February 21, 2017

SVT Super Chiller #7, The Haunted Burial Ground: The “Old Ones” Probably Don’t Approve of This Book Either

Posted in books tagged , , , at 4:51 pm by Jenn

Yeah, that skeleton sure looks scary

Yeah, that skeleton sure looks scary

Summary: It’s almost Halloween, and Steven decides to pull a little prank on Jessica by making her think she’s being followed by a tall, headless man. Apparently there’s a local myth about two skeletons, one without a head, being seen on Sleepy Hollow Road. Jessica’s relieved that this one is actually Steven and his friend Scott, who managed to ride a bike with one on the other’s shoulders. Impressive! Jessica quickly forgets about the prank since she’s so excited to talk to Scott – he’s in a band called the Skeletons, and he’s hot. Scott thinks Jessica’s 13, which is apparently super-mature compared to 12.

Elizabeth also has a new friend, Kala, who’s only in town for about a month before her family moves somewhere else. She’s Native American, and her time at Sweet Valley Middle School gets off to a rough start when Bruce, Aaron, and Jake Hamilton pull a prank of their own. They use fake blood and a rubber axe to make Kala think Jake has been attacked.

Elizabeth rescues Kala from the ridiculous boys and tries to assure her that the boys didn’t target her for any personal reasons. She invites Kala to come with her to work with Houses for the Homeless, Sweet Valley’s versions of Habitat for Humanity. At the worksite, Liz introduces Kala to Jack Whitefeather, a project chairman who cheers Kala up partly just by being another Native American in a town that doesn’t have many.

Jessica runs into Scott again (with Steven and Joe), and they start talking about music. He’s learning “Monster Ball,” a new duet from Johnny Buck and Melody Powers. Jessica’s thrilled, as she loves the song, and she tries to get Scott to invite her to sing it with him. He humors her, but he’s not that interested in singing with a kid. Jess decides that the Unicorns should throw a Halloween party and invite the Skeletons to play – maybe then Scott will bring her on stage to sing with him. Not only would she get attention and sing with a hot guy, but all the Unicorns would be jealous.

Unfortunately for Jess, the Unicorns don’t want to throw a party, for possibly the first time ever. They think a Halloween party would be childish. Jess talks them into it by pointing out that they can dress up as celebrities instead of ghosts or witches. The girls want to have the party someplace distinctly Halloween-y, and they settle on an old house Lila’s father’s company is about to tear down. He vetoes the idea as too dangerous, but approves of a shack on Sleepy Hollow Road, as long as the girls fix it up (using their Houses for the Homeless skills) so it’s safe. They also have to be respectful of an elderly couple living next door.

The Unicorns celebrate with a sleepover at Jessica’s, the same night Elizabeth has invited Kala over. The girls try to use a Ouija board to find out of the shack is haunted, but Ellen messes up the session by making the board warn the girls to stay away. She doesn’t want to have the party at the shack because they’ll have to do so much work to get it ready. Fair enough. Elizabeth thinks they can donate the shack to the homeless shelter’s Nature Club Scouts after the party, which makes their work more worthy.

Since no one wants to bother with the Ouija board if Ellen’s just going to screw with them, the girls decide to have a séance. Jessica bumps the table to mess with everyone, leading to a fight. In the middle of everything, Kala seems to fall asleep. As the girls try to channel a spirit to ask about ghosts on Sleepy Hollow Road, Kala starts talking in a weird voice, telling the girls, “Do not disturb the old ones.” Alice interrupts the séance to send everyone to bed before the girls can figure out what’s going on. Kala wakes up but doesn’t remember the séance.

The girls see skeletons outside the house as they’re going to bed, but the ever-logical Liz quickly figures out that skeletons don’t wear sneakers. She busts them as Bruce and Jake. The girls invite them in, and as everyone’s chatting, Kala comes downstairs to tell them that the “old ones” are resting and shouldn’t be disturbed. The girls think she means Alice and Ned. Kala seems to be sleepwalking, though Janet, who already dislikes Kala because she had the nerve to talk to Denny Jacobson at school, thinks she’s faking. The next morning, Kala says she doesn’t remember much of what happened at the sleepover.

Jessica stalks Scott, Steven, and Joe so she can invite the Skeletons to play at the party, but she can’t get Scott alone. The Unicorns are starting to sour on the party, since it’ll require so much, so Jess gets them interested again by telling them the Skeletons are playing. Elizabeth and Kala check out the shack, and Kala mentions a dream she had about a bat telling her that they need to leave it alone. Minutes later, the Unicorns arrive, and Jessica stumbles into a cave and is swarmed by bats. One swoops down on Janet, which disturbs Kala, since she imagined that exact thing happening after her dream.

The girls start the clean-up process, but Elizabeth’s mood darkens when a man from Fowler Construction tells them the shack is scheduled to be demolished right after the party. I hope the Nature Scouts can afford the rent on a place in an office park, instead of the clubhouse Liz wanted for them.

The girls clean up a bunch of trash, which they bag up for a special pick-up by trash collectors. But Jake, Bruce, and Aaron pull yet another prank, hiding themselves in garbage bags to scare the girls. Jake gets busted and tells the girls that Bruce and Aaron are in other bags – bags the trash collectors have just picked up. The kids run after the garbagemen and rip open their bags, but the boys aren’t inside. When they return to the shack, there are two bags there, containing the boys. They say that someone moved them, telling them to let the “old ones” rest.

Elizabeth finds an arrowhead on the property, because every children’s book that has anything to do with Native Americans includes someone finding an arrowhead. Kala talks more about her dreams, which featured a bear and an eagle. As Jess continues trying to get Scott alone to ask him about the party, the other Unicorns work on reinforcing the shack so it’s safe. The girls ignore Mr. Fowler’s instructions to respect the elderly couple nearby, dumping trash bags in their yard so they don’t have to take them to the dump (since the trash collectors are mad at them and won’t come back). Despite the Unicorns’ attitudes, Liz still wants the party to go ahead, for Jess’s sake, so she tries to keep the peace.

Ellen thinks she sees a bear in the woods, and Elizabeth sees a bird she thinks is an eagle. She tells Kala, who’s had another dream about all those animals; they want her to tell the others again not to disturbed the “old ones.” Then Ellen finds a skull in a creek, which the Unicorns decide to turn into PR for the party.

Liz helps Jess get Steven away from Scott so Jess can finally ask him about playing at the party. She basically dares him to play in a creepy shack. Scott agrees, as long as Jessica sings with him…and as long as she spends a night in the shack before the party, to ensure no ghosts will come after him. Jessica easily agrees and enlists the Unicorns, Elizabeth, Amy, and Maria to spend the night as well. Kala can’t make it, since she hasn’t been feeling well. I guess channeling ancient Native American spirits or whatever takes a lot out of you. But Kala shows up in the middle of the night, warns the girls that the “old ones” don’t like having their rest disturbed, then leaves.

Liz goes to see Kala in the morning, but Kala doesn’t remember going to the shack. They go back to the property and find more arrowheads, as well as a vase depicting an eagle, a bat, and a bear. Elizabeth thinks this means the property is a Native American burial ground. Kala must be channeling the spirits of people buried there, who don’t want their resting place disturbed so an office park can be built. Sure.

The girls go to Fowler Construction to beg the crew to stop the construction, which goes over as well as you would expect. It turns out that people paid to do a job won’t listen to two 12-year-olds who want them to stop working because dead people said to. The girls then go to Mr. Fowler’s office to talk to the man in charge, but he doesn’t consider their argument strong enough to stop the construction.

On Halloween, everyone gathers for the party, which Kala decides to skip, since the “old ones” are so against any disturbances there. But she gives Elizabeth some Native American clothing in the hope that the “old ones” will see it as a peace offering. Everything at the party goes fine until it’s time for Jessica’s duet with Scott. Things get really loud, and the shack begins to shake. The vase Elizabeth found gets smashed. That can’t be good.

There’s so much noise and so many people dancing that the shack collapses. Somehow, no one’s hurt, despite beams falling all over the place. Everyone sees a couple of skeletons, one of them headless, leaving the debris. The headless one retrieves its head – the skull Ellen found – and the two of them head off together. Everyone thinks someone’s playing another prank, but all the usual suspects are present and accounted for.

Jack Whitefeather confirms that the shack is on a Native American burial ground, so Mr. Fowler wisely decides not to tear it up for an office park. His company is also going to build the Nature Scouts a clubhouse. Mr. Fowler is actually a pretty good guy. Kala thinks this will please the “old ones,” and the sighting of an eagle seems to confirm this. Okay, well, thanks for stopping by, Kala. No one will ever mention you again.

Thoughts: Kala: “It was my grandmother’s name. She was Native American.” Elizabeth: “Wow. That means you’re part Native American.” What would we do without Liz?

Ghostwriter, please do your homework. It’s Melody Powers, not Melodie.

Lila knows what “macabre” means. I’m impressed.

When Elizabeth and Kala are meeting with the jerky foreman: “He gave her braid a friendly tug.” I hope Kala gave his shin a friendly kick.

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May 31, 2016

SVT Super Edition #4, The Unicorns Go Hawaiian: Pineapple Express

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:12 pm by Jenn

I want to stay away from all of them

I want to stay away from all of them

Summary: Jessica and Mandy are hanging out after school one day when they see an ad in a magazine for a cooking competition sponsored by the Pineapple People. They’re looking for an interesting recipe using their pineapple. Jessica and Mandy start throwing gross stuff in a bowl to make Poisonous Pineapple Salad. They get Steven to taste it, and though he says it’s not bad, there’s no way either girl is going to try it. Jess sends in the recipe, basically as a joke.

Two months later, guess what? Jessica won the competition. The prize is a trip for her and two friends to Hawaii. The caveat is that she has to accept the prize in a certain amount of time, and the only chance she has to go is over Christmas break. The twins are supposed to go skiing with their grandparents, but Jess doesn’t want to go, so here’s the perfect excuse to skip the trip. If I had a nickel for every time I had to choose between skiing and going to Hawaii… She chooses Mandy and Mary as her travel buddies. (She wanted to take Liz, but Liz feels like at least one of them should go see their grandparents. If I were their grandparents, I’d understand and reschedule the ski trip so they could both go to Hawaii, but whatever.)

Of course, the girls are still in middle school, so there’s no way Alice and Ned will let Jess go to Hawaii without a chaperone. Just as she thinks she’ll have to turn down her fabulous grand prize (and accept the consolation, hundreds of cans of pineapple, which Jessica doesn’t even like), a jealous Lila inadvertently comes up with a solution. She complained to her father about not being invited on the trip, so he agreed to take her, Ellen, and Janet to Hawaii. Jessica realizes that Mr. Fowler can chaperone her, Mary, and Mandy as well. So the trip is back on.

The only drawback is that Mr. Fowler will also be bringing his new girlfriend, Bambi. Yes, Bambi. She’s an aspiring actress, which Lila doesn’t find endearing. She hates how much time her father spends with Bambi rather than paying attention to his daughter. Fair enough. But, of course, Bambi is very sweet and doesn’t deserve any of the animosity Lila directs toward her. Lila, sweetie, you’re going to Hawaii with your best friends. Lighten up.

As soon as the girls get to Hawaii, it becomes clear that Mr. Fowler’s chaperoning is pretty much in name only. The only rule he gives the girls is to not spend their money on cheap crap. Bambi promises to keep an eye on the girls, then promptly disappears. The girls all split up to go shopping, go to the beach, etc. Apparently 12-year-old girls are perfectly capable of navigating around Hawaii without any help, even though the only one who’s ever been there before is Lila, and it was just for a long weekend.

Janet runs into a local boy named Kenji, who insists that she’s the reincarnation of the Hawaiian princess Keiko. Janet falls for it, because she doesn’t realize that a Hawaiian princess would most likely not be white. Kenji warns that, according to lore, if Keiko’s reincarnation ever tries to leave Hawaii, the goddess Pele will erupt and cover the island in lava. Fun! Janet tries to find a way out of this mess, but Kenji tells her she’s now cursed for wanting to leave.

The Pineapple People have arranged a tour of their plant for the Unicorns, which sounds like a really exciting way to spend your time in Hawaii. Jessica’s confused because they keep calling her Jessica Wakely. She and Mandy decide that they must have gotten her mixed up with the real competition winner. After all, how could their pineapple disaster beat a delicious pineapple upside-down cake? They don’t bother to wonder how a pineapple upside-down cake could win a contest looking for a unique recipe. Anyway, Jess feels guilty for the rest of the trip, thinking she’s taken someone else’s prize.

Lila finds a ring on the beach and convinces herself that it’s super-fancy and expensive. Janet’s new buddy Kenji meets her and tells her it’s from King Kamehameha’s tomb, and now she’s cursed for wearing it. Kenji sure knows a lot about curses, doesn’t he? Lila spends the rest of the book trying and failing to take the ring off.

Mary and Mandy don’t have much of a plot (though at least they get more to do than Ellen, who’s at her dumbest here), but they overhear Mr. Fowler and Bambi talking and think they’re getting married. Bambi mentions that she’s not sure she’s ready to be a stepmother. Mandy and Mary know that Lila will freak out if she learns her father wants to marry Bambi, so they keep it to themselves.

The girls go on a tour of a volcano, and Lila and Janet think it’s erupting. They think nearby bulldozers are the shaking ground and the sudden extreme heat for lava. The other girls get a good laugh at them. Then they go on a glass-bottom boat tour, and Jessica falls in the water and thinks she’s drowning. The other girls gleefully tell her to put her feet down because the water’s only three feet deep. I love the visual here.

Mary and Mandy tell Ellen, Jess, and Janet about Mr. Fowler’s possible marriage plans, so the girls decide to sneak into Bambi’s room and look for…I don’t know, a piece of paper where she’s written down, “I’m getting married”? There’s some weirdness where they get access to the room by calling the front desk, pretending to be Bambi, and complain that there are no towels. This requires hiding all the towels in the room so the maid doesn’t see them. Once they’re in the room, Bambi almost catches them, but they hide in the bathtub. Bambi wants to take a shower, but there are no towels, of course. The girls hear her on the phone, talking again about getting married and becoming a stepmother.

The girls end up telling Lila about their investigation, so now she’s upset that Mr. Fowler is getting remarried. They all have dinner together, and Janet and Lila’s supposed curses rear their heads again – Janet sits in cole slaw, Lila accidentally lets out a belch, and Jessica falls out of her chair. Everyone else is really amused.

The girls get caught eavesdropping on Bambi and Mr. Fowler, who reveal that Bambi’s auditioning for a role on a soap (Days of Turmoil – Jessica’s favorite), and Mr. Fowler has been helping her with her lines. The role is a woman who’s in love with a guy who has a daughter, so every time Bambi’s said she’s not sure she can be a stepmother, she’s either been in character or is worried about playing a stepmother on TV. Bambi makes it clear that she’s nowhere near ready to marry Mr. Fowler, and isn’t even sure it’ll ever happen. Lila starts to warm up to her.

Kenji and his friend Lono have Jessica believing she’s cursed, too, because of her lies, but they have a solution: She needs to mix up a bunch of ingredients and perform a ritual at midnight. For some reason, she also has to wear her hair in a ponytail. The boys tell Lila that she can only remove her “cursed” ring if she goes to King Kamehameha’s tomb at midnight…though no one who’s ever gone there has come back out. Lila’s willing to risk it.

As both girls are trying to sneak out at midnight, the other girls catch them and everything comes out. They figure out that Kenji and Lono have been messing with them all the whole time. (Also, Lila’s ring comes off with suntan lotion, and the inside shows that it’s from a souvenir shop.) The girls come up with a revenge plan, enlisting Bambi to play Pele and make the boys think they’ve angered her into erupting and burying the island in lava. That’s actually pretty clever. The boys apologize and invite the girls to a luau.

As for Jessica’s “curse,” she didn’t take her grand prize from anyone. She goes to the Pineapple People to confess, and they realize that the memo announcing her the contest winner spelled her name wrong. There’s no Jessica Wakely, and Jess’ recipe did win. All of the recipes were awful, so the Pineapple People went with the most original, just for fun. For Jessica’s honesty, she’s rewarded with 200 cans of pineapple. I only wish we’d wrapped up the book with a scene where Ned and Alice accept dozens of boxes from the Pineapple People and have no idea why.

Thoughts: The Pineapple People expect over a million entires. Uh-huh. They also publish an announcement about Jessica winning in a magazine instead of calling her directly. And they don’t bother to confirm that she’s who she says she is when she calls – she could be any random person. I don’t think this company is run by very smart people.

“Hawaii was nice, but it was no Sweet Valley.” You have GOT to be kidding me.

“Pele! It’s me, Princess Keiko! Mellow out, would you?” Janet’s a mess.

Janet’s suggestions for gifts to appease Pele so she can leave Hawaii: a curling iron and a Johnny Buck cassette. Like I said, a mess.

Bambi wants to play a character named Flame, who’s in love with Caleb Dakota. I love it.

July 8, 2014

SVU #20, Here Comes the Bride: How Is Mike the Most Mature Person Here?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:42 pm by Jenn

Spoiler alert: This never happens

Spoiler alert: This never happens

Summary: At the end of Broken Promises, Shattered Dreams, Billie asked Steven for some time apart, so now they’ve broken up. He’s living with Mike and studying at the feet of Mr. Charm. This mostly means that they go out and play pool and get drunk together. Then Mike flirts with girls and Steve tries to do the same, but is dorky and inexperienced, and also not a man-slut like Mike (which is clearly the message we’re supposed to be getting here). Steven decides he wants Billie back, so he goes to their apartment to surprise her, but he sees her kissing Chas on the cheek and flips out. Cheek kisses are always a problem in soaps, too. Same with hugs.

Steven talks to Tom, who smacks some sense into him and gets him to decide fully that he wants Billie back, Chas or no Chas. For some reason, he needs a horn to win her back. Maybe Steven was Ted Mosby before there was a Ted Mosby. Mike knows a woman who runs some sort of store that happens to have horns (I guess it’s a pawn shop? It’s not really clear), and she gives Steven one, and he plays it really badly for Billie, and somehow that convinces her that he really loves her and they should get married. Like, next week. This is mainly so Steven can go to Spain with Billie when she spends her semester abroad.

Alice is still in charge of planning everything, and she goes extra crazy. It doesn’t help that Jessica becomes even brattier than usual and fights her on everything. Unfortunately, Billie no longer has a backbone, and doesn’t tell everyone to shut up and do what she wants, since it’s her wedding. Steven is no help either, since he’s just learn that half of all marriages end in divorce, and he’s freaked out that he and Billie won’t make it. He runs off to buy books about marriage, then starts spouting pop psychology stuff and acting very Stepford. It’s the kind of thing that’s funny to read about, but if someone actually pulled it on you, you’d slap him.

Of course, other crazy wedding stuff happens. The caterer disappears after giving people at his previous wedding food poisoning. Somehow, the water in the Wakefields’ pool is pink. Billie’s dress comes back from the dry cleaner’s with a stain on it. Her parents can’t get back from their vacation in Mexico in time for the wedding. Ned, the one person you’d think would actually be responsible, loses the rings. Steven’s like, “Huh. I guess this was a bad idea, then.” You think?

Because everything had to be thrown together so quickly, no one’s organized a rehearsal dinner, so Ned sends the twins out with Billie, Steven, Tom, and Mike to have a regular dinner in a nice restaurant. It doesn’t go well. Mike starts saying some sexist things, so he and Jessica fight. (More on them later.) Then Billie and Steven fight. Then Jessica and Elizabeth fight. Basically Tom is like, “I don’t know any of these people. I don’t know how I wound up sitting at their table.” Everyone ends up storming out.

Steven finally realizes what everyone reading this book realized long ago: He doesn’t want to get married right now. He tells Ned, who thinks he just has cold feet. Then Billie tells Ned she doesn’t want to get married either. Ned awesomely tells the two of them to talk to each other, because it’s too late at night and he’s too tired to deal with their crap. Steven and Billie come to a decision, but don’t tell anyone the next morning.

Everyone oversleeps, so Alice freaks out again, some more, and tries to get things moving on everything that has to be done for the wedding. Steven and Billie are too scared to tell her that they’ve decided to call it off. Part of me thinks that’s normal, since Alice is a freaking maniac in this book, but most of me is like, really? You’re only enough to make important life decisions but not mature enough to own up to them? They get Elizabeth to do it for them. Elizabeth should have smacked them both and told them to man and woman up.

Speaking of Liz, her and Tom’s plot is so ridiculous and stupid that I can’t believe I have to write about it. They’re sent to get Elizabeth’s Aunt Sylvia from the airport, even though Elizabeth has never met her and the only picture she has of her is from 40 years ago. Sylvia said she’s bringing her husband Howard with her, but Howard’s been dead for years. The plane arrives early, so the passengers are already off when Elizabeth and Tom arrive. They can’t find Sylvia, despite ingenious attempts such as asking random people if they know someone named Sylvia, or if they are Sylvia.

Elizabeth finally finds her, but she’s getting into a car with a man, and Liz thinks she’s being kidnapped. Most people would call the police at that point, if they really believed someone had been abducted, but not Liz. She talks to someone at a rental-car agency and learns that the man driving the car is staying in Santa Carmine, a town a couple hours away. Liz and Tom head off to look for Sylvia there, but first Tom calls Alice, pretending to be Sylvia (no, seriously), and makes up an excuse for why he won’t be seeing her today. These guys are brilliant. But Alice buys it, so I guess she’s just as brilliant.

In another stupid, stupid move, Elizabeth and Tom go home, deciding to resume their search for Sylvia the next day. Never mind that she might have really been kidnapped and could have been murdered by now. When they finally make it to Santa Carmine, they don’t seem to have a plan beyond looking around in hopes that they’ll randomly run into Sylvia or her possible abductor. But then, somehow, Elizabeth does see the man from the car, and she realizes that he looks like her late Uncle Howard. Even though he’s old, Liz and Tom aren’t able to keep up with him, so they’re alone again.

After all of this insanity, Elizabeth and Tom finally got to the police. But the cops think they’re crazy: If Sylvia got in a car with a man who looks like her husband, then she’s probably not in any danger. Way to do your job, police. But the horrible rehearsal dinner happens to be at a restaurant right near Sylvia’s hotel, and Elizabeth and Tom run into the man from the car and learn what’s really going on: The man is Carl, not Howard, and the only picture they have of Sylvia was originally of two couples – Sylvia and Howard, and Carl and his wife. Sylvia and Carl (now dating) came to Sweet Valley together to spread their late spouses’ ashes. So when Sylvia said she was bringing Howard, she meant in an urn.

There’s a happy ending, though: Sylvia and Carl decide that after Billie and Steven’s wedding, they’re going to find a justice of the peace and get married. When Steven and Billie call off their ceremony, the Wakefields just turn it into Sylvia and Carl’s wedding. I hope there was some kind of financial agreement made later, because the Wakefields and Winklers spent a lot of money on something two other people enjoyed. Whatever, mazel tov. Steven and Billie are still dating, and she’ll go to Spain alone for the semester. Sylvia throws the bouquet, but no one wants to get married, so everyone avoids it. Womp womp.

Jessica and Mike are half flirty, half crabby with each other, partly because she thinks he and Val are hooking up. Steven asks Mike to be his best man, and Jess throws a hissy about having to be in the wedding with her ex-husband. Val calms her down by telling her the truth about her history with Mike: He was friends with her husband, who was a racecar driver and was killed in a crash. Mike has been looking out for Jessica this whole time, asking Val to do the same. He even sold his car so they could afford to keep their business going.

So now Jess thinks Mike is awesome, and they decide to try dating again. First they try to fight temptation by eating gross foods that make them not want to kiss each other. Then Mike starts acting more subdued, and Jessica realizes he’s trying to be like Steven. Bad call, dude. Also, insert your own joke here about how Mike wanted Jessica to be attracted to her brother.

At the totally lame rehearsal dinner, Mike runs into an old (female) friend, and Jessica gets extremely jealous for no reason, because how dare her not-really-boyfriend talk to other women when she’s around? Doesn’t he know she’s the only female who exists? He can’t even talk to her mother or sister! If Alice asks how he is, he’d better ignore her! Eventually they realize that since Jessica is so overdramatic and jealous, and Mike can’t seem to keep himself from having completely innocent conversations with other people who have breasts, they shouldn’t be together. So last time they broke up because Mike was insane, and this time it’s because Jess is.

Lila’s father wants to buy her donut shop, though he apparently doesn’t know it’s hers. I don’t know how that’s possible, considering all the publicity it’s gotten lately. Plus, you’d think she’d brag to him that she runs a successful business. Anyway, Lila wants to give the shop to a non-profit organization, but she plays hardball with her father and gets him to pay twice what he wanted for the shop. Bruce starts to realize that his girlfriend is kind of good at negotiating. He worries that someday they’ll end up married, then divorced, and he’ll lose all his money and toys to her.

So Bruce decides that they should create pre-nups. Never mind that they’re not getting married, and aren’t even engaged. They work on them, but start fighting and agree to drop it. Then they both secretly go to their lawyers to have them create the pre-nups. Their lawyers happen to work for the same firm. Bruce and Lila make out while their lawyers basically attack each other, fighting about hypothetical situations and money that doesn’t actually exist. I don’t know.

Thoughts: Billie doesn’t appear to care that she just had a miscarriage. It’s a little disturbing.

Dear ghostwriter, Lila’s father’s name is not Robert. It’s George. Be ashamed of yourself.

Tom: “I don’t know anything about weddings.” If you’re not in it, sit down and shut up. That’s all.

Elizabeth not calling the police over a possible abduction is why we can’t have nice things.

“A lot of strange stuff seems to happen to the Wakefields that doesn’t happen to anyone else I know.” Finally, Tom and I agree on something.

June 10, 2014

SVU #18, Billie’s Secret: Sorry You Have to Think About Steven’s Sex Life Now

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

Billie wins the award for most '90s outfit in the series

Billie wins the award for most ’90s outfit in the series

Summary: Billie (remember her?) has started playing the guitar, and has proven to be very talented. She enjoys it so much that she’s considering changing her major to music. This means ditching the path she’d set for herself to go to law school. Billie’s worried about how Steven will react to the idea, since he basically has their future all planned out: law school, then a practice together, then a family. In fact, Steven is already a little annoyed with Billie’s new hobby, not to mention her new musician friend Chas; he thinks they like each other. You know, like that.

Despite Steven’s lack of support, Billie decides to enter a competition; the prize is a semester in Spain, studying with a famous guitarist. When Steven hears about this, he flips out: If she’s going to Spain, that must mean they’re breaking up. But then things take a twist, because suddenly Billie’s making decisions for two. That’s right, folks: Steven slipped one past the goalie. Billie’s pregnant.

A girl named Amy (not Sutton) contacts Elizabeth wanting her to investigate a local club, Kitty’s. Amy applied for a job waitressing there, but thinks she was rejected because she doesn’t have a big enough chest. Elizabeth turns on the feminism and decides to go undercover, stuffing her bra and dialing up the charm. She doesn’t tell anyone about her “job,” though Mike finds out, since he’s a patron, but he promises to keep his mouth shut.

Tom is a jerk through this story – he doesn’t like how much time Elizabeth spends with Jessica and her friends, and doesn’t seem to realize that getting upset about that sort of thing is just a few steps removed from being controlling and abusive. Elizabeth decides to tell Tom about her job, but then she catches him checking out a girl with bigger breasts than hers and decides he’s a jerk. He tries to make things up to her, but sees her with her padded bra and thinks she got implants. Tom is pretty dim, eh?

Tom finally calms down about Elizabeth, realizing that he can just spend their time apart hanging out with his own friends. It seriously took him 20 years to figure that out? But when he, Danny, and some others go out for a guys’ night, they end up at Kitty’s, and Tom discovers just where Elizabeth has been spending her time. Then Liz makes a scene and reveals that she’s been stuffing her bra. Guess what? So have a bunch of the other waitresses. Womp womp. There’s a stupid, rushed ending to the plot, but everything works out for everyone (except the dumb club).

Now that she’s single again, Jessica feels like she needs something to make her life meaningful. Maybe focus on your schoolwork? No? Okay. She decides to get a job at Taylor’s Department Store, because Jessica should definitely be in a customer-focused job where she has to show patience and be kind to everyone. On her way to her interview, she runs into Mike (remember him?), who has become a little bit fun since we last encountered him. He thinks she’s crazy for wanting to work in a clothing store.

Jessica applies for the job anyway, and is quickly hired. Her mentor is one Ms. Val Tripler, who Jess gets along with well, but her supervisor is a guy named Mr. Farley who isn’t very nice. Then again, Jess isn’t great at being professional, so it’s hard not to feel sympathy for him. When Isabella, Winston, Danny, and Denise turn up to do some shopping, Mr. Farley yells at Jessica for socializing with them, though she was really waiting on them as customers. This whole thing is dumb and boring.

Jess goes over to Steven’s apartment to complain about her job, but instead hears him and Mike talking about her. Mike thinks Jess will quit or get fired rather than stick it out. Steven nicely bets against him, believing Jessica will be professional. If he loses, he has to do handyman services for Mike for two months; if Mike loses, Steven gets his car. How is that a fair bet?? Anyway, now Jessica has motivation to keep her job.

Things don’t really get better, but Jessica does get to see a different side of Mr. Farley. After she has to deal with an especially annoying customer, he tells her about how he used to have a short temper when he first started out in sales. Jess also spends more time with Val, who takes her to a fashion show. There, they run into Mike, and Jessica learns that he and Val know each other. Someone’s jealous…

Lila’s annoyed that her parents still think of her as a child, and she decides that, like Jessica, she’ll get a job. She’s so confident (or, you know, arrogant) in her abilities as a salesperson that she tells Bruce they’ll probably make her a manager by the end of the week. She doesn’t even last a day – in fact, she and Bruce cause a scene and are kicked out of the store.

Lila hightails it to Daddy, ordering him to buy Taylor’s and have Mr. Farley fired. After all, he deserves to be punished for not knowing who Lila is. George is like, “Oh, you silly little girl – here’s some money. Go buy yourself something pretty.” Bruce isn’t much better, thinking Lila should be grateful that her dad wants to take care of her, and that she’s free to do whatever she wants and not worry about money. Lila doesn’t like being thought of as spoiled and useless.

Bruce somehow gets the idea that Lila should open a donut shop. I don’t know. She turns it into a non-profit, with proceeds going to a women’s shelter, which is nice of her, but…she has no experience running a business, and couldn’t even last a day as a salesperson. This isn’t going to end well.

In the end, Jessica and Lila’s plots converge: George buys Taylor’s, and everyone at the store is laid off. This means Jessica stumbled across a loophole in Steven and Mike’s bet – she gets to leave a job she hates, but without quitting or being fired. Steven wins, which I guess means he’ll be driving his baby around in Mike’s car. Also, Val wants Jessica to go into business with her, which is about as good an idea as Lila running her own donut shop. Oh, and since the sale was a long time coming, Mr. Farley knew exactly who Lila was, and George knew exactly what was going to happen to his daughter’s job. Mean!

Thoughts: I’m surprised Jessica doesn’t want to work at Kitty’s. She’d get to look pretty and flirt with guys for tips, two of her favorite things.

Why is Billie majoring in economics if she’s going to go to law school? Also, if she has to get Steven to help her with her econ homework, maybe it’s not the best fit for her.

Mike: “Some people resent being controlled.” Hey, he learned something!

Billie’s parents “agreed that work was probably going to be a necessity for Billie, and music was a very risky career choice.” Well, I don’t think she was going to major in music with the intention of slacking off for the rest of her life.

September 25, 2012

SVH Saga, The Fowlers of Sweet Valley: Les Misérables

Posted in books tagged , , , at 9:57 pm by Jenn

Why does the third one down look like a dude?

Summary: 1789-1793: Lili de Beautemps is really rich. Then the French Revolution comes around and her family loses everything (including their heads). Lili herself is almost guillotined, but she’s saved by Georges Oiseleur, her maid’s brother. (And yes, his name translates to George Fowler.) She spends a few years as a seamstress in Paris, making her own dress when she’s invited to a fancy party. There, she meets Count Matthieu de Bizac, who seems to fall in love with her. She thinks she’s fooled him into thinking she’s a noblewoman, but he knows she’s not and doesn’t care.

Lili and Matthieu get married, but not long after they move into a hotel (while Matthieu looks for a place for them to live and mysteriously disappears for long periods of time), she wakes up one morning to see that he’s taken his stuff and split. It turns out he was married already, and this isn’t the first time he’s seduced another woman and “married” her. Also, he’s left her with no money. Oh, and she’s pregnant. Lili moves into an apartment and prepares to be a single mother. However, she dies just after giving birth and asks her friend Marie to take care of her daughter, Celeste.

Meanwhile, Georges has been looking for Lili, since he’s in love with her. He’s also recovered her family’s estate and wants to get her back home. Instead, he finds out she had a daughter and died. Georges goes hunting for the daughter so she can get the estate.

1809: Celeste grows up with Marie’s children, then goes to work as a maid for the Marquis de Bocage. She’s mostly in charge of waiting on the marquis’ Lila-like daughter Emilie. Georges meets her and thinks she’s like Lili, so he sends her little gifts and arranges for her to be tutored by a woman named Solange (who he winds up falling in love with). Celeste also meets the marquis’ son, Marc, and they have feelings for each other but know nothing can happen because he’s upper-class and she’s a maid.

Marc decides to try to find another woman to distract him from Celeste. He agrees to a ball Emilie wants to throw, but he doesn’t connect with any of the women there. He and Celeste end up kissing, then secretly seeing each other for a few weeks. Then he proposes, but Celeste won’t marry him since she doesn’t want him to give up his inheritance and station in life. Marc’s mother thinks Celeste is a seductive hussy and fires her for sullying her perfect little boy.

Celeste meets up with Georges, who finally figures out that she’s Lili’s daughter. He also finally gets to tell her that he’s restored her family’s estate. Now that she’s rich, the marquis has no reason to object to Celeste marrying Marc. I’m sure she enjoys having in-laws who hated her so much when she was poor. Anyway, Celeste and Marc are pretty much the only people in the book who get to make their relationship work.

1880-1893: Rose, Celeste and Marc’s granddaughter, grows up with Pierre, Georges and Solange’s grandson. They totally have that best-friends-who-are-really-in-love-but-won’t-admit-it relationship, and it’s incredibly boring. Long story short, Pierre tells Rose he loves her, but she doesn’t believe in love, so he goes off and marries someone else. Then Celeste writes a book and marries an American named Robert Eastman.

1914-1960: Celeste and Robert’s daughter, Isabelle, meets two soldiers, Charles Doret and Jacques Oiseleur (a cousin of Pierre’s). Charles is interested in her, but she’s more interested in Jacques and starts sneaking onto the military barracks to meet with him. When World War I begins, Jacques and Charles are both sent to the front. But first, Jacques and Isabelle secretly get married.

After some time, Isabelle goes to the front as well to work as a nurse. She reunites with Charles, who tells her Jacques was killed in battle. Charles and Isabelle start spending time together, and he proposes. Isabelle still loves Jacques but marries Charles anyway, only to find out after the war ends that Jacques didn’t die after all. He’s furious that his wife married his best friend, and he thinks Charles lied about Jacques being dead so he could steal her. He runs off to India, and Charles and Isabelle end up moving to America (specifically, Sweet Valley).

Everything seems peachy in Sweet Valley, where Charles becomes the mayor and Isabelle gets pregnant. One day Jacques shows up in town, now using the name Jack Fowler. Isabelle tells him how she and Charles got together, promising that Charles didn’t manipulate her or lie to her. Jack tells her he’s not in love with her anymore.

Fast-forward to the ’50s, when Charles and Isabelle’s granddaughter, Grace Doret, has just been born. Charles and Jack still hate each other, and Charles decides to block some zoning change that results in Jack losing his ranch. Fast-forward again to 1960, when Jack and Charles have a big fight at Secca Lake, in front of their families, including 16-year-old George Fowler and eight-year-old Grace.

1971-1989: After growing up poor, George has worked his way through college and started his own computer company. He has a chance meeting with Grace and asks her out; neither knows that the other is from a rival family. George also doesn’t know that Grace is engaged to someone else. They start dating but keep the relationship a secret so their families don’t freak out. But Grace’s parents catch them and order her to marry her fiancé and dump George. If she doesn’t, they’ll disown her. Grace decides to stick with the money and the high-class fiancé.

Sometime later, George pulls some business shenanigans and takes over the Dorets’ company. Then he shows up at Grace’s engagement party and proposes. They elope and go to Paris for their honeymoon before the Dorets can find out that a Fowler ruined them financially. When Lila’s born a couple years later, only Isabelle and Jack come to meet her, as Grace is now on the outs with her family.

Two years later, Grace tries to mend fences with her parents. George is furious and orders her not to let them see Lila. Isabelle has a stroke and Grace tells George she wants to go say goodbye, but he again refuses to let Lila go near the Dorets. Grace goes anyway, refusing to leave even when George comes after her. When she gets home, she learns that George has filed for divorce and wants sole custody of Lila. Grace is so upset to lose her child that she runs off to Paris.

14 years later, we get the events of The Morning After, The Arrest, The Verdict, and The Wedding, with Grace and George getting married again.

Thoughts: Pretty much everyone in this book settles for a second choice. It’s depressing. (Hence my recap title.)

Lila would die if she knew how similar her ancestors were to Elizabeth.

No one tells Lili that Matthieu is married and has fooled other women into marrying him. People in high society in late 18th century France were mean.

The town gossip in 1924 is Evelyn Pearce. Thank goodness we were spared The Pearces of Sweet Valley.

Did we know George made his fortune in computers? Well, we do now. And did we know he was such a jerk? We really do now.

According to this book (which came out in 1996), it’s still 1989. Weird.

August 22, 2011

SVH #98, The Wedding: Margo at the Wedding

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 9:56 pm by Jenn

Lila would NEVER wear that dress. For shame, cover artist

Summary: Lila decides that the only way to get Grace to stay in California is to Parent Trap her parents back together. This means getting rid of Grace’s obnoxious French boyfriend, Pierre. He unknowingly helps her out by groping Amy, who confides in Lila. Lila gets Pierre drunk and goes to dinner alone with her parents, where George takes advantage of Pierre’s absence to propose to Grace. When Pierre arrives, Lila tells him she knows what he did to Amy, but she’ll keep quiet if he goes back to France. He agrees, and George and Grace get engaged without even knowing what was going on with Pierre.

Jessica and Todd’s “relationship,” or whatever, fizzles out, so Jessica’s down one dead boyfriend and one boyfriend she was dating just to stick it to Elizabeth. She visits Sam’s grave and realizes that she needs to stop feeling sorry for herself and do something. She comes up with the idea to hold a fundraising bike rally in Sam’s honor. Jessica and Elizabeth are still not talking, though they come close to a breakthrough when Jessica comforts Liz after a nightmare and almost tell she spiked her and Sam’s drinks at Jungle Prom.

Speaking of Elizabeth, she’s getting back into the swing of things but still hasn’t reconnected with Todd. She’s ticked because he was with Jessica, and because he hasn’t made an effort to talk to her since the prom (she still doesn’t know about the letter he wrote her in The Verdict, which Jessica stole). At the wedding, Todd asks Liz to dance, but they don’t talk, and when the dance is over, she simply thanks him and walks away.

Margo meets a dirt biker named James and hires him to a) enter Jessica’s rally and b) go out with her so he can get information on the Wakefields for Margo. She also gets a job as a caterer so she can gain access to George and Grace’s wedding and stalk the twins. (How does she do this? By killing someone. Seriously, this chick is twisted.) Margo’s getting closer and closer to fulfilling her plan to kill Elizabeth and take her place, but she doesn’t know that Josh, the brother of the boy she killed in The Arrest (and who she previously ran into in The Verdict), has figured out where she is.

Thoughts: Grace is the president of a multimillion-dollar stationery company. That is the least plausible part of this book.

I’m surprised Elizabeth went to a dirt-bike rally to memorialize someone she killed and organized by someone she’s not speaking to.

Winston brings a cowbell to the rally. Of course he does. If you asked me which SVH character would be most likely to bring a cowbell to a sporting event, I would definitely say Winston.

George and Grace’s wedding cake has 50 tiers. Aaaaaaand they’ve officially gone overboard.

August 8, 2011

SVH #97, The Verdict: Deus Ex Machina

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:14 pm by Jenn

Elizabeth makes my soul feel cold

Summary: So, yeah, Elizabeth’s still on the hook for Sam’s death. The Wakefields are basically falling apart, with the twins not speaking to each other, Ned trying to come up with a defense, and Alice slowly losing it. Jessica is still trying to stick it to Liz by dating Todd, who’s only with her out of pity and wants to get back together with Elizabeth. Todd writes Liz a letter, but Jessica intercepts it and tells him Elizabeth tore it up after she read it.

Elizabeth still can’t remember what happened the night of Sam’s death, so things aren’t looking so good for her. Until she gets a deus ex machina in the form of a guy who was driving drunk on the same road at the same time. He confesses to running Elizabeth’s car off the road and killing Sam. Suddenly, Elizabeth’s hopeless defense is moot, and she’s free. Jessica is only pleased because she still hasn’t been busted for spiking Elizabeth’s drink. Now she’s jealous that everyone’s happy about Elizabeth but doesn’t seem to care that Sam’s still dead.

Lila’s mom is still in town, and Lila thinks her parents are finding their way back to each other. Grace wants to stay in Sweet Valley, but she admits to Lila that things with her and George are complicated. She was very young (19) when she married George, and they’d only been together for a couple of months. He was poor when they got together, while her family was rich, and he felt threatened by her wealth. Eventually Grace left, taking Lila with her, but George, now rich, threatened her with a custody battle if she didn’t leave Lila with him. Grace felt her hands were tied, so she gave in, then went to Europe to get away from the situation. Now Lila wants to reunite her parents.

Pamela’s at SVH but everyone thinks she’s a slut, especially Bruce, so she has no friends. Amy realizes that they haven’t treated Pamela fairly, so she and Lila befriend her. Amy then goes to Bruce and gets him to see that people’s reputations aren’t always accurate. He finds Pamela basically being kidnapped by some Big Mesa jerk, saves her, and gets the girl.

Steven and his roommate, Billie, are falling in loooooooove. When people start talking about how Alice is losing it, Steven thinks Billie spilled what he confided to her. They get into a big fight and she moves out. Then Steven finds out Jessica was the blabbermouth, and he and Billie make up. Yes, that’s really it.

And then there’s Margo. She’s about to get to Sweet Valley when she encounters the brother of the kid she killed in The Arrest. He tells her the police are looking for her, so she makes a brief detour to San Diego. Sometime later, she does make it to Sweet Valley, where she learns that Elizabeth has been cleared of killing Sam, and that she has a twin sister. Margo buys a blond wig and decides she’s going to take Elizabeth’s place.

Thoughts: All right, Alice finally cracked! I knew it was only a matter of time.

“Maybe a guy should be there for his girlfriend instead of turning around and dating her twin sister.” That Todd, he’s a sharp one.

“Even at Big Mesa, everyone knew that Elizabeth Wakefield was one of the nicest kids at Sweet Valley High.” Are you freaking kidding me?

Phew, Maria’s last name is back intact.

Why do the cheerleaders cheer at soccer games? Is that normal?

I can’t believe Elizabeth doesn’t get a big celebration when she goes back to school after being exonerated. No slow clap or anything!

July 16, 2011

SVH #95, The Morning After: Here Comes the Crazy

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:36 pm by Jenn

I didn't realize Pamela's ex was an escapee from Grease

Summary: Despite the title, it’s been a few days since the ending of A Night to Remember. Sam’s dead, Elizabeth survived the crash, the twins aren’t speaking, and everyone’s depressed. Elizabeth also hasn’t spoken to Todd, as she’s embarrassed about how she acted with Sam at the prom. She doesn’t remember the events surrounding the crash and has no idea that Jessica spiked her drink. Jessica’s furious with Elizabeth for killing Sam, but she also feels bad about the alcohol and her role in the accident.

Three weeks after Sam’s death, the police come to the Wakefields’ house to question Elizabeth. (Way to do your job, cops.) Jessica’s worried at first that they found out she spiked the drinks, but they’re clueless. The cops press Elizabeth to tell them what happened before the crash, but she can’t remember any of it. She insists that she wasn’t drinking, despite how high her blood alcohol level was at the time of the accident. Without any answers and unsure whether Elizabeth is telling the truth, the police arrest her for involuntary manslaughter. Jessica says nothing about what she did.

Lila’s also depressed because of what happened with Nathan at the prom – or, more accurately, what she thinks happened with him. A meeting with him, Mr. Cooper, and her father makes her realize that the encounter was completely innocent, but that just makes her more depressed, since now she thinks something’s wrong with her. She keeps blowing off her friends and skipping school while her father tries to figure out what to do to get her back to her normal self. Finally George decides there’s only one person who can help her: her mother, Grace. He calls her and asks her to come back to Sweet Valley. When Lila finds out, she’s thrilled.

Bruce stakes out Big Mesa High to find out who the girl was who saved him the night of the prom. He learns that her name is Pamela Robertson, but she doesn’t seem to be very popular at her school. He takes her out and they discover that they have a ton in common with each other. Everything’s going great for Bruce until Amy tells him Pamela has a reputation as a slut. He decides he still wants to be with her, but when he takes her some flowers, he sees her getting out of a car and kissing a guy she appears to have spent the night with. Pamela insists that nothing happened and that she loves Bruce (after one day? Uh-huh), but he won’t listen.

Olivia and Nicholas have become friends. She’s offered $1,000 for one of her paintings; in exchange, she has to speak at a fundraiser. When she arrives for the fundraiser, she learns that a) there isn’t one, and b) the guy who wants to buy her painting is Harry, some rich 18-year-old she’s seen hanging around her art class. Olivia’s first response should be fear over a guy who lied to get her to come to his house, but she thinks he’s cute, so she’s going to get to know him better. She also agrees to help Nicholas find a girlfriend, most likely with the help of a TV dating show called Hunks.

Oh, and there’s a crazy chick named Margo who’s making her way across the country, lying about her name and killing children. Fun!

Thoughts: The cops wait three weeks to question Elizabeth? They didn’t arrest her at the scene, after finding out how drunk she was? To paraphrase Principal Snyder, “The police of [Sweet Valley] are deeply stupid.”

I wish they hadn’t skipped over Sam’s funeral, especially since Elizabeth went to it. They already cram enough into these books; they couldn’t spare a few pages for that?

“Artists don’t carry umbrellas.” Olivia, you make no sense. I guess artists don’t use logic either.

If Harry’s parents are so rich, why do they have wicker furniture?

September 30, 2010

SVH Super Star, Lila’s Story: Together Lila and Bruce Could Rule the World

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 11:11 pm by Jenn

I can...I can feel her judging me

Summary: Lila gets her own book! And the twins are barely in it!

Lila’s father is dating a woman named Joan who has a daughter Lila’s age named Jacqueline. They’re supposedly rich, but Lila notices that they rarely spend any money and instead let George pay for everything. Joan is also overly sweet to the point where she has to be fake, and Jacqueline basically wants to be Lila and starts taking over her things and her friends.

Lila overhears Joan and Jacqueline talking about how a) Joan’s relationship with George is all a scam, and she plans to marry him, divorce him, and get tons of alimony because b) she’s not actually rich. Lila tells George, who doesn’t believe her because she’s been complaining about Joan and Jacqueline for ages, so Lila awesomely plants microphones in the room, then gets Joan to admit that everything was a scam. Oh, and did I mention that this happens literally moments before she’s supposed to marry George? He can’t ignore the accusations this time, so Joan and Jacqueline are out of luck.

In the B-ish plot (both plots get pretty much equal time), Lila falls in looooooove with a guy named Evan who races cars. He has a girlfriend, Sonia, who used to have a huge crush on Bruce, so Lila gets Bruce to meddle in their relationship and help her break them up. It works, but then Bruce wants to cash in on the favor Lila owes him for his help – he wants Evan to skip a race so his friend Toby can win it, since Bruce has a bet riding on it.

Lila easily gets Evan to drop out of the race, but soon after she learns that Evan has been seeing Jacqueline behind her back. And this is after Lila gave Evan $500 to enter a race. But she manages to get revenge on him while keeping herself out of trouble for taking the money from her father without permission – Evan gave her an IOU for the money, so she gives it to George and tells him Jacqueline loaned Evan the money. And then Lila winds up with Toby, who won the race because she got Evan to drop out of it. So long story short, Lila owns you, and don’t you forget it.

Thoughts: While reading this book, I learned that my brother and sister-in-law considered naming my niece Lila. I really like the name, but it’s probably for the best that they went with something else – that name is a heck of a lot to live up to.

Random trivia: Lila is five-seven.

Dear ghostwriter, Lila would never wonder how to break up a couple. The girl almost masterminded Jeffrey and Elizabeth’s break-up. It was just a couple books ago – remember?

Jessica thinks the sexiest car on earth is a Lancia. Exactly what about a Lancia is sexy?

Jacqueline borrows Lila’s car, so Lila takes the bus. First of all, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Lila Fowler would never take the bus. Second of all, there’s no other car for her to drive? Wouldn’t George have a bunch of them?