctly answer a question, he’ll be allowed to live. The question is: If Enid had a sorority party the same night she needed to study for a test, what would she do? Noah says that she would put in an appearance at the party, then go home and study. Alex is thrilled because that’s exactly what she would do – her boyfriend knows her after all! But Travis says that’s the wrong answer. He wanted to know what Enid would do, not Alex. Semantics!

Alex tries steering into the crazy, as I call it – telling Travis she wants to be with him, and that she’s Enid and not Alex anymore. Travis still wants to kill Noah, so Alex begs him to just let Noah go. Noah promises to leave them alone and let them ride off into the sunset together. Fortunately, Travis is so far gone that he falls for it, and Alex manages to overpower him. The memorial statue falls on him, and just before he dies, he seems to become sane again. Alex unmasks him and realizes that he’s Luke; there’s no body in the classroom. So I guess he had multiple personalities? I don’t know. Alex and Noah are back together and everything’s good again. No one mentions the irony of a person being killed by a memorial.

Thoughts: Noah calls Alex’s sorority house a “Victorian house of ill manners.” Shut up, Noah.

I think Trina’s supposed to be annoying, but I like her. She’s the smartest person in the book.

How does Luke know random pay phone numbers? I mean, I know that’s a strange thing for me to fixate on, but I still want to know the answer.

October 28, 2014

SVU #26, The Trial of Jessica Wakefield: “The Grand Jury Hearing of Jessica Wakefield” Doesn’t Have the Same Ring to It

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:25 pm by Jenn

I have no idea who these people are supposed to be

I have no idea who these people are supposed to be

Summary: Jessica has been arrested, and things aren’t looking good. Because of the amount of cocaine she was found with, the police – including Nick – think she’s a drug dealer. Meanwhile, a suspicious Jordan delivers Celine what she thinks is her money, but what’s actually Lila’s hat. Jordan realizes what was really going on, and Celine warns him not to tell the police, since he’d be arrested, too. The guys she got the drugs from give her five days to get them their money.

Ned and Alice are out of the country, which leaves Steven as the default “grown-up” in the family. He’s barely in the book, though, and does nothing useful, like hire her a lawyer. Jessica struggles in jail, as you can imagine, and I would laugh at her but I know that if it were me, I’d cry the whole time. I actually feel sorry for Jess. Anyway, She tries to convince Nick that she didn’t do anything wrong and didn’t even know drugs would be involved. She just wanted to find out what he was keeping from her. The problem is that no one saw Jordan at the exchange, so it looks like Jessica was just hanging around with a bunch of coke.

Jessica and her public defender end up in front of a judge who’s determined to rid the world of drug crimes. He schedules a grand jury hearing to determine whether there’s enough evidence against Jessica to send her to trial. (This is how the book can get away with the legal proceedings moving so quickly. Otherwise, Jessica would be in jail for months.) No one can afford Jessica’s bail, so she goes back to lockup.

Nick has started to doubt that Jessica’s a drug dealer, and decides that he can’t testify against her. He’s suspended from his job, which just gives him more time to investigate the case on his own. This involves some deducing and other detective stuff that’s not really interesting to read about. Elizabeth is actually the better detective, as she gets Jessica to remember that Jordan was wearing an engineering sweatshirt, which could help them narrow down who he is.

Speaking of Jordan, his guilty conscience makes him call the drug hotline, where Alex happens to take his call. He confesses that his girlfriend got him mixed up in a drug deal, but he got a hatbox instead of money, and now mobsters might be after him. (Ahh, college was crazy for all of us, wasn’t it?) He tells her he’s going to hide out in his hometown.

There’s a Theta gathering, and Celine stupidly wears the hat Jordan gave her. Lila recognizes it and says that Jessica was supposed to pick it up for her. Alex figures out that Celine and Jordan were involved in Jessica’s “drug deal,” and she and Noah head off to try to find Nick. They first encounter Elizabeth, who tells them about Jordan’s engineering shirt. Alex finds Nick at the Theta house, looking for evidence that could clear Jessica, and tells him about the shirt and the call from Jordan.

Celine is next to sneak into the Theta house, looking for things she can steal for money. She comes across Lila’s bank card, which Lila lost a while ago and Isabella returned (but didn’t give back to her in person – good job, Isabella). Celine uses the card to pay off her debts and go on a shopping spree. Then she goes to withdraw money and gets busted by Lila’s own father, causing her to flee (still wearing that stupid hat).

Meanwhile, Nick does some more detectiving, which mainly involves driving all over California to find Jordan. He eventually does, and convinces Jordan to come to Jessica’s hearing. He arrives just in time to get everything sorted out and reveal that Celine was behind the deal. The judge is all, “Sorry, Ms. Wakefield. Your boyfriend is a good cop, though.” Jess is off the hook and back with Nick. Celine and Jordan are allowed to make deals in exchange for ratting out the actual drug dealers, so once again, Celine gets away with a crime. Sigh. At least Lila gets her hat.

The only substantial B-plot: Elizabeth and Tom are through, as he believes his father’s side of the story that he never hit on Elizabeth. Tom is a jerk through the whole book, which is really all you need to know. Liz tries to take her mind off of him and Jessica’s trial by going to a party. She accidentally gets drunk on spiked punch, and a guy who’s been bugging her comes close to raping her. Todd swoops in to save the day. The next morning, Elizabeth wakes up in Todd’s bed and freaks out, thinking they slept together. They didn’t, so Liz is still a lily-white virgin, but now her interest in Todd has been rekindled. So sorry, spending-the-semester-abroad Gin-Yung.

Thoughts: Yeah, like Jessica was really going to go to prison for a drug crime. I mean…middle-class white girl. Come on.

Celine buys turquoise velvet couches. Ick.

Danny declines an invitation to a Rams game so he can go to Jessica’s trial, and Tom thinks, “I finally get a chance to see the Rams play and something Wakefield related ruins it.” So now I definitely hate Tom.

Celine calls fake jewelry “paste.” I learned that term from an SVT book. The circle is complete!

Nick goes to the engineering department and gets hassled by a bunch of nerds. “‘I say he needs a reboot,’ the wiry guy cackled. Nick tensed. A reboot? That sounded threatening. He jumped back from the group and then swung around to face them. No one was going to give him a boot.” Nick, sweetie, you’re embarrassing yourself.

October 14, 2014

SVU #25, Busted!: I Would Like to Exchange a Hat

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:28 pm by Jenn

Nick is actually with the fashion police

Nick is actually with the fashion police

Summary: Still thinking that Nick is a spy, Jessica replaces him at a meeting he’s supposed to go to and pretends she’s a government agent. The person she meets gets spooked, then runs off when Jessica reveals that she doesn’t have any money for him. I’m not sure what would have happened if she’d been asked for information or given nuclear codes or something. She would be a terrible spy, but we already knew that.

On their way to breakfast the next morning, Nick spots someone who could blow his cover, and he has Jessica engage in a car chase to get away from them. Jessica’s like, “All right! Now we’re really getting into spy stuff!” Nick tells her the guys are from his former neighborhood, which was full of bad people. Later, Nick tells his boss that he was spotted by the brother of a drug dealer he put away. His boss is more concerned with the fact that Nick missed his meeting (the one Jessica went to) with a contact who could have been really helpful and might be difficult to get in touch with again. Nick decides to turn to Celine, who’s hinted that she has drug connections.

Celine is busy trying to figure out how she’s going to carry out her plan to get into the Thetas. She told them her grandmother would pay to renovate the sorority’s living room, which is a lie, so now Celine needs some money. She settles on the most ridiculous plan possible to accomplish her goals. First, she singles out a dorky freshman named Jordan who’s so flattered to have her attention that you just know he’ll do anything she wants. Thanks to Alison, Celine is vote into the Thetas, so as long as she can get the money she needs, she’s golden.

Nick shows off some more spy-type skills, like disarming a guy who tries to rob a movie theater while he and Jessica are there. Then he asks the manager to keep his name out of the police report, kind of glossing over the details with Jess. She really just continues to think he’s a spy and keeps spending time with him, because what’s more exciting than a boyfriend who risks his life every day?

Meanwhile, Celine puts the next step of her plan into motion: She tells Jordan that Nick is an environmentalist looking into animal testing at the pharmaceutical company where her (fictional) brother works. Celine’s brother wants to arrange a secret meeting with Nick to pass along some information on his company’s illegal actions. He wants to stay anonymous, so Celine has agreed to get someone else to deliver the information. That someone else is Jordan. Jordan is reluctant to get involved but can’t say no to Celine.

Jessica gets the information about Nick’s meeting with Jordan, so now there are three parties involved who all think something different is going on: Jess thinks state secrets will be exchanged, Nick thinks it’s a drug deal, and Jordan thinks he’s helping a whistleblower. Celine, the only one who knows what’s really happening, buys drugs from some guys who make it clear that she won’t get by on just her charm and pretty face if she doesn’t get them their money. Also, they know her name and where she lives, even though she tried to keep her identity a secret. Celine is a moron. She’s arranging a drug deal so she can pay for a renovation.

As the “deal” draws closer, Nick is pretty casual about the whole thing, thinking it’s a goof and Jordan isn’t serious about it. Jordan gets nervous and asks Celine for details, and she assures him there are no drugs involved. Jessica has to pick up a hat for Lila (don’t ask – she never shuts up about it) and is worried she’ll miss the meet-up.

Jessica arrives in time to meet Jordan, who gives her the package of what he thinks is information on animal testing, but which is actually cocaine. Jessica thinks he’s handing over information on Nick. She doesn’t have any money, and she’s worried that Jordan will hurt her if she doesn’t give him something in return, so she hands over the only thing she has with her: Lila’s hat. Jordan leaves, and Jessica, who has officially bought drugs, gets busted…by Nick.

In the other main plot, Tom is very happy to have family he never knew about, and is spending a lot of time with his long-lost father, George. George takes Tom and Elizabeth to dinner, and starts getting creepy and inappropriate with Liz, touching her more than her boyfriend’s father should. While Tom’s away from the table, George tells Elizabeth how pretty she is and how she should wear diamonds. Elizabeth is uncomfortable and unsure how to react. She decides not to tell Tom anything, instead confiding in Nina, who also isn’t sure what she should do.

George then takes Elizabeth and Tom to a concert on campus, and just as Liz is starting to think she overreacted to George’s previous behavior, he starts getting creepy again. They’re left alone together afterward, and George gives her a diamond necklace and declares his love for her. Elizabeth is able to get away from him before he can kiss her, but she still doesn’t tell Tom what’s going on.

Nina advises Elizabeth to talk to George, so Liz goes to see him at his place. BAD MOVE. Always meet creepsters in public, if you have to meet them at all. George pretends that he knows he was in the wrong and asks if they can make things okay. Then he tries to kiss Elizabeth again. She runs off to cry in the library, where she encounters Todd and tells him everything. He encourages her to talk to Tom. When she does, Tom accuses her of being jealous of his relationship with George and making up his creepiness (which…when has Elizabeth ever done anything like that)? Elizabeth smartly tells him they’re done.

Alex is still struggling with her sobriety, so she decides to volunteer at the campus drug/alcohol abuse hotline. At first she’s just doing things like stuffing envelopes, but then she’s allowed to shadow a guy who takes calls. He lets her take a call of her own and she impresses both of them with her ability to talk to people about drinking and drugs. Making things even better for Alex, she and Noah make up.

The only really interesting thing with this plotline is that Jordan calls the hotline to confide that he thinks Celine got him involved in a drug deal. Alex can’t report anything because it’s all confidential. Then when the “deal” goes down, she and Noah see Jordan running across campus with a hat box, which is a pretty great visual. It’s even funnier when you realize that Celine thinks she’s going to get a stack of money but is really just getting Lila’s hat.

Thoughts: They mention Nina’s haircut again. Seriously, why is that so important?

Tom doesn’t seem upset that his parents lied to him his whole life about who his biological father was.

“On the one hand, it was so like Elizabeth to one-up her without even trying.” And it’s so like Jessica to think that Elizabeth is every trying to one-up her.

It’s funny that Elizabeth thinks Nick is weird because he’s always on his phone when nowadays you’re weird if you don’t do that.

September 30, 2014

SVU #24, His Secret Past: More Like THEIR Secret Pasts

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 6:26 pm by Jenn

I don't think Nick ever learned how to hug

I don’t think Nick ever learned how to hug

Summary: Forget about Ben, Josh, and all of Jessica’s other recent love interests: It’s Nick Fox’s time to shine. Jessica meets him on campus when he sees her ad selling her and Elizabeth’s TV, and Jess immediately falls in luuuuuuuuuv. Nick seems nice but it also a little shady. For example, he pulls out some self-defense moves when someone taps him on the shoulder. What Jessica doesn’t know is that Nick is using her for some mysterious reason. He knows he’s falling in luuuuuuuuv with her, and he has to remind himself that he’s hanging out with her for “business.”

Jessica spots a gun in Nick’s glove compartment and starts to wonder what his deal is. She thinks he could be a spy, which gets her really excited. She overhears him on the phone, arranging a delivery, and tries to get him to tell her what’s going on. He won’t, only saying that he carries a gun for protection after a mugging. His mysterious deliveries, weapon, and pager add up to drug dealer for Lila, who is smarter than anyone gives her credit for.

Nick goes to a party with Jessica, asking if she and her friends will be doing any drugs. Jess assures him that they won’t. Nick realizes he’s not going to get anywhere in his “business” with this group, but he likes hanging out with Jessica, so he doesn’t want to move on just yet. In other news, Celine is back and wants to become a Theta and steal Nick from Jessica. Alison has befriended her, which means Jessica has extra interest in keeping Celine out of the sorority. Celine flirts with Nick, promising him a good time, and he realizes that she’s the one who can get him access to drugs at SVU.

Jess is ticked over Nick’s interest in Celine, but since he insists it’s platonic, she shifts her focus to whatever he’s keeping from her. She answers his cell phone (which is another reason she thinks he’s a spy – in 1996, who other than spies had a cell phone?) and hears about a delivery taking place at 2 a.m. She decides she’ll show up and see what Nick’s up to. Brilliant plan, Jess.

Elizabeth has her own mystery man to deal with: She meets a guy named George Conroy who’s on campus in hopes of finding his son. He’s never actually met his son, as Conroy and his wife split up when the boy was a baby (thanks to Conroy’s cheating), and he thinks his wife let her second husband give the baby his last name. He has little information to go on, except his son’s birth month and the possibility that he goes to school in California. That’s so little to go on that even a professional PI would probably be hesitant to take the case.

But Elizabeth never gives up! She will find this man’s son! She thinks Conroy’s story would make a great piece for the TV station. Who knew she was so opportunistic? She doesn’t seem to care that she has so many other responsibilities, like school and the TV station and the care and feeding of Tom. She’s also planning a big surprise 21st birthday for him.

Oh, did I mention that Tom’s birthday is this month? Elizabeth wants to cheer him up since, you know, his whole family is dead. It doesn’t help that he’s been working on a family-tree project for one of his classes. Isn’t that more of an elementary-school thing? Thanks to all the time Elizabeth’s spending helping Conroy and planning the party, Tom thinks there’s something wrong. Elizabeth is trying extra-hard not to let Tom find out about the party, and she’s not a great actress.

But there’s no time to worry about that! Elizabeth needs to reunite a family! She and Conroy visit a bunch of banks, trying to find out if his son has an account anywhere. Of course, no bank will release confidential information to them. This is really a difficult search, since Conroy doesn’t know if his son is using his stepfather’s last name or his mother’s maiden name, Antoniani. There also doesn’t seem to be any confirmation that the son is a) in California or b) in college. I can’t imagine Conroy has done all this searching in multiple other towns.

Just before the party, Elizabeth goes to get Tom for what she’s told him is a romantic birthday dinner. She sees his family-tree project and learns that his mother’s maiden name is Antoniani. Finally, what’s been clear to readers the whole book clicks into place for Elizabeth: Tom is Conroy’s son. This means his entire family isn’t dead after all. She quickly calls Conroy and has him come to the surprise party. Happy birthday, Tom! Your parents lied to you about your paternity!

Alex is having a bad month. She’s doing poorly in her classes, she’s not happy with her appearance, and she doesn’t like that Noah isn’t good at cheering her up. Basically, Alex is Elizabeth at the beginning of freshman year. (Except it’s still freshman year, so I’m not really sure how long these people have been at SVU.) She’s been sober for a while but is struggling to stay on the wagon. Alex sees Noah hanging out with another girl, and of course she misinterprets the whole thing. Despite being so popular earlier in the series, she apparently doesn’t have any friends now, so she spends the book moping.

Things finally fall apart when Noah tells Alex that, basically, she’s not at a weak enough point to ruin her sobriety, and all she wants is pity. Yeah, dump him, Alex. She goes to Tom’s party, despite feeling mopey, and is harassed by a couple of drunk guys. Nick gets them to leave her alone, then reveals to Alex what he’s been keeping from everyone else, including Jessica: He’s an undercover cop. To! Be! Continued

Thoughts: “Tom had a bad case of the blues, but she had the cure.” Liz, he doesn’t have a “case of the blues.” He’s sad beacuse his ENTIRE FAMILY IS DEAD. A party isn’t going to make that better.

Nick claims that the mob rigs carnival games. Why would they? There’s no money in that.

Jessica: “He’s too smooth and good looking to be into drugs.” Lila: “Do you think you have to pass an ugly test before they let you sell drugs?” Hee.

If Nick is telling strangers who he really is and trusting they’ll just keep their mouths shut, I think it’s fair to say he’s not very good at his job.

Why is it a plot point that Nina got a haircut? Is this going to come back later? Should I remember it? Guys, remember that nina got a haircut in this book, in case it’s important later.

March 11, 2014

SVH #14, Shipboard Wedding: Sink or Swim

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:18 pm by Jenn

Yo, guys on the left, you're about to fall into the pool

Yo, guys on the left, you’re about to fall into the pool

Summary: We’re still on this freaking cruise. It’s never going to end, is it?

So anyway, everyone’s mad at everyone else because of all the kissing of other people’s fiancées and the fighting over whether or not people should know about that kissing. As a refresher, Todd and Elizabeth are kind of back together, Tom keeps making out with Nicole (who’s engaged to Jason), Isabella and Danny are fighting, Leonardo is obsessed with Alex, Noah and Gin-Yung are hanging out, Nina keeps spending time with Rich (even though he’s a pretentious and boring egomaniac and she kind of hates him), Lila wants to break up with Bruce, Bryan is a wimp, and Jessica can’t find her mystery savior. Oh, and Winston and Denise are missing.

Jessica’s search for that mystery savior has landed her in jail. She was caught breaking into people’s rooms so she could find the savior’s button, and after Jason’s wedding ring was reported missing, she was accused of stealing it. (Danny still has it. Danny should probably say something.) There’s a great scene where Jessica tries to appeal to the captain and her other jailers, telling them she was breaking and entering for love, and they pretend to humor her and then laugh in her face. Then some guy shows up pretending to be a lawyer and gets Jessica released, but he doesn’t stick around long enough for her to find out who he is.

Everyone else is at a dance (well, of course) and jealous of the new pairings. Tom is especially mad because Elizabeth went back to Todd two seconds after they split up, but dude, you’re the one who kissed someone else. I mean, be mad all you want, but if you can’t keep your lips to yourself, you don’t get a say in what Liz does.

The steward who turned Jess in for thievery in the first place is after her again, but the mystery “lawyer” trips him and Jessica’s able to hide in a movie theater. Meanwhile, the police arrive and try to arrest Elizabeth for stealing the ring. Of course, they’re not going to fall for the old “it wasn’t me, it was my identical twin!” story. Isabella finds Danny (who’s hiding like a six-year-old afraid of getting in trouble for eating cookies before dinner) and demands that he tell the truth.

So Danny finally comes clean about the “stolen” ring, which puts both twins in the clear. But Jason’s mad that Danny lied to try to stop the wedding, so he fires Danny as his best man…and enlists Tom to take his place. Poor, dumb, naïve Jason has no idea what’s been going on between Tom and Nicole. Oh, and the wedding’s tomorrow, and everyone on the ship is invited.

Jessica’s still hiding in the movie theater through all this, and Nina and Danny wind up there, too. They start talking, and when Nina kisses Danny on the cheek (just as a friend), Jessica misinterprets this as romance. Now she thinks Danny’s a two-timer, and she isn’t sure if she should tell Isabella. Ironically (I guess), in the first book, Isabella insisted that if Danny ever cheated on her, she wouldn’t want to know.

That night, Alex and Isabella wind up in the twins’ room and all four girls cry over their relationship woes. They see Nina and Rich together and think they’re happy, when Nina’s really just faking it. Also not happy: Tom, who’s been kicked out of his and Danny’s room. Todd finds him, they fight, and just when things are about to get sort of interesting, they…stop. And they decide to work together to get Tom and Elizabeth back on track. It involves Todd pushing Tom overboard so Elizabeth will save him. There’s no way this could go wrong!

Everyone goes to the wedding, with Alex throwing Gin-Yung shade for hanging out with Noah, and Danny hiding in the back (Danny hides a lot in this book). Everything goes fine until “if anyone knows why these two shouldn’t be married.” This is when Danny decides it’s finally time to say something to Jason about his fiancée kissing another guy. Jessica shoots him down, accusing him of two-timing Isabella with Nina. Isabella’s madder at Jessica than with Danny.

While Jason’s confronting Danny, Nicole gets super-dramatic and tries to flee in a lifeboat. She winds up in the water, so Danny jumps in so save her. Jason punches Tom, who also goes in the water, but he wanted to be there anyway so Elizabeth would save him, so he just goes with it. But Danny tries to save Tom as well, so Tom has to get rid of him. Elizabeth doesn’t seem to realize (or care?) that Tom’s in the water, so Todd tosses her in after him. Brilliant plan, guys. It doesn’t work, since Tom clearly isn’t drowning, and Elizabeth still doesn’t want to be with him.

Noah’s like, “Well, everyone is has gone insane, so I might as well, too,” and he knocks out Leonardo. Bruce approaches and Noah tells him that Leonardo fell. Alex joins them and the guys stick to their story. And speaking of insane, Jessica decides to recreate her first meeting with her mystery savior by…jumping in the water and pretending she’s drowning again. I’m pretty sure this is certifiable psychopath behavior. Gin-Yung gets a little revenge on Todd by pushing him in the water.

At this point almost everyone’s in or has been in the ocean except Isabella, who agrees to make up with Danny as long as he doesn’t get her dress wet. Jessica doesn’t have any luck fake drowning, but she does finally meet her mystery savior. It’s Randy Mason, Sweet Valley Middle School’s resident nerd. Jessica doesn’t care that he used to be a nerd, or, apparently, that he’s been STALKING HER ALL WEEK. Seriously, this guy is creepy.

Leonardo has decreed that he’s taking Lila back to Italy so she can properly mourn Tisiano. He’s taking Alex there, too, so she can become a model. Bruce isn’t going to let Lila go without a fight, possibly a physical one. Lila, however, is resigned to her fate, especially when she realizes that if the situation were reversed – if she’d died and Tisiano were moving on this quickly, say, with someone like Jessica – she’d be jealous. After all the wedding madness and ocean wackiness, Lila decides she can’t be without Bruce, so they’re back together. And I guess Leonardo regains consciousness with some brain damage, because now he’s okay with them being together, and he’s fine with Alex leaving him and getting back together with Noah. I don’t know.

Bryan is still hanging out with Jean, learning to swim and trying to figure out how to get back to the boat so he can reunite with Nina. He dreams about water-skiing back to the ship, and decides to make that dream come true. Because that’s totally reasonable for someone who only learned to swim two days ago. Bryan takes some skiing lessons (this all happens over less than a day, by the way) and gets a guy to take him on his boat out toward the ship. He shows up while everyone else is falling/getting pushed in the water, but he falls in as well, so Nina has to save him. This is so dumb.

Winston and Denise spend the entire book floating around on a sinking boat, thinking they’re going to die. They wash up on an island and decide to become the new Swiss Family Robinson or something. (I hope there are monkey butlers and chewy, chewy cocoa beans.) Then they’re suddenly both knocked out. It turns out they’re not on a deserted island – they’re on the same island as a resort, and they were knocked out by golf balls. But the good news is they can go home with everyone else. And they didn’t embarrass themselves by falling overboard.

Thoughts: These books would be a lot shorter if they didn’t spend so much time recapping previous books.

Danny describes dating Isabella as “like falling forty floors into a pool of Jell-O with your arms around the person you love most in the world.” Danny, please don’t ever become a writer.

“Jessica instantly loved the bridesmaid dresses, which had a tropical theme. The girls wore brightly colored green, aqua, and pink silk sarong skirts that reached their ankles. Their silk tops were cropped and shoved each girl’s tanned midriff.” I don’t care where you’re getting married – no one’s midriff should be visible.

Nicole’s wedding dress has “tiny seed pearls sewn over every square inch.” That sounds awful.

I’m sure the ship’s captain appreciated everyone jumping in the water. How much do you think that guy hates doing college cruises?

February 25, 2014

SVU #13, SS Heartbreak: All the Usual Relationship Drama, Just On a Boat This Time

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:51 pm by Jenn

I guess that's Todd without the shirt? Put a shirt on, Todd

I guess that’s Todd without the shirt? Put a shirt on, Todd

Summary: In the aftermath of Tom and Nicole’s kiss, Isabella wants to keep Jason from finding out. Danny, however, is Mr. Ethics and thinks his best friend should know that his fiancée kissed another guy. He also wonders if Isabella would have been able to keep from kissing Tom if she’d been in Nicole’s position. (Remember, Isabella used to have a crush on Tom.) I’m not sure what that has to do with anything, but whatever, Danny’s in a bad mood.

Jessica overhears them talking about the kiss and how Elizabeth saw it, so she heads back to their room. Tom is already there, wanting to explain things to Elizabeth. She wonders if Liz would have kissed Todd if they’d been in Tom and Nicole’s positions. There’s an awful lot of “what if”ing going on. Elizabeth only wishes she could kiss Todd right now and make Tom jealous. All in good time, my dear. Jess wants everyone to shut up about the kiss so Jason and Nicole can get married. That’s our Jessica – she doesn’t care if the bride and groom are happy, as long as they have a wedding.

Danny and Isabella try to spark up some romance between Jason and Nicole, though Isabella doesn’t think Danny’s romantic enough to be able to inspire it in others. Jason’s still into spending more time with his friends than his fiancée anyway. Danny decides that the best course of action is to convince Jason to end the engagement, but without it looking like Danny’s trying to influence the decision. His ideas are all stupid, and even though Jason isn’t that bright, he’s at least bright enough not to listen to Danny.

Meanwhile, Liz is unable to handle being single for five seconds, so when she runs into Todd and Gin-Yung, she immediately latches on to her ex. Poor Gin-Yung. Todd and Liz spend the day together when the ship stops at an island called Juma. Tom hangs out with Nicole, and when Liz sees them, Todd can tell that she’s not over Tom. He’s also still interested in Gin-Yung, so he knows he and Elizabeth shouldn’t try to get things started again.

But then Nicole asks Tom to kiss her again, so she can know if there’s really anything there, and also because Elizabeth is being mean to him, so he deserves something nice. Liz sees them smooching and kisses Todd in retaliation. Gin-Yung sees that, and runs off. She encounters Noah, who’s lost Alex to Leonardo, and the two of them decide to hang out. So at this point, half the couples who came on the cruise together are with someone else.

Isabella and Danny argue about the second Tom/Nicole kiss – literally everyone knows about the two kisses except Jason. Isabella still doesn’t think it’s a big deal. Danny wants to tell Jason, who happens to show up just as they’re talking about him. He thinks Nicole is acting weird because she has cold feet about the wedding. So what better solution than to speed things up and get married tonight? Danny panics and tells him that the ring is gone. Why, it must have been stolen!

Jessica is desperate to find the mystery man who saved her when she fell overboard, but she’s going about it in a very weird way. She still has his button, so she pulls a kind of Cinderella by breaking into people’s rooms and trying to find the shirt it goes with. So okay, it’s a Cinderella if Prince Charming were a criminal.

A steward catches her in the middle of a search and offers to keep quiet for a bribe, but Jessica’s too dumb to understand that she can just pay him off. During a dance that night (because of course there’s a dance), the ship’s captain finds Jessica and demands Jason’s ring. He knows from the steward that Jess has been breaking into people’s rooms, and since the ring was reported stolen, Jessica must have taken it. Oops!

Remember how the last book ended with a cliffhanger, with someone arriving in a helicopter and Lila thinking it was Tisiano? It wasn’t. It was his brother, Leonardo. He thinks Lila’s being disrespectful to Tisiano’s memory by going on a cruise so soon after his death. (Fair enough.) Lila decides he’s right and she needs to end things with Bruce. They start spending time apart, but then there’s some weirdness with a glass fish they both want to buy. He buys it and gives it to her, saying it’s like a pre-engagement present, but she tells him she can’t be with him.

In case you care about Alex (doubtful), she and Noah are starting to realize that they might not be as compatible as they thought. She’s still very concerned about being seen as her high school self, and he’s concerned that she’s a narcissist. While they’re on the outs, Alex meets Leonardo and they hit it off. He’s a real smooth talker. He happens to have a modeling agency, and he thinks she could do well in Milan. Um…what? Suddenly Alex has a new life goal.

Hateful Bryan is stuck on an island, but the good news is it’s the same place where Denise and Winston are stuck. They decide that they can take a boat to Juma, then wait for the cruise ship to make a stop there. But Bryan is a wimp and won’t get in a small boat. Juma has an airport, so Winston and Denise agree to take a boat there, then…send a helicopter for Bryan? Because that’s reasonable? Anyway, while they’re on their way to Juma, Bryan gets pickpocketed. He’s stuck in a foreign country with no money. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Bryan meets a guy named Jean who works as a fisherman while preparing to apply to college in Miami. Jean agrees to help Bryan learn to swim if Bryan will help him fish and write his college application essay. In addition, Bryan gets a place to stay and free food. Unfortunately, he may have to stay there forever, because Winston and Denise are on the wrong island. There’s no airport, and the ship isn’t going to be making a stop there. Denise and Winston eventually take another boat to the right island, but the engine dies. Then Winston drops his paddle in the water. Winston, you had one job.

Rich is still into Nina, who realizes that he’s a horrible bore. She’d rather be with Bryan. Let that sink in. She’d rather be with Bryan.

Thoughts: “The only adults in sight were gorgeously weathered Captain Avedon and his uniformed crew.” First of all, “gorgeously weathered”? Second of all, college students are adults. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

“She dreamed of the day when Tom would pick up his morning paper and see that she’d won the Nobel Prize – on that day he’d finally understand the magnitude of his mistake. ‘Elizabeth,’ he would whisper as Nicole or her successor looked on through a mist of tears.” I assume she would be getting this Nobel Prize in the field of drama queenery?

“Do you know it’s impossible to say ‘toy boat’ five times fast without getting tongue-tied? Go ahead, try it.” Guys, Winston is my dad.

The ship shows the movie A Night to Remember, which is about the Titanic. Holy crap!

The ship also has a mini-golf course, but wouldn’t that be difficult? Wouldn’t your ball roll all over the place if the water were choppy?

A snorkeling guide has the motto “We’ll teach you how to snorkel even if you’re a New York’l.” I’m embarrassed that I laughed at that.

February 11, 2014

SVU #112, College Cruise: Ship of Fools

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:09 pm by Jenn

Look at the pecs on Jessica's mystery admirer!

Look at the pecs on Jessica’s mystery admirer!

Summary: In He’s Watching You, Elizabeth learned that William had left all of his money to her. At the beginning of College Cruise, she’s decided not to accept it. The money comes from a psychopath who almost killed her, and she doesn’t feel right taking it. Fair enough. Also, Elizabeth has been thinking a lot about ethical issues lately. Danny’s taking a class about ethics and has gotten everyone into playing a game called Scruples, where you talk about ethical dilemmas. (These people are so boring.) Basically, it establishes that Danny is super-ethical, but the rest of the group is a little looser with what’s wrong and what’s right.

Anyway, spring break is approaching, but no one has any solidified plans yet. Some of the couples want to spend it together, and in Noah’s case, he’s worried that Alex will go home to Sweet Valley and hook up with some hunk who was in love with her in high school. Little does Noah know that no one like that exists. Nina wants to spend the break with Bryan, but he’s in manifesto-writing mode for the BSU. (Spoiler alert: Bryan is super-annoying in this book, and I kept hoping he would get eaten by a shark. Second spoiler alert: He doesn’t.)

Danny learns that his high school best friend, Jason, is getting married…really soon…to someone Danny’s never even met. Clearly Danny and Jason are really close. The wedding will be on a cruise ship, the SS Homecoming Queen, on a trip only for college students. I bet the crew on that cruise hates every minute of it. Danny’s invited to be Jason’s best man, but Danny doesn’t have the money for the cruise. This is why destination weddings are a bad idea for 19-year-olds.

Elizabeth accepts the money from William’s will after all, but makes a bunch of charitable donations, which is nice of her. Then she gets the idea to share the rest with her friends in some big, splashy way. She and Bruce both end up at a travel agency; he wants to take Lila on a trip to get her mind off of her dead husband. Elizabeth sees an ad for the cruise on the SS Homecoming Queen, which seems like a great idea to her. She invites all her friends over – Jessica, Tom, Danny, Isabella, Alex, Noah, Winston, Denise, Nina, Bryan, and Todd – and tells them she’s paying for them all to go on the cruise over spring break. Everyone’s in (though Bryan will have to miss some BSU thing).

Arrangements are quickly made, and Elizabeth puts together rooming assignments. But things at the travel agency get screwed up and she’s summoned at the last minute to redo them. She has a class so she sends Tom instead. He’s thinking that the cruise might be the right time for him and Elizabeth to finally get intimate, so he puts them in a room together.

Everyone heads to Miami to get on the ship for the Caribbean. Elizabeth discovers her rooming assignment and she’s not happy. She reasonably tells Tom that when she’s ready to have sex, she’ll let him know. To his credit, he shuts up and redoes the assignments. But he does start to realize that Elizabeth makes a lot of decisions for them. This becomes a theme in the book.

The group finally meets Danny’s friend Jason and his fiancée Nicole. It turns out that Tom already knows Nicole – they went out the summer between high school and college. She met Jason and ditched Tom without any explanation. The two of them decide not to tell anyone that they know each other, since they’ve already acted like they just met, and it’s too late to come clean. Why did they pretend not to know each other at all? This is dumb. It’s all a setup for Elizabeth and Tom to have problems.

See, Jessica’s feeling down because her marriage failed and her last boyfriend turned out to be a rapist. So Elizabeth feels like she needs to spend a lot of time with her, which means no alone time for her and Tom. So Tom ends up spending time with Nicole instead. Jason’s off with all his buddies, not paying attention to what Nicole’s doing.

Tom and Nicole almost kiss, but get interrupted. Then Tom and Elizabeth make up. But later, they have another fight, and Tom calls Elizabeth a control freak. He tells her no one’s having fun and it’s her fault. He ends up alone with Nicole again, and this time they do kiss. But who’s watching? Elizabeth and Danny. Dun dun DUN!

Jessica’s mystery admirer is still on the canvas – in fact, he’s followed the group on the cruise. She should definitely find this creepy, but since he’s sending her flowers and stuff, she doesn’t. She manages to fall overboard (that’s our Jess) and is rescued by an unknown man, who she figures is her admirer. All she has to go on is a button she pulled from his coat.

Bryan’s vacation doesn’t get off to a good start. Winston accidentally bumps him into the water and he has to be rescued (Bryan can’t swim). The ship’s doctor, Rich, flirts with Nina while tending to Bryan. Winston worries that Bryan will get revenge, but Denise says he won’t get violent since Nina won’t let him. (Heh.) Later, Winston accidentally hits Bryan in the head with a shuffleboard disk. Then he throws up on Bryan. I laugh and laugh because Bryan won’t stop complaining about how cruises are for upper-class people, and how everything is about race, and how he doesn’t want to and doesn’t know how to do any of the activities Nina wants to do. DUMP HIM, NINA. DO IT NOW.

It comes to a boiling point when Bryan sits on Winston’s hat, which is decorated with old, rusty fishhooks. When he goes looking for Rich, he finds him flirting with Nina again. Bryan decides he’s done with the cruise and is going home. Yay! We all win! I only wish Danny had said something to him about all his “black men don’t do __” stuff. In fact, sometimes I forget that Danny’s black because he doesn’t remind us every two pages. I mean, he stops a pickpocketer in St. Lucia and doesn’t say, “You don’t have to call me a hero. Black men don’t like labels like ‘hero,'” or, “This is all indicative of your culture and your class warfare and racism and 25 other hot-button words I use to make myself look oppressed.”

Todd is having a rough time. He’s thinking about leaving school since he has no friends and can’t play basketball until next year. Also, Elizabeth is with another guy, but I’m sure that has nothing to do with Todd’s decision. He’s been emotional lately, and going on a cruise as a single guy surrounded by couples and people hooking up doesn’t help.

But things are about to start looking up for our violent friend. There are a number of SVU students on the ship, and one of them, a girl named Gin-Yung Suh, recognizes him from the basketball team. She’s a sportswriter for SVU’s paper and has been following Todd’s career (or lack of one, since his suspension). The two of them immediately click. No more mopey Todd!

Even though they’re barely mentioned in the middle section of the book, Bruce and Lila are also on the cruise. They’re being all sweet and couply with each other, though Lila’s still struggling to move past her grief over Tisiano. Just as she realizes that she and Bruce are more compatible than she and Tisiano were, a helicopter arrives on the ship (…wait, what?) and out pops Tisiano. Wait, WHAT?

In doofus news, Winston and Denise miss the boat back to the ship and are stranded in St. Lucia. Womp-womp.

Thoughts: Hearing Noah describe Alex as “colorful” is weird.

“Sometimes Bryan went days without complimenting her. And she was a very good-looking girl.” I think the ghostwriter has confused Nina with Jessica. I don’t see Nina as the type to demand postive comments about her appearance.

Bryan: “Exercise is an elitist preoccupation.” Well, then enjoy being 400 pounds.

Woman at the travel agency to Tom: “Do you know how to use a mouse?” HA. I think pretty much everyone knew how to use a mouse by 1995.

“You must have studied swimming for many years.” How, exactly, does one study swimming?

Gin-Yung is into sports because her grandfather learned English by reading the sports pages, then read them to her when she was growing up. I love that.

Winston eats four lobsters in one sitting. NOT POSSIBLE.

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