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.

February 16, 2012

SVH Super Thriller, Murder in Paradise: A Face Only a Mother Could Love

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 9:17 pm by Jenn

Was this cover supposed to attract male readers or something?

Summary: Alice wins a week at the Paradise Spa for seven people, so she takes the twins, Enid, Lila, and Lila’s mother Grace. Enid’s mom has to stay behind for work, so the mother-daughter trip is really mother-daughter-motherless Enid. To make things worse for Enid, she’s feeling particularly unconfident next to all the pretty people who work at the spa. And to make things doubly worse, the guy Elizabeth tries to set her up with prefers Jessica.

Oh, yeah, of course there are guys. Elizabeth and Jessica both find a spa employee named Chris hot; Jessica thinks he’s interested in her, but he really likes Liz. Jessica moves on to Chris’ friend Alex, and though the two guys hang out with all four girls, Enid still feels left out. Elizabeth has also connected with an employee named Katya, who’s kind of touchy on the subject of her mother.

Enid starts doing beauty treatments with Tatiana, the woman who runs the spa. Tatiana has a scar on her face and an unhealthy obsession with talking about how beautiful the Wakefields are. Also, she totally brainwashes Enid and makes her want plastic surgery. Katya leads some spa guests on a hike and they end up at a white building that the employees are all mysterious about. When Tatiana learns of the trek, she yells at Katya. The next day, Katya’s dead.

Tatiana claims that Katya had a heart condition and being in the steam room killed her. She has no family, so they can’t get in touch with them, even though Alice had encouraged her to contact her mother and Katya hadn’t said anything about her mother not being around. Elizabeth starts snooping – er, investigating – and finds an ad in Katya’s possessions that shows she found out about her spa job through a publication for runaways. It turns out all the teens who work at the spa are runaways, including Chris and Alex. They also don’t get paid for their work.

During a trip to a waterfall, Alice disappears. The twins freak and try to call Ned, but the phones aren’t working. Liz uses her laptop and emails Ned while Jessica snoops in Tatiana’s office and finds a yearbook from Alice’s senior year at SVU – except Alice’s picture has been cut out of it. (Yeah, that’s not creepy at all.) As Elizabeth figures out that Enid’s being conditioned for plastic surgery, Jess finds out that all of the spa employees have had their appearances enhanced since they started working there.

Elizabeth goes out looking for Alice, and even though it’s dark and dangerous, Grace, the only adult left, is all, “Don’t get killed. See ya!” Thanks for playing, Grace. Jessica then tells Lila and Grace about all the plastic surgery and stuff. She gets an email Ned sent back to Liz saying that he remembers Tatiana as an SVU classmate who had a girl crush on Alice. Jessica manages to put together that Tatiana, a surgeon, wants to make herself look like Alice. Meanwhile, Elizabeth returns to the place of Alice’s disappearance, where Chris, clearly brainwashed, pulls her into a cave, then takes her to Tatiana.

The whole story eventually comes out: Tatiana trained her assistant to perform plastic surgery so she can make Tatiana look like Alice. Then they’ll kill Alice because twins are bad, or something. Jessica, Lila, and Enid arrive to save the day, and Enid’s brainwashing proves to be as weak as Tatiana’s villainy, so she overtakes her brainwasher. She also in effect brings down the spa, leading all the employees to have a “ding dong, the witch is dead” moment. She probably still feels ugly, though.

Thoughts: Elizabeth, you don’t have “the instinct of a journalist.” You’re just nosy.

I don’t think I could handle being friends with someone as insecure as Enid for more than five minutes. Shut up, Enid.

Elizabeth just worked things out with Todd after the Ken fiasco, and she’s hooking up with another guy. Todd, believe it or not, you actually deserve better.

Funny how Lila thinks Jessica is crazy for falling for a groundskeeper – Lila strikes me as exactly the kind of person who would sleep with her hot gardener.

A book with “murder” in the title shouldn’t take 128 pages to get to that murder.

“After dialing Olivia Davidson’s E-mail address….” Oh, 1995, you’re so cute.


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 25, 2011

SVH #96, The Arrest: It Sucks to Be a Wakefield

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:15 pm by Jenn

Jessica is pretty much perfect here – look at that body language

Summary: Elizabeth is officially in trouble. She’s been arrested for involuntary manslaughter, and her reward is a night in lockup. Her defense attorney is kind of a jerk, so Ned fires him and plans to take on her case himself, with help from Steven. (Yes, Steven is exactly the person I would want working to keep me out of prison.) Though Liz still can’t remember most of the night of the accident that killed Sam, Steven gets her to focus enough to remember seeing lights, which makes them think there was another car on the road.

Elizabeth is also dealing with everyone at school shunning her, except Enid. Todd wants to reconnect with her, but she avoids him, and he winds up spending time with Jessica. Jessica’s decided that she needs to get revenge on Elizabeth for killing Sam, and stealing Todd is the best idea she can come up with. She uses Sam’s death a bit to get his sympathy (though part of her emotions are sincere), and by the end of the book, Jess and Todd are making out, though Todd is thinking of the other twin the whole time.

Margo continues her cross-country tour of horror by killing the kid she was babysitting, stealing from his parents, and taking a bus to Texas. She only gets off there because the voice in her head, which she thinks is too tired to speak to her directly, sends her a sign in the form of the song “Money.” Margo sees a photo in a newspaper and thinks it’s of her, but it’s really of Elizabeth. And then, for some reason, she kills the old woman who’d bought the paper.

Lila’s mom Grace is coming to visit from Paris, and Lila will NOT shut up about it. Grace brings her annoying boyfriend along with her, so Lila isn’t able to get the one-on-one time she’d hoped for with the mother she hasn’t seen in 14 years. She’s understandably ticked, but also doesn’t make much of an effort to reconnect with her mom. She comes home one day and finds Grace crying in the house, which makes her realize that she’s not the only one dealing with a difficult situation.

Olivia gets Nicholas cast on a reality dating show called Hunks, where a guy goes out with three girls and the girls get to talk about the experience on TV. The first date is with a biker chick and the second is with a girl who won’t stop giggling. The third is with a very nice girl named Ann, but the events of the date don’t go smoothly, so Nicholas thinks he’s 0 for 3. When they go back on the show, the first two girls trash Nicholas while Ann gushes over how romantic their evening was and agrees to go out with him again.

Pamela tries to tell Bruce that her reputation is all a rumor: She went out with a guy named Jake and would only kiss him, but he told everyone at Big Mesa that they had sex. Every subsequent guy she went out with told the same lie, and eventually everyone started to believe that Pamela was giving the milk away for free. Too bad Bruce and Pamela are harassed by some Big Mesa before she can explain everything, so he never finds this out. Pamela also decides to transfer to SVH but doesn’t get a chance to tell Bruce before it happens, so he’s surprised to see her at school one day.

Steven’s been hanging around the house a lot, despite his parents’ insistence that he stay at school, and Jessica’s mad that he’s paying more attention to Elizabeth than to her. Whatever. Steven needs a roommate, and someone named Billie is interested, but since Steven’s at home, there’s no time for them to meet. Eventually Steven gets a message to Billie saying to just move in whenever. He doesn’t learn until the move-in is already underway that Billie’s a girl.

Thoughts: Why did Steven get a two-bedroom apartment if he doesn’t have a roommate yet?

Nicholas considers himself “business-like, but with an edge of flamboyance and originality.” Since when?

Maria Santini? Shut up, ghostwriter.

Lila says she’s pretty sure Grace doesn’t like purple, but when she goes to meet her, she wears purple. Ghostwriter, it’s like you’re not even trying.

There’s a weird section where all of the characters interact in some way (Todd almost hits Pamela with his car, Lila and Nicholas almost get into an accident) that seems like a lot of work for nothing. Maybe the ghostwriter was spending too much time on this section to get other important details right, like Maria’s last name.

Nicholas wears green slacks. Dear Nicholas: why?

Nicholas: “I’m swearing off women forever after this.” Oh, yeah? I hear Tom McKay is single….

I know I’m talking a lot about Nicholas, but when did he become friends with so many people at SVH? He never went there. And why do they all call him Nick?