November 14, 2017

SVT Super Edition #10, The Year Without Christmas: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…Again

Posted in books tagged , at 4:52 pm by Jenn

Oh, if only this had happened

Summary: The twins are having a Christmas Eve party for their friends, and everyone has gathered to choose names for a Secret Santa gift exchange. Jessica hopes she draws cute new guy Mike, though really, why would you want to buy a present for someone you barely know? Jess isn’t as thrilled as she should be to draw her own twin’s name, even though Liz should be the easiest person to shop for. She’s gracious enough to at least pretend to like anything you give her.

The twins haven’t yet finalized their plans for the party (which is only two days away), and haven’t even agreed on the theme. Jess wants to do something sophisticated, though I’m not sure Jess would know what sophistication is if it were the pair of elbow-length gloves she probably plans to wear with her evening gown. Liz would prefer a traditional Christmas party with caroling and tree-trimming. When I was 12, I would have thought both of these ideas were dumb. Just feed your friends pizza and cookies, exchange gifts, and let me go home and dream of the presents I’ll open the next day.

Elizabeth has drawn Lila for Secret Santa, and she has no clue what to buy the girl who already has at least one of everything. She eventually decides to make a scrapbook with pictures of Lila and all of her friends. It makes sense: Give the girl with the giant ego a big book of pictures of herself. However, Liz is going to put a lot more work into this present than she needs to, considering the amount of praise Lila is likely to give her in return.

Jess goes to the mall to get Liz’s gift and runs into Mike. He’s looking at hats for his Secret Santa recipient and asks Jessica her opinion on one for a basketball team called the Utah Unicorns. I cry foul (a little bit of basketball humor there, folks) that there would be a professional team with that name. Mike claims the hat is for his sister, Miranda, but it’s obvious he’s lying even before Jessica asks around and learns that Mike doesn’t have a sister. Jess thinks the hat is really for her.

She moves on to look at earrings for her sister and finds a pair shaped like little typewriters. They’re $8.99, easily under the $10 cap for the gift exchange, so Jess is really pleased. But then, like a raccoon, she gets distracted by something shiny. She sees some $10 earrings shaped like Christmas decorations and decides they would be perfect to wear to the party. But she doesn’t have enough money with her to buy both pairs of earrings, and the clerk tells her the ones she wants will probably sell out quickly. Jess convinces herself that the typewriter earrings are dorky anyway, so she buys earrings for herself and decides to come back to the mall the next day to get something for Liz, as well as a new dress for herself.

The twins discuss their party theme again, which means that, the day before this big bash, they have yet to do any baking, shopping, planning, etc. Sounds about right. Jess’s “sophistication” idea is officially shot down. Also, Steven is assigned to be a waiter/host for the party, and will even be paid for it. I would have guessed that this is so Ned and Alice can have someone keep an eye on the party without having to pay any attention themselves, but they end up attending, so this is just a contrivance to keep Steven there.

Jessica wakes up Christmas Eve morning to hear her parents discussing whether or not to give the kids cards from their Uncle Bob then or later. They decide on then, and each kid gets $50. I don’t know who Uncle Bob is, but he’s either very generous or feels very guilty about never paying his nieces and nephew any attention (which could be why we’ve never heard of him before). Jess now has more than enough for her new dress and Liz’s present. Liz, however, plans to donate her money along with the clothes she’s giving to charity. For anyone else, this would be a last-ditch effort to get on Santa’s nice list, but we all know Elizabeth has always been there.

Jessica goes back to the mall and buys a red dress she thinks is perfect for the party. As she’s leaving, she runs into Janet, Ellen, and Mandy. Janet makes fun of the red dress, saying that Jess will look like Mrs. Claus. Jessica returns the dress and buys a silver lame one that any 12-year-old, even one as dense as Jess, would know her parents would never let her wear. Indeed, Alice vetoes the outfit, and Jess has to find something in her closet to wear at the last minute. The horror!

Even worse than a wardrobe disaster is Jessica’s realization that she never bought Elizabeth a Secret Santa gift. For some reason (oh, right, because she’s a sociopath), Jess swaps out the tag on Elizabeth’s present for Lila so that it looks like Jess made the scrapbook. She’s mad at Liz for taking control of the party, and she figures this works well as revenge. Jess has probably struggled to get on the nice list in the past, but this is one year she’s not going to make it.

Instant karma smacks Jess around all night. Janet shows up to the party in the dress Jessica returned, and Jess is chastised for mocking her. Her sometimes excellent/sometimes awful singing voice is awful here, and she embarrasses herself while singing carols. She’s chastised for trying to get food before anyone else, and her friends are too greedy to save her any lasagna. She accidentally breaks Elizabeth’s favorite ornament. Ned embarrasses everyone by playing the harmonica while Winston plays the accordion. Steven tricks everyone with garlic-flavored candy, since he was left in charge of buying party favors.

Mike is late to the party, but just after he arrives, the kids start trimming the tree. Jessica accidentally knocks it over, almost crushing Lila. Jess laughs off Lila’s overblown traumatic reaction, but Mike says that people can easily be killed by trees – his grandfather was. And he doesn’t appreciate Jessica’s attitude when one of her friends was almost hurt.

The kids exchange gifts, and Jessica is secretly humiliated when the hat Mike bought turns out to be for Ellen. Jess is further humiliated when her gift from Winston is three accordion lessons. Lila gushes over Liz’s present, but thinks it’s from Jessica. For some reason, Elizabeth doesn’t correct her. But then Amy arrives late, having been held up by helping her mother make gingerbread houses for charity, and reveals that she knows Liz, not Jess, made the scrapbook. Everyone turns on Jess, who flees the party crying.

The next morning, things unfold exactly as they did the day before. It takes Jessica a little while (I guess she hasn’t seen Groundhog Day), but she eventually realizes that it’s Christmas Eve again, and she gets to relive the whole day. Most people would be happy that they get the chance to make all the wrongs of the previous day right, but…you know, sociopath. (She also doesn’t question how it’s possible for the day to repeat itself, but Jess isn’t the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree.)

As far as Jessica’s concerned, Elizabeth still deserves revenge, and Amy is the key to getting it. After buying the red dress again, and keeping it this time, Jessica calls in a fake order for more gingerbread houses, hoping that Amy will be so busy that she can’t come to the party. As the party progresses, Jess does everything right this time, but Amy still shows up and outs Elizabeth as the real scrapbooker. After all that work, Jess ends up in the same place she was the night before.

But the next morning, it’s Christmas Eve again. This time Jessica slashes Amy’s bike tires, because I guess Jess has never heard of cars. Of course, Amy can still get to the party, and Jess still ends the day in tears. On the fourth go-round, Jessica fakes illness and stays in bed all day. But even though she didn’t put her name on Lila’s present, she gets busted for not getting Elizabeth a present, as Liz is the only person in the gift exchange without one.

Take 5: Jessica buys Amy and Mrs. Sutton tickets to some ice show the night of the party. But Amy would rather be with her friends, so that doesn’t work. Jessica gets credit for the scrapbook, but this time, Elizabeth just pretends that Jess made it. She’s all noble about making Lila happy and letting Jessica feel proud by getting the credit. Jess finally feels horrible for how badly she’s treated her sister. She figures that since she’s finally gotten things right, the repeating Christmas Eves are over, and she feels bad that she won’t get to make things up to Elizabeth.

But surprise, surprise: The next day is Christmas Eve again. Jessica wants everything to be perfect, so she basically acts like Elizabeth. She donates her check from Uncle Bob to charity, she buys Elizabeth the typewriter earrings, she compliments Janet’s new red dress, and she pretends she loves Winston’s gift. Everyone is thrilled with Jessica’s attitude – especially Mike, who wants to take her to a Utah Unicorns game. And the next day is Christmas, which means Jess finally did things right and learned her lesson. I mean, until the next time she has to choose between being a good person and being selfish, which will most likely be sooner rather than later.

Thoughts: If I had Lila for Secret Santa, I would just give her a $10 bill. Though she would probably say, “They make them this small?”

“And everyone knows, red is the color to wear to holiday parties this year.” And every year. Because it’s a Christmas color. Go away, Sweet Valley Fashions store clerk Danielle.

“You know, Mr. Wakefield, I always wanted to play the harmonica.” How does Ken become popular in high school?

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November 7, 2017

SVT #111, Sisters at War: I’m Thankful I’m Not Part of This Crazy Family

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

This has to be Elizabeth. Jessica would never wear that dorky jumper

Summary: Alice’s sisters Nancy and Laura are coming to Sweet Valley with their families for Thanksgiving. We’ve read about Nancy’s daughters, Robin and Stacey, a few times, but Kelly has never appeared in SVT, only in SVH. The twins are excited to get to spend time with their cousins. Steven is much, much less excited, since there are no boys in the family. I wouldn’t want to spend that much time with four 12-year-old girls either, so Steven actually has some of my sympathy for once.

The kids have to give the house a massive cleaning to prepare for their guests. Everyone will be staying at the house, which sounds like a recipe for disaster. Even before that, the twins are starting to get on each other’s nerves. Alice claims that she and her sisters never fought as kids, which is either a) the biggest lie she’s ever told, b) means she’s in incredible denial, or c) indicates that at some point, Alice suffered a head injury or some sort of trauma that wiped out part of her memory.

We know from Kelly’s previous appearance in the Sweet Valley-verse that her parents are no longer together. At 12, the twins don’t know why, and are especially confused about why Laura and her husband Greg would split up since he’s so likable. Alice mentions that he’s “unreliable,” which is PG code for “deadbeat.” Alice also mentions that she thinks Laura should have married another guy. Steven’s interested in learning more about this family dirt, since he has to write about family stories for a school project.

Jessica overhears Alice on the phone, talking about arranging a surprise for someone at Thanksgiving. She’s pretty sure she hears Aaron’s name in the conversation, which means Alice must have invited Aaron over for dinner. I’d make fun of Jess for believing this, but it’s a pretty 12-year-old thing to think, and very keeping with Jessica’s character (mainly, her belief that the world revolves around her).

The relatives all arrive, and Kelly soon proves to be a quiet, shy, delicate flower. The twins aren’t as close to her as they are Robin, so they don’t know her very well. Kelly is clearly depressed, and hasn’t made any friends since she and Laura moved to Tucson, even though it was four years ago. Jessica wants to help Robin and Kelly become close, so she makes up some things they might have in common. Robin quickly discovers that they’re not true, but fortunately, the two have enough real things in common that they’re able to connect anyway. For the first time in four years, Kelly’s happy.

Steven tries to glean some interesting information from Alice’s conversations with her sisters. All he learns is that Kelly is boring, and Nancy shares Alice’s opinion that Laura shouldn’t have married Greg. She thinks Laura should have ended up with her high school boyfriend, Darren Caruso. In fact, they were supposed to go to college together and would probably have gotten married eventually, if not for Darren’s sudden disappearance. Laura never found out why he ditched her and joined the Marines with no notice. He sent her a couple letters a few months later, but she never read them.

It isn’t long before the Robertson sisters’ supposedly solid relationship starts to crack. Nancy criticizes Laura for not being a stricter parent. Alice has fonder memories of a childhood trip to the Grand Canyon than her sisters do. Elizabeth is like, “So you guys never fight, huh?” The tension isn’t helped by the fact that the younger pairs of sisters are bickering, especially the twins. They fight through most of the book, ignoring the fact that there are guests in the house. If I were Ned or Alice, I would pull them aside, threaten to never give them allowance again if they kept fighting, and mean it. But of course, Ned and Alice have no parenting skills, so the girls just keep fighting.

By the time Thanksgiving dinner rolls around, everyone seems to be ready to calm down and enjoy the holiday. Then they realize that there are 12 places set at the table instead of 11. Alice reveals that she ran into Darren, exchanged a few letters with him, and invited him to dinner. Jessica’s embarrassed that she misheard “Darren” as “Aaron” and isn’t getting a surprise visit from her sort-of boyfriend after all.

Laura goes nuclear. She tells Kelly they’re leaving immediately and refuses to stay long enough to see Darren. Kelly’s upset, since she’s been enjoying the time with her cousins and was just starting to feel happy. Both of Alice’s sisters are mad at her. Surprisingly, we don’t get a moment where Steven’s like, “Can I eat while everyone’s fighting?” Because honestly, that would be me.

In the midst of the chaos, Darren arrives, deeply apologetic for the way things went down with Laura. He explains that he was too embarrassed to tell her when he didn’t get into college, thanks to some learning disabilities. He joined the Marines and wrote a letter to ask her to wait. But his dyslexia made him transpose the numbers in her address, so she didn’t get the letter. By the time Darren figured that out, a few months had gone by. He sent more letters, but as we know, Laura didn’t read them. He asks her forgiveness, and amazingly, she quickly grants it.

But not everything is peachy: Kelly’s now missing. Her cousins find her at her old house, and she admits that she hates living in Tucson. Her only friend is her mom. She’s worried that, now that Laura and Darren have reconnected, Kelly and her mother won’t have as much time together anymore. Okay, girlfriend, they’ve talked for five minutes after 20 years apart. They don’t even live in the same state. It’s not like they’re going to get married tomorrow and ship you off to boarding school.

Stacey, who at eight years old is an Elizabeth in training, tells Kelly a story she wants to turn into a play. It’s about a girl who makes a ragdoll that comes to life and becomes her friend. Somehow, this makes Kelly feel better, like, is she going to go back to Tucson and build herself a friend? Is there a Build-a-Friend Workshop at the mall? The cousins try to cheer her up by pointing out that, if Laura and Darren do get back together, Laura could decide to move back to Sweet Valley to be closer to him. Then Kelly would be around the twins all the time.

Back at the house, Kelly tells everyone that they’re lucky to have sisters, and she wishes she had one. I think Steven just wishes he had something juicy to include in his family-stories project. How about a story about a disastrous Thanksgiving? No, wait, every family has one of those stories. Eh, just borrow one of Stacey’s.

Thoughts: I’d love to know the odds of three sisters all having children in the same year, especially when there’s an eight-year age difference between two of them.

Way to be on time for dinner at someone else’s house, Darren.

…And then Kelly got therapy, right? Her mother realized she’d been depressed for years and did something about it?

October 7, 2017

The X-Files 6.6, How the Ghosts Stole Christmas: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:00 pm by Jenn

Fantastic casting right here

Summary: It’s Christmas Eve, “somewhere in Maryland.” Mulder’s waiting for Scully outside a spooky old house so they can do a stakeout. She’s late because she left her holiday shopping until the last minute. She complains about the number of times she’s heard “Silent Night” (if she heard it one more time in the store, she was going to take hostages) and how she needs to wrap her presents, so this is a waste of her time. But she’s willing to listen to Mulder’s explanation for why they’re there.

Mulder tells her that no one lives in the house; they’re staking out the former occupants, who have supposedly come back. Scully details the horror-movie clichés present and correctly guesses that her partner wants to do some “ghostbusting.” She starts to leave, but Mulder tells her that back in 1917, amid a time of “dark, dark despair,” a pair of “star-crossed lovers” died in the house.

The man was Maurice, the woman Lyda. They thought they were going to be separated, so they made a suicide pact so they could be together forever. Every Christmas Eve, their ghosts return to the house. Scully praises Mulder’s storytelling skills, but of course she doesn’t believe in ghosts, so she’s going home.

As Scully starts to leave, Mulder goes up to the house to check things out. Scully decides to start putting her New Year’s resolution into practice early and not follow him. But suddenly she can’t find her keys. Mulder goes in the abandoned house alone, and thunder crashes just as Scully joins him to ask if he took her keys. Mulder suggests that a ghost snagged them. They hear footsteps above them, then the chime of a grandfather clock. Scully tries to explain the sound of wind upstairs. Suddenly the front door slams shut, and Scully can’t get it open.

Mulder tries to convince Scully that ghosts are usually friendly, so there’s nothing to be afraid of. He heads upstairs to check things out, while Scully sees that it’s less than an hour to midnight, so she only has 55 minutes to do her pre-Christmas preparation before it’s no longer pre-Christmas. Even though she sees what looks like a spirit, she thinks Mulder’s let horror movies go to his head when there’s nothing out of the ordinary going on. Besides, why would a ghost show up for no apparent reason? Humans just made up ghost stories to explain human feelings and desires.

Mulder tries multiple doors, all unlocked, but finally one opens…on its own. Scully admits to being afraid, but she knows there’s no reason to be scared. She checks out the room with the open door and realizes that there’s a light on, though it wasn’t on when she and Mulder were outside. The room is a big library, and all of its lights are working. That combined with the clock downstairs keeping time and a dying fire in the fireplace make Scully think that someone’s living in the house.

Since every couple who’s ever lived in the house has died tragically – in the last 80 years, three double murders have occurred in the house, all on Christmas Eve – Mulder thinks the house is cursed. So why would anyone want to live there? The door slams shut and the lights go out, so that doesn’t help ease his fears. The agents hear something under the floorboards, and Mulder bends down to listen while Scully looks for a way out of the library. She sees something that catches her attention, but when she tries to alert Mulder, he comes up behind her and scares her, just for kicks.

Mulder thinks there’s a hiding place under the floorboards so he grabs a fireplace poker to pull them up. Scully’s scared, but Mulder reminds her that she’s been in scarier situations. Plus, she has a gun. Mulder finds two corpses under the floorboards…two corpses who look an awful lot like a decaying Mulder and Scully. In fact, they’re wearing the same clothes the agents currently have on.

Quickly realizing that they’re looking at their own dead bodies, the agents run to another room, but mysteriously find themselves in the same room they just left. They keep moving back and forth between the rooms, but when each is in a different room, the doors between them close. “SCULLAY!” Mulder yells, unable to hear his partner.

Because he’s Mulder, he uses his gun to shoot off the lock, but now there’s a brick wall on the other side. Suddenly, a man appears in the room to ask why Mulder’s in his house. The electricity is working again, and the man doesn’t seem to see the brick wall keeping Mulder from leaving. Mulder thinks this whole experience has been a trick, and the man is a ghost. The man cracks up, guessing that Mulder’s a ghost hunter. He’s not the first to show up.

Mulder asks if the people under the floorboards were also ghost hunters, but the floorboards are back in their rightful place. Now Mulder’s not sure what’s going on. The man asks if he’s drunk, high, or “overcome by the impulse to make everyone believe [him].” He’s a mental-health professional, specializing in disorders involving pathological behavior involving the paranormal. He’s made up the term “soul prospectors” to describe ghost hunters who are narcissistic, self-righteous, antisocial workaholics.

The man continues that Mulder has probably convinced himself he’s seen aliens because he’s lonely. He’s just chasing “paramasturbatory illusions” that he thinks will give his life meaning. He probably thinks he’s passionate and misunderstood, and people probably don’t want to spend time with him. The man guesses that Mulder spends every Christmas alone, and he doesn’t believe Mulder when he says his partner is also there. How did he get her to stick around – steal her car keys?

The man thinks that Mulder’s afraid of his loneliness, so he gets Scully to accompany him on crazy treks. The brick wall is gone, so the man encourages Mulder to leave the room and change his life. But as he’s trying to leave, the brick wall reappears, and Mulder’s stuck.

In the next room, Scully gets frightened by a woman who thought Mulder and Scully were ghosts. Like Mulder, Scully notices that the floorboards are back in place. The woman tells her that there are ghosts in the house – her house – and she laughs off Scully’s claims about the corpses.

Scully keeps her gun trained on the woman while she explains that she came to the house with her partner. The woman feels bad that Scully runs around with a partner who believes in things she doesn’t. She’s trying to find fulfillment with someone else – “intimacy through codependency.” The woman continues psychoanalyzing Scully, saying her only joy in life is trying to prove Mulder wrong.

Scully asks why everything in the house is covered, if the woman actually lives there. The woman says they’re having the house painted. Why is there no Christmas tree, then? Well, because they’re Jewish. The man comes into the room, telling Scully that her partner will be in soon. Scully makes the two put their hands up, and for the first time she notices a giant hole in the woman’s stomach. When she takes off the man’s hat, she sees a hole in his head. It’s enough to make Scully pass out.

The man and woman – Maurice and Lyda from Mulder’s story – complain that they only get one night a year to drive people crazy, and they have to use cheap tricks to do it. He thinks their pop psychology just annoys people. Lydasays they can’t let their reputations slip; otherwise, they’ll be taken off the tour literature. Maurice doesn’t get why Lyda wants to scare people on Christmas Eve. She says it’s more fun to torture them when they’re filled with the hope of the season. Maurice decides it’s time to show these two miserable people “just how lonely Christmas can be.”

Lyda finds Mulder searching the library for a way out. She bars him from leaving, but when realizes that he can touch her, he just moves her away from the door. Too bad he can’t do that with the brick wall that’s appeared there. Lyda, now behind Mulder, doesn’t appreciate being called a frump or a ghost. Mulder figures out who the man and woman are; he’s confused because they were young when they died, and now they’re not.

Lyda looks through some books, amusing Mulder with her psychokinetic skills, until she finds one called <i>How the Ghosts Stole Christmas </i>by R. Grimes. She starts a fire in the fireplace without touching it, then shows Mulder a picture in the book of Maurice as a young man. She thinks Mulder and Scully came there to do the same thing she and Maurice did there 80 years ago. Mulder says they didn’t, but Lyda notes that he knew the house was haunted. They should have discussed their feelings for each other before they got there.

Mulder learns that the story of the suicide pact is false – according to Lyda, she and Maurice died in a murder-suicide. Mulder thinks that Lyda’s trying to say that Scully’s going to shoot him. Lyda notes that Mulder might shoot her first, but he says that would never happen. He also wouldn’t let Scully shoot herself. Lyda reminds him of the bodies under the floor, then hands him his own gun, which is missing from his holster. She tells him this is the last Christmas he’ll ever spend alone.

Next door, Scully regains consciousness and finds that Maurice has locked her in the library. She warns that she’ll shoot him if she needs to, but Maurice thinks it’s more likely that she’ll need to use her gun to protect herself from her partner. Scully can now hear Mulder yelling for her, but Maurice says he’s capable of some very dangerous things. He offers her back her car keys as he says that Mulder’s acting out his fear of being alone. Scully ignores him and tells him to open the door.

Maurice goes to the door, giving Scully one last warning that he’s seen a number of murders in the house. Scully says she doesn’t believe him. Maurice finally lets Mulder in, and he immediately shoots at his partner. He tells her there’s no way out of the house, and one of them has to murder the other. Even if they get out, they’ll just go back to their lonely lives. Scully says she doesn’t believe him, but Mulder doesn’t listen. This time, his bullet hits her in the stomach.

As Scully collapses, Mulder approaches, wishes her a Merry Christmas, and puts the gun to his head. But he’s really Lyda, just making herself look like Mulder. Maurice grabs her to stop her from shooting herself and pulls her out of the room. The real Mulder makes it in and finds Scully, who says she didn’t believe that he would hurt her…but she would. She still has her own gun, and she uses it to shoot her partner. Again, it’s Lyda playing a trick, and she’s pretty pleased with herself.

The ghosts put “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on the record player as Scully wakes up alone. Mulder finds her and they struggle to point their guns at each other, weak from blood loss. They both admit to being afraid. Mulder wishes he’d thought of this possibility before. They each accuse the other of shooting first, which makes Mulder realize that it’s just a trick. Neither of them is hurt. They open the front door, and the second they step outside, their wounds and blood are gone.

The couple runs to the car as the song says that “through the years, we all will be together.” Maurice and Lyda are proud of themselves, thinking they almost succeeded. They wonder what Mulder and Scully were really looking for at the house. Maurice says that for some people, Christmas is “just another joyless day of the year.” But Maurice and Lyda haven’t forgotten the meaning of the holiday.

Mulder watches the end of A Christmas Carol alone at home, unmoved by Scrooge’s happiness, which Scrooge doesn’t think he deserves. Scully comes by to confirm that everything that happened at the house was just in their heads. Mulder says it must have been. Scully wants to make sure that Lyda wasn’t right about her only joy in life coming from disproving Mulder. Mulder wonders when she’s ever actually disproven him.

Now Mulder isn’t sure Scully really wants to be out in the field with him. Scully says maybe she does. The agents had agreed not to get each other presents, but they both did, so they exchange gifts side by side on the couch, unlonely for at least a few minutes.

Thoughts: Maurice and Lyda are played by two Hollywood legends, Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin. Apparently Tomlin had approached the show seasons before, wanting to do an episode, so they wrote this role for her. They wanted Bob Newhart for Maurice, but he turned them down, so they got Asner instead. (I think Asner was better for this role, so that worked out great.)

With only four people in the episode, this is the smallest cast to ever appear in The X-Files. It’s something you don’t really notice when you’re watching, though; it doesn’t feel like anyone’s missing.

I wish this episode had come up closer to Halloween. The atmosphere and plot are perfect for it.

May 13, 2017

The X-Files 5.6, Christmas Carol: Only This Show Could Make Christmas Depressing

Posted in TV tagged , , , at 1:03 pm by Jenn

She’s so cute! (Don’t get too attached)

Summary: A pregnant woman on a Naval base in San Diego is decorating her house for Christmas. She’s Tara, wife of Scully’s brother Bill Jr. Scully and Maggie arrive for a visit, and Scully realizes that the house has the exact same layout as one her family lived in when they were in San Diego. As the family starts to get settled in, Scully answers a phone call from a woman calling her Dana. “She needs your help. Go to her,” she says. Scully immediately calls the FBI to get the call traced.

Bill Jr. drives Scully to the location where the call was placed, but local law enforcement has beaten them there. An officer refutes Scully’s claim that she got a call for help 20 minutes ago, since he’s been there 30 minutes and is sure no one made a phone call from the house – the only adult woman in the house is Roberta Sim, who committed suicide around three hours ago. As the officers on the scene start talking about how Scully’s crazy for thinking a dead woman called her, Scully tells her brother that the caller sounded like a different dead woman: Melissa.

The phone is off the hook, and the police confirm that phone records show a call made from the house to Bill Jr.’s, but it had to have been a mistake. Other than the mysterious phone call, the cop doesn’t think this case involve anything other than a suicide. Now he just needs to talk to Roberta’s husband and daughter. Merry Christmas, Sims!

Scully heads back to Bill Jr.’s for dinner, but she can’t get in the holiday spirit. She calls Mulder (for his ten seconds of screentime in this episode) but can’t bring herself to say anything. Talk at dinner turns to babies, and how having a child makes Tara feel like life really means something now. While they’re washing dishes, Maggie notices that something’s off with Scully; she doesn’t seem as happy for her brother and sister-in-law as she claims to be. Scully admits that, as a result of her abduction, she can’t have a baby. She’s just now realizing how much she wanted a child.

That night, Scully dreams of herself as a child, fighting with her brother. She’s hidden a rabbit from him, but when she goes to see it, she finds it dead, crawling with maggots. (Thanks, show.) Melissa is watching from the staircase, and she looks just like Roberta’s daughter. Scully wakes up to another phone call, this time on her cell phone. The caller again says, “She needs your help. Go to her.”

Scully goes back to the Sims’ house and tells Roberta’s husband, Marshall, that she got another call from the house. He tells her that’s not possible and he’d really like her to leave him alone. There are two men there wearing suits, and they’re having a “meeting.” As Scully leaves, the Sims’ daughter watches from her bedroom window.

Scully goes to the police station to talk to the officer, Kresge, who reluctantly agrees to let her look at the information collected about Roberta’s case. She learns that the police were called to the house two weeks earlier for a domestic dispute. Roberta’s bloodwork shows high levels of a migraine medication in her system; Kresge thinks she took a bunch to anesthetize herself before she committed suicide. Scully finds a picture of Roberta’s daughter in her purse and asks to borrow it.

Back at Bill Jr.’s, Scully looks through a photo album and compares the picture of Roberta’s daughter to one of Melissa as a child. They look exactly alike. Scully looks up the girl’s birth records and learns that her name is Emily, and the Sims are her adoptive parents. She calls the FBI again, asking a buddy to pull Melissa’s case files. She falls asleep at the desk and has another dream: She’s approaching the front of a church to see a body at a funeral. Inside the coffin, which is filled with water and blood, is a dead woman who opens her eyes.

Scully skips family time in the morning and heads back to the police station to ask Kresge to have Roberta’s body autopsied. She thinks Roberta was murdered by her husband. Kresge says Marshall has an alibi; he was at a doctor’s office with Emily. Scully finds it strange that the cuts on Roberta’s wrist don’t show any hesitation, a rarity for a person who kills herself. Also, how did Marshall call for help if the phone was off the hook for hours before he came home?

The autopsy is approved, and Scully performs it herself. She doesn’t find any of the migraine pills in Roberta’s stomach, so she figures the teeny needle puncture on her foot was an injection site for the medication found in her system. She thinks Roberta’s killer used the medication to anesthetize her so she wouldn’t fight back when she was murdered. This should be enough to open an investigation.

Marshall isn’t happy that the police are back to interfere in his life. When an officer finds a syringe in the trash, Marshall says it’s Emily’s; she has a severe form of anemia and needs regular injections. When Scully gets back to Bill Jr.’s, Melissa’s files are there, and she’s able to compare Melissa and Emily’s DNA. Maggie chastises her daughter for staying out all day and only getting home at 2:00 in the morning. Scully informs her that Emily’s DNA shows that she’s Melissa’s daughter.

Maggie denies that Melissa had a child and didn’t say anything. Scully reminds her that Melissa took off four years ago and wasn’t seen for months. She could have easily had a child and given her for adoption without anyone knowing. Maggie says that she had the experiences Scully’s going through now after her father died. She thinks Scully’s just struggling with her grief over her sister.

Scully has a dream about sneaking down early on Christmas morning to look at her presents with Melissa when they were preteens. Maggie catches them but lets Scully open a present – the cross necklace she still wears. Maggie says it’s a reminder that God will always be with Scully and always watch over her. When Scully looks up at her mother, she sees her own adult face instead.

Kresge stops by in the morning to tell Scully that Marshall has made a number of $30,000 bank deposits in the past 18 months. They were made out to Roberta, and the last one was deposited yesterday. They’re from a pharmaceutical firm in Chula Vista. Scully and Kresge head over there and speak to a doctor named Calderon, who says that Emily is a subject in one of the facility’s drug trials. The money is compensation for her participation, as well as a kind of peace offering to Roberta, who was never convinced that the drug trials were the right thing for her daughter.

Calderon reveals that he prescribed the migraine medication found in Roberta’s system, but it was for Marshall. The police quickly arrest Marshall for killing his wife. Scully makes arrangements for Emily to be taken by Social Services, and as she’s saying goodbye, Emily takes a liking to Scully’s cross necklace. Scully takes it off and puts it around the girl’s neck.

Scully goes home for a family gathering, but she’s still not in the mood for holiday cheer. Bill Jr. thinks her theory that Melissa called her from beyond the grave to send her in their niece’s direction sounds like something Mulder would come up with. Scully says it doesn’t matter where the call came from – Emily needs her help. Bill Jr. thinks she’s trying to fill some sort of void inside herself.

Scully gets another phone call, but this one is from Kresge, telling her that Marshall confessed to killing Roberta. Scully wonders why the witnesses at the doctor’s office said he was there the whole time. Scully goes to the county lockup, arriving just as the two men in suits from the Sims’ house are leaving. She’s told that they’re Marshall’s lawyers. Unfortunately, Marshall won’t be able to confirm or deny that, as he’s dead, having hanged himself in his cell.

Back at Bill Jr.’s, Scully tells her brother about the new developments in the case. He wonders if Emily’s parents were murdered because of something that has to do with her. He shows her a picture of Melissa from a few weeks before Emily was born, and Melissa definitely doesn’t look pregnant. Scully is still sure that Emily is Melissa’s daughter. Bill Jr. thinks she’s coming up with a wacky scenario to deal with her disappointment that she can’t have a baby of her own.

A woman named Susan arrives to talk to Scully about her desire to adopt Emily. Her application has been rejected, since she’s single and has never been married or had a long-term relationship. Plus, she’s in a high-stress job and doesn’t seem willing to make sacrifices there to become a parent. Scully admits that, since her cancer diagnosis, she’s been questioning her priorities.

Scully continues that she’s always kept a distance from people, even as a child, and now regrets not making more emotional attachments because she was afraid to lose people to death. Susan reminds her that Emily has major health problems; her illness is incurable and requires constant care. Adopting Emily would mean Scully has to relive her own health struggles, only this time through a small child. Susan agrees to review Scully’s application again, though.

That night, Scully dreams of herself and Melissa as adults, talking on a Christmas just before Scully went to Quantico. Scully’s worried that their father thinks she’s making a mistake leaving med school for the FBI. Melissa advises Scully to follow her heart and let it take her where she’s supposed to go. Scully doesn’t believe in fate; she thinks people have to choose their own paths. Melissa says that Scully doesn’t know how her life will change once she meets people in the FBI. She also doesn’t know how she’ll change other people’s lives.

Tara wakes Scully up on Christmas morning so the family can open presents together. They’re interrupted by an FBI courier who I hope got triple overtime for having to work on a holiday. His package contains more of Emily’s tests, and though they show that Melissa wasn’t her mother, Emily’s DNA showed similarities with someone else in their system. Merry Christmas, Scully: You’re Emily’s mother. To be continued!

Thoughts: The preteen version of Scully is played by Gillian Anderson’s sister, Zoe.

I assume they named the family Sim after Alastair Sim, who starred in A Christmas Carol?

Scully, trying to find support for her theory, says that Melissa could have used a surrogate to have Emily. And then…placed her for adoption? Come, on Scully.

What do you think Mulder did while Scully was out of town? He can barely function on his own even when she’s around to keep an eye on him. It must have been a disaster.

March 7, 2017

SVT Magna Edition #3, BIG for Christmas: Don’t Grow Up! They Make You Do Stuff!

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:04 pm by Jenn

I’m not sure what they’re looking at. Santa?

Summary: Christmas is approaching, and since it wouldn’t be an SVT book without a party, the Howells want to throw one. Joe has agreed to let Janet invite a bunch of middle-schoolers to his high school party, which is A Big Deal. Janet warns all of the Unicorns to dress appropriately, since there will be older boys in attendance. Jessica is singled out as a fashion don’t. Ouch. Jess vows to find a killer outfit, and to make sure Elizabeth doesn’t embarrass her.

The Christmas carnival is back, and amazingly, Janet doesn’t think the Unicorns are too old to go to it. Steven, a mature high-schooler, also doesn’t find it too babyish. The Wakefield siblings run into each other, and the twins embarrass their brother. I have a feeling that there isn’t a lot about the twins that doesn’t embarrass Steven. This just sets up a slow burn through the book for Steven, who’s annoyed by how immature his sisters are.

Jessica has a hard time finding a party outfit, since everything in the juniors section is too small (really?), everything in the children’s section is too childish, and everything in the adult section is too mature. It doesn’t help that the department-store employees just see Jess as a kid. Elizabeth has similar problems when she tries to buy a book for Amy – everything the clerk recommends is too young, and the horse book she picks out is too expensive. She’s treated like a child as well, so both twins are annoyed that, at the ripe old age of 12, they’re not seen as adults.

Jess tags along on a shipping trip to L.A. with Lila and ends up hitting the jackpot – a woman was having a garage sale and getting rid of a bunch of clothes she’s made over the years. They’re perfect for Jess, and just in her price range. But then Ned finds out that the party at the Howells’ will feature high school boys. Apparently he thought Joe was just bringing some friends over to help set up, and then they would leave. Okay, Ned. Steven plays up this angle, trying to get his sisters banned from the party so they can’t embarrass him. This, plus Alice’s disdain for the twins’ party outfits, leads to the twins being told they can’t go.

The twins try to sneak out, pretending they’re going to the carnival, but Ned and Alice invite themselves along, so they have to go to the carnival for real. The twins are miserable. They head to a wishing well, run by a guy dressed like an elf, and both girls make the same wish: to be grown-ups. If you think this sounds like Big or 13 Going on 30, you’re right.

The next morning, Liz wakes up and realizes her nightgown is too small. At first she thinks she had a sudden overnight growth spurt, but she soon discovers that things are way weirder than that: She’s now an adult. Jessica finds her freaking out in the bathroom, and when they see each other, they both freak out some more. They realize they made the same wish, and both came true.

The twins decide they need to avoid their parents, so they steal some clothes from Alice, as their own clothes are now too small. Jessica runs into Steven, who can’t figure out why there’s a strange woman in his house who somehow knows his name. Ned and Alice start panicking about an intruder while the twins run off to figure out how to get themselves back to normal. Ha ha, no, they don’t. They want to start new lives for themselves as adults.

Jessica’s hungry, so she suggests that they go get donuts, even though they don’t have money. A delivery guy has skipped out on work, so Jess offers herself and Liz as replacement drivers. Never mind that they don’t have driver’s licenses, work experience, or any idea how to drive. Jessica flirts her way to the job and a free breakfast, saying that the twins need to be familiar with the product they’ll be delivering. They both eat a bunch of donuts, because being a grown-up means you need more food. Jess drives the truck, which is a disaster, and when she hits a car, she and Liz flee the scene of the accident, the little criminals.

Having discovered that the twins are missing, Ned and Alice call the police and try to convince them that the girls were kidnapped by the woman Steven saw. The police are unconcerned, figuring the twins just ran away after the fight with their parents about the party. Steven feels bad, since he got the twins banned from the party and then realized it was the wrong move.

He sets out to find his sisters, and accidentally runs into them as they’re dodging the police. It takes some convincing before he believes they’ve grown up overnight. Fortunately, he has some money on him, so the twins get him to hand it over. Steven also offers to make arrangements for them to sleep in the Wakefields’ garage without Ned and Alice finding out. This involves getting Joe to ring the doorbell and run, distracting Ned and Alice long enough for Steven to move things like sleeping bags to the garage.

The twins need money so they can find their own place to live, so they go to a temp agency to get jobs. Again, they have no work experience, no diplomas, and no IDs. Apparently it’s super-easy to get a job in Sweet Valley. Jess gets placed at a fashion company, and on her way to work on the bus, she tells a guy she’s a supermodel. The guy turns out to be a photographer at the fashion company, so Jess is pretty embarrassed when she’s outed as a temp. But probably not as embarrassed as the guy would be if he knew he was checking out a 12-year-old.

The twins both have horrible days – Elizabeth can’t juggle all the phone calls at the publishing house where she’s working as a receptionist, and Jess has no idea how to tackle her company’s filing system. Also, everyone is mean to them, which I find hard to believe. It’s all just to show that being an adult is hard, and you have to, like, work and stuff.

Jessica gets banished to a conference room to put together binders for a meeting. She starts sketching party clothes instead, and the photographer from the bus is impressed. The company has been trying to sell clothes to tween girls, but they can’t figure out what they want. I guess it would be too much work to…ask them? Anyway, Jess is immediately promoted and brought on board to consult for the line.

Elsewhere in town, Elizabeth is supposed to take minutes for a meeting about a book series for tween girls. My favorite part of this is when someone suggests a series about horses, and Elizabeth thinks to herself that since she loves the horse series she already reads, she wouldn’t want to read any other. That’s so ridiculous. Liz decides to contribute to the meeting by saying that the company should do a series about 12-year-old twin girls. This is seen as a genius idea, and, like Jess, Liz is asked to work on the series – which will be called Sweet Valley Twins. Please kill me.

The twins meet up for dinner and celebrate the great days they both had. When Steven joins them later, he tries to hide his disappointment – he wanted to convince them to go to the carnival and make a wish to go back to being themselves, but since they’re enjoying adulthood, he knows they won’t do it. Steven heads home, where Ned has decided to cancel a big meeting because he can’t focus on work when his daughters are missing. Steven realizes that this means he could lose money, which means Steven’s allowance could get cut, and he wouldn’t be able to help the twins. He tells Ned not to cancel the meeting, but won’t say why. Alice and Ned ground him for helping his sisters stay hidden.

Steven sneaks out of the house to meet up with the twins, not realizing that now Elizabeth is struggling to adjust to being an adult. They run into a bunch of middle-schoolers out caroling, and Liz is hurt when Amy doesn’t recognize her. Jessica is now also missing her old life, but it takes a while for the twins to admit to each other that being an adult is hard. And it only took two days!

The girls decide to go back to the carnival with Steven and make another wish. But alas! The carnival has closed and left town! They grab a bus and head to the next location, begging the man at the wishing well to let them in after-hours so they can make their wishes. The man’s wife is with him, and Jessica recognizes her as the woman she bought all the party clothes from. The three siblings make the wish together, and the man disappears in a flash of light. However, the twins haven’t turned back into 12-year-olds yet.

The Wakefields take the bus home, and the twins fall asleep. Steven wonders how he’s going to explain things to his parents. But it’s a moot point – when the bus reaches Sweet Valley, the twins are back to normal. Ned and Alice are so happy to see them that they don’t really care what happened, and the girls’ only punishment is doing a bunch of stuff with the family for Christmas. Well, I guess they don’t get paychecks or proper credit for their single day of work, so that’s punishment, too. And now they have a newfound appreciation for how much easier it is to be 12 than it is to be an adult.

Thoughts: I can’t wait until I’m old enough to be called ‘Ms.,’ she thought.” You’ll change your mind when you’re older, Jess. I hate being called “Ms.”

“[Jessica] stepped into a sleeveless black sheath dress with a giant tiger head stitched onto the front. It was the coolest dress she had ever seen.” WHAT.

You know what will help convince your parents that you’re mature, Elizabeth? Storming out of an argument in tears.

December 13, 2016

SVT Magna Edition #2, A Christmas Without Elizabeth: When You Wish Upon an Angel With the Munchies

Posted in books tagged , , at 5:07 pm by Jenn

"What if Elizabeth had never been born?" Well, for one thing, my life would be a lot better

“What if Elizabeth had never been born?” Well, for one thing, my life would be a lot better

Summary: It wouldn’t be a special occasion in Sweet Valley without a party (really, it wouldn’t be a Tuesday in Sweet Valley without a party), and for some reason, Jessica’s in charge of this one. Apparently she was chosen at random to pick the middle school’s holiday party theme and organize everything. That seems like a dangerous thing to leave up to chance. Liz is in charge of the money for the party, which is a much better choice, especially since the class has raised $386 to pay for everything.

Liz doesn’t have much Christmas spirit right now, though – she’s been volunteering at a homeless shelter a lot, which has hurt her schoolwork a little. Instead of studying, she goes back to the shelter with some Christmas decorations. She’s befriended two sisters, Al and Suzannah Glass, who are staying at the shelter with their mom while their father looks for work in the vague region called “up north.” The Glass family’s situation makes Liz realize that her problems aren’t so big. She may have gotten a B- and a pimple, but at least she has a roof over her head.

While Jessica works on petty issues like picking a theme for the party, Elizabeth and Amy volunteer at the shelter. Suzannah tells them that her father is going to send money so the family can get an apartment in Sweet Valley. They’ve already picked one out, and Al’s excited because there’s a swingset on the property. Suzannah’s just looking forward to having a quiet place to read, since there are too many people and too much noise at the shelter. But the money doesn’t come through, and the landlord can’t keep holding the apartment for the family, so they’ll have to stay at the shelter through Christmas.

Somehow, the Glasses only need $375, and Elizabeth has $386, which gives her an idea. Mr. Glass is supposed to come to Sweet Valley on Tuesday with the money the family needs (no, I don’t know where this money is coming from. Maybe his last paycheck from a job he recently lost?). She can loan the Glasses the $386, plus some money she’ll add from her own savings, so they can get the apartment they want. Then Mr. Glass will repay her on Tuesday, and she’ll have the money for the party later in the week. This won’t give the party committee much time to buy what they need, but Liz will just delay them when they come asking for the money.

Liz knows this isn’t a great idea, since people would be mad about her giving away their money if they found out. But she desperately wants the Glasses to have a home for Christmas, and since she has the ability to help, she really wants to do it. Mrs. Glass refuses at first, but she eventually gives in, promising Elizabeth that she’ll get her money back on Tuesday. What could possibly go wrong?

Lots, of course. First, the Unicorns want the party money so they can start spending it. Elizabeth delays them, then tells them she had Ned put it in the bank so it wouldn’t get lost or stolen. She encourages Jessica to take her time deciding on a theme. Then the Glasses’ new landlord pressures them for the rest of their rent money, worrying that he made a mistake by letting them move in without all of it. This is while they’re decorating a tree Elizabeth got them (for free, because some nice Christmas tree salesman in Sweet Valley has a lot more holiday spirit than some people).

Because Elizabeth has been so distracted with schoolwork and volunteering and giving away her classmates’ money without telling them, her relationship (or whatever you want to call it) with Todd suffers. She forgets to meet him at the mall, and he no longer wants to go to the Christmas party with her. Since when does middle school-era Todd have such a hard time accepting an apology?

The Sixers also suffers from Elizabeth’s lack of attention. Caroline writes an article about Lila’s new bedroom redecoration, and Elizabeth doesn’t catch a couple of typos – specifically “broom” instead of “room” and “wich” instead of “rich.” Lila thinks the paper is trying to paint her as a witch, and she threatens to sue. She also has the Unicorns throw away every issue they can find.

Jess asks Elizabeth for the party money, so Liz says she won’t be able to get it until tomorrow (Tuesday), since it’s in the bank and the bank will be closed by the time school lets out. Jess still hasn’t picked a theme, so I’m not sure what she plans to buy anyway. After school, Elizabeth goes to the Glasses’, since they’re throwing a little party for Mr. Glass’s return home. Except he never makes it. There’s snow in this mythical “up north” region, and Mrs. Glass figures that her husband can’t make the drive. They don’t have a phone, so they’re not able to find out for sure.

The landlord comes by, and since Mr. Glass hasn’t arrived with the money (and the landlord is grinchier than the actual Grinch himself), he doesn’t want the family to stay in the apartment. It’s almost Christmas Eve, but the landlord doesn’t care – he’s kicking them out by 10 the next morning. Despite Liz’s best efforts, the family will be spending the holidays in a shelter.

Elizabeth considers telling her parents what happened and asking them to loan the Glasses the money they need. But she realizes that would mean coming clean about giving them money, which could get Mrs. Glass in trouble, somehow. I guess because Mrs. Glass accepted money that came from kids who didn’t know it was going to her? But she didn’t know that, so I don’t know how she could get in trouble. Liz’s logic is weird. Anyway, the Wakefields spent a lot of money on Christmas presents this year, and Elizabeth decides not to bother them for more.

Mr. Glass still hasn’t arrived in Sweet Valley by the next morning, so the Glasses sadly move out of their new home. I hope the landlord gets visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. Most people get a few days’ leeway to pay their rent, you Grinch. Then the Unicorns demand their money, and Liz has to tell them she doesn’t have it. She lies that she lost it and will try to make it back. Everyone’s understandably furious.

Elizabeth goes to the mall, for some reason, crying about how she’s screwed up everyone’s Christmas. She wishes she’d never been born – everyone would be better off without her. Suddenly an angel mannequin comes to life (just go with it) and comes over to her. She’s Laura, Elizabeth’s guardian angel, and she’s here to show Liz what everyone’s life would be like without her.

It takes Liz, like, 100 pages to realize that Laura’s for real, and Liz no longer exists. They’re able to observe people but they can’t interact with them. (For some reason, Laura can eat, and if she does something to affect their surroundings, people will notice, but the logistics of this are never explained. Also, Laura’s super-hungry, but I’m sure it’s not because she’s from the ’60s and spent most of her time then indulging in a certain plant.)

Laura and Liz’s first stop is, for some reason, Sophia Rizzo’s house. Since Elizabeth wasn’t around to become her friend, Sophia is still a loner. Tony’s in reform school, and Mrs. Rizzo never met and married Mr. Thomas. This is partly because Sarah’s dead. The night she fell down the stairs, Elizabeth wasn’t around to find her and get her to the hospital. She died, Mr. Thomas became a hermit, and everyone is sad. Also dead: Denny, since Liz didn’t save him from drowning.

Next Laura takes Elizabeth to the Christmas party Jessica was supposed to organize. The first indication that things are different is that Brooke has no friends. The Unicorns aren’t the Unicorns – they’re the Sharks, wannabe tough girls. Mary still lives with her foster parents because Liz didn’t get her and her mother back together (though I assume Mary’s mother would have tracked her down eventually without Elizabeth’s help, but whatever). Patrick ran away. Amy and Maria are basically the same, which is kind of funny. Todd’s just kind of there.

So where’s Jessica? At home, apparently, and not a part of the Sharks. They decide they want to make her do something that will let her join them as an associate Shark. It’s not clear what “associate” means; all we know is that Ellen is one, and she’s dumber than ever. As Liz and Laura follow the Sharks to the Wakefields’, they pass a bar, and Liz sees her father drinking inside. He’s depressed and no longer married to Alice. The Wakefields’ house is rundown, and everyone who lives there is miserable.

Laura explains to Elizabeth that Ned and Alice divorced after the rumor spread that Alice was having an affair. In other words, Elizabeth was the only reason the two of them stayed together. Okay, not really, but that’s how it sounds. They have no money, thanks to a costly custody battle for Jessica and Steven. Steven is a thug who could go to juvenile detention if he gets in any more trouble. Alice is as ineffectual a parent as ever.

But it’s Jessica who’s changed the most. She no longer cares about her appearance, she doesn’t have any friends, and she’s clearly just not happy with her life at all. She perks up when the Sharks come over, saying they want her to go caroling with them. Alternative Universe Jessica is pretty naïve. The Sharks convince her that they want to be friends with her, give her a makeover, and tell her they’re going to let her perform an initiation ritual to be allowed to hang out with them: She has to climb to the roof of City Hall and steal a star decoration. She doesn’t get a ladder, which means she’ll have to climb a nearby tree.

Jessica’s so desperate for friends that she does it, even though it’s dangerous. Elizabeth freaks out the whole time, realizing that without her around to keep Jess in line, her twin is doomed. Somewhere in here, Laura tells Liz her life story, which involved running away and dying in a fire while trying to save a stray cat. She wishes she’d had someone like Elizabeth in her life to keep her in line. Yeah, yeah, she’s a saint.

As Jessica’s about to fall from the tree, probably to her death, Elizabeth wishes that things would go back to the way they were. Laura sends her back, and everything’s normal again. Plus, Jessica has learned what happened to the party money and feels bad for getting mad at Elizabeth. Mr. Glass has finally made it back to Sweet Valley, money in hand, so the party can go on as planned. The Glasses easily get a new apartment, and hopefully one of them gets a job, since that apartment isn’t going to be of much use if they can’t keep paying the rent. Elizabeth is forgiven and lauded at the party, the theme of which seems to be Elizabeth Is Awesome. I mean, of course.

Thoughts: This book is 250 pages about how Elizabeth is awesome. GAG.

For people without a place to live, the Glasses sure are willing to spend extra money for three bedrooms instead of getting a two-bedroom apartment for cheaper and just having the two girls share a room.

Some of the “without Liz, XYZ” stuff makes no sense, but Jessica being a friendless loser doesn’t. I think she’d at least be friends with Amy and Maria. And why aren’t the Unicorns still the Unicorns? They have nothing to do with Elizabeth.

September 20, 2016

SVT Magna Edition #1, The Magic Christmas: “Game of Thrones” for Preteens

Posted in books tagged , at 4:57 pm by Jenn

I guess this is cute

I guess this is cute

Summary: It’s almost Christmas, and Elizabeth is excited about her present for Jessica. She found a picture of the two of them at their seventh birthday party and has written a story about that day. I don’t know why she thinks Jessica would like this more than, say, a sweater, but okay. Jessica has also gotten her twin a great present – tickets to a big concert in L.A. on New Year’s Day. Considering this is Jessica, who doesn’t usually plan ahead, this is pretty big. But Jess thinks Liz’s present is dumb, and Liz is mad that Jess didn’t remember she’s been planning a big brunch for the Sixers staff on New Year’s Day. They have a huge fight about selfishness.

Alice’s parents come for a visit and give the twins family heirlooms, two harlequin dolls that belonged to Samantha and Amanda. The dolls have medallions that are somehow big enough to contain poems. Elizabeth’s:

Together apart,
Wheels on a cart.
Unite all these things:
Eyes, feet, and wings,
Scissors and socks,
Hands found on clocks.
Dolls harlequin.

Jessica’s:

Together apart,
Joined from the start.
Answer this well,
Escape the dread spell.
Answer again,
And magic’s your friend.
Add a good rhyme,
Escape one last time.

The twins don’t really care about the dolls, since they’re too old for them, and they’re more caught up in their fight than anything else. But that night, they wake up at the same time and realize that Elizabeth’s poem is about things that are usually found in pairs. When they say this out loud, the dolls suddenly come to life, then disappear. There’s some sort of gold haze that makes the twins disappear as well.

Elizabeth and her doll end up in a meadow, where she learns that the doll is really a preteen boy named Prince Adair. He’s from the Hidden Kingdom and was turned into a doll by Medwin, a wizard who wanted to take his throne. Elsewhere in the Hidden Kingdom, Jessica learns the same from her doll, Adair’s brother Dorin. Medwin put a spell on the princes that could only be broken by two people solving the riddle at the same time but in different places. The princes have been dolls for a hundred years. Wow, that sucks.

To get back to Sweet Valley, the twins have to go through a Labyrinth (no David Bowie in this one, sadly), but that means going to the palace, where they’ll inevitably run into Medwin. The princes don’t want Medwin to know they’re back, which means they can’t use magic, because doing so would immediately alert Medwin to their return. Wait, what, magic? Yes, magic. Everyone in the Hidden Kingdom can do it, including the twins, even though they’re just visiting. All they have to do is imagine what they want – clothes, food, weapons, whatever.

As the story gets more Princess Bride-y, Elizabeth and Adair are cornered by bloodrats (think ROUSes) while Jessica and Dorin are chased by a Serpasaur (it’s described as looking like a dragon, but I can’t help thinking of the shrieking eels). Elizabeth and Adair head up a mountain to some snow, since ROUSes hate snow. Elizabeth realizes that she can conjure a weapon, but all she can come up with is a cardboard sword from an elementary-school play. Thanks for trying, Liz. Then she conjures a match, which allows Adair to make a torch and burn a bloodrat. The bloodrat’s shrieks cause an avalanche and kill most of the other bloodrats.

Meanwhile, a mermanon (whatever, it’s a mermaid) rescues Jessica from the Serpasaur. She and Dorin are sent underwater in giant bubble fish to meet with Merelantha, the mermanon queen of Zerasharb. Now we’re getting into Game of Thrones territory, with all these weird names. Merelantha doesn’t like Dorin much, so she has him and Jessica held captive so she can hand them over to Medwin. Dorin calls her bluff, knowing that Merelantha hates Medwin because he killed her sister. He’s right, and Merelantha offers to let him and Jessica spend the night in Zerasharb before they head to the palace to take out Medwin. What was the point of that?

Elizabeth and Adair are stuck in a cave for the night, but the accommodations aren’t too bad. In the morning, Elizabeth uses her newfound magical abilities to accidentally conjure up breakfast. Now that’s a superpower no one ever thinks about. Adair gives her a history lesson – he and Dorin inherited the Hidden Kingdom from their father and planned to rule together. Dorin would do the administrative stuff that kept the kingdom running, while Adair would do the fun stuff like planning parties. In case you haven’t guessed, Dorin is like Elizabeth and Adair is like Jessica.

Underwater, Jessica and Dorin learn that Medwin is throwing a ball, and with all the activity going on around the palace, they should be able to sneak in undetected. Things are tense in the Hidden Kingdom since Medwin is going to attack everyone any day now and kill a bunch of people. Blah, blah, winter is coming. Merelantha has someone give Jessica an emerald key, warning her not to tell Dorin about it. Jess and Dorin start heading for the palace, taking a ride on some unicorns. Dorin’s like, “You don’t have unicorns where you’re from?” Jessica’s like, “Yes, but they’re just annoying girls who like to wear purple.”

Elizabeth and Adair continue their trek up the mountain, where Adair hopes they can chat with Toramon, the wise man who lives at the top. He remembers a nursery rhyme from his childhood about how Toramon, Merelantha, and Medwin (pre-evilness) are the three wisest people in the land. Elizabeth hopes Toramon hasn’t gone bad like Medwin. Luckily, he hasn’t, but he’s a little nuts, and it’s hard to get a straight answer out of him. But the good news is that he can see everything in the kingdom and even events in the future (Three-Eyed Raven, anyone?), so he knows Jessica’s hanging out with Dorin.

Toramon gives Elizabeth a brief glimpse of the kingdom, which lets her know that there’s a ball that night. Adair realizes what Dorin did about being able to sneak into the palace while everyone’s running around, getting ready for the festivities. Before he and Liz leave, Toramon gives Liz a ruby key, telling her to keep it secret from Adair. Then Elizabeth and Adair try to speed up their journey by riding huge leaves like hang-gliders, though Liz almost gets killed in a freak tornado. The two sets of twins spot each other from sky and ground but are too far away to recognize each other.

Jessica and Dorin make it to the palace first, and it’s not a very welcoming place. Medwin has tapped everyone’s magic to make himself more powerful, so everyone’s depressed and poor. Jessica conjures fancy clothes for herself and Dorin, and they sneak into the palace. Dorin’s plan is to get Jess in the Labyrinth so she can go home while he fights Medwin. But Elizabeth and Adair learn that the Labyrinth is locked, and only three people have keys – Medwin, Toramon, and Merelantha. Adair thinks he’ll have to kill Medwin and get his key. Elizabeth decides to keep quiet about the key Toramon gave her. The two of them dress as servants and enter the palace.

Dorin and Jessica find the Labyrinth but also learn that it’s locked. Dorin makes the same decision as Adair about getting Medwin’s key. But before anyone can make a move, Medwin recognizes Adair in the ballroom and attacks him. Adair uses magic to fend off all of Medwin’s weapons, which is pretty impressive for a guy who hasn’t used magic in a hundred years. Medwin finds a way to slow Adair down, and Adair has trouble holding on to his strength. Dorin tries to fight Medwin but doesn’t have much better luck.

Medwin, thinking he’s going to kill the princes and earn the throne for real, taunts that there’s another mystery to solve surrounding the way the spell he put on them was broken. Jessica remembers the part about the poem that said “answer again and magic’s your friend,” and realizes that the things in Elizabeth’s poem aren’t just in pairs, but are also things that work better together. Obviously, the princes need to work together to beat Medwin. Why didn’t they think of that themselves?

Wonder Twin powers, activate! The princes win the battle against Medwin, who disappears. The fight drains the princes and they’re confined to bedrest for a few days. This allows Elizabeth and Jessica to hang out and make up with each other. They tell each other about their keys to the Labyrinth but don’t want to tell the princes; they think Medwin’s in the Labyrinth and the guys will want to go after him again. The girls debate staying in the Hidden Kingdom to be with the preteen princes they’ve known for three days. But ultimately they know they have to go home.

The girls plan to leave without saying goodbye to Dorin and Adair. After one last unicorn ride, they create goodbye presents for the guys. The twins are fighting again, though, still mad about each other’s Christmas presents. Guys, you were almost killed by bloodrats and Serpasaurs and an evil wizard. Get some perspective.

Time to head to the Labyrinth! Inside is a cottage surrounded by roses that look like Alice Larson’s wooden rose. While Medwin hangs around, watching, the twins knock on different doors of the cottage to chat with the Guardian of the Labyrinth, who will give them a test before they’re allowed to enter. The Guardian takes a different form for each girl – Jessica sees Amanda and Elizabeth sees Samantha. But their test is the same, and they just have to answer one question: What’s the most important gift they’ve ever gotten?

The twins have learned the big lesson from the book about appreciating each other, or whatever, so they name each other’s Christmas presents. Unfortunately, that’s not what the Guardian was looking for. No Labyrinth for the twins, and what’s worse, Medwin wants to kill them. The girls make up, thinking they’re going to die, but Elizabeth remembers that Jessica’s poem ends with “add a good rhyme, escape one last time.” Liz’s poem ends with an unrhymed line. There has to be another answer.

Jessica’s solution for a rhyme to “dolls harlequin” is “a pair of aspirin.” Yes, Jessica. The solution to saving yourself from an evil wizard in a magical kingdom is aspirin. Fortunately, the girls’ brains kick in and they finish the poem with, “My very own twin,” meaning that they’re the best gifts each has ever gotten. This is the right answer, and they’re allowed to enter the Labyrinth. First, though, the princes find them, turn Medwin into a doll (poetic justice!), and ask the girls to stay in the Hidden Kingdom. Sorry, boys. Sweet Valley is just too awesome to leave behind.

The twins are magically transported back to Sweet Valley, where it seems no time has passed (though their parents noticed that they were missing). In the morning, Steven announces that he’s solved the riddle in the dolls’ poems. But now they’re different. (Also, the princes sent the twins back with new dolls, I guess so no one wonders what happened to the originals.) Jessica’s new poem:

A place far away
Where unicorns play,
Where a mermanon dives,
And magic survives.
Two princes the same,
Each with his own name.
Say both names together,
And return here forever.

The girls officially make up when Jessica reads (and loves) Elizabeth’s story, and Liz cancels the Sixers brunch so she can go to the concert with Jess. All’s well that ends well! Actually, all’s well that ends awesome, as Lila has received a confusing present she wants to tell the twin about: an ugly doll with a poem on its medallion. The twins know it’s Medwin, though they don’t tell Lila how they know his name. His poem:

As a doll he’s been set.
Free him now? Not just yet.
He lived none too well,
To escape a dread spell,
But all in good time,
You’ll find a true rhyme
To send him back to his kingdom.

But why send him back to the Hidden Kingdom to torture people when he can spend eternity stuffed in the back of Lila’s closet?

Thoughts: After Jessica’s told she might have to wait a year to get home: “‘A whole year?’ Jessica repeated faintly. She would miss the rest of Christmas vacation – and summer vacation too. She would miss dozens of Unicorn meetings, and hundreds of episodes of Days of Turmoil. By the time she returned, her whole wardrobe would be out of date!” Oh, Jessica. We need to discuss your priorities.

“Unicorns are creatures of goodness and light. In a way, they’re like small children.” Clearly Dorin hasn’t spent an extended period of time with small children. They’re more like creatures of destruction and screaming.

There’s a character of Days of Turmoil named Flame. I wonder if Bambi got the part.

“The Hidden Kingdom was beautiful. But it wasn’t Sweet Valley.” Yes, folks, Sweet Valley is better than the magical land where you can use magic to get anything you want.

Stop saying “impetuous,” Elizabeth. Be a 12-year-old.

It’s always bugged me that I can’t come up with a rhyme for “kingdom” to finish the last poem. I guess that’s the point, that there’s no good rhyme, but still.

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: “…”

January 16, 2016

BH90210 10.22, The Easter Bunny: Donna Martin vs. the Internet

Posted in TV tagged , , , , , , at 1:35 pm by Jenn

If this is what marriage is, I'm glad I'm single

If this is what marriage is, I’m glad I’m single

Summary: David drops by the boutique after a few days away, which Donna probably appreciates. The two of them and Camille start talking about the wonder that is Internet shopping. David has a friend who can help get the boutique online. Donna’s annoyed to see David and Camille together, and David reveals that Camille’s kind of annoyed about Donna and David’s friendship. At the beach apartment, Kelly tells Matt that she dented his car while he was away, which he doesn’t care about. I mean, it’s not like she dropped acid and slept with someone else! She gushes about what a great guy he is.

Janet and Steve visit with their new neighbors, meeting their pet bunny. The Sanderses are dog-sitting Georgia, who doesn’t hit it off with the bunny, Fluffy. The neighbors, the Gundersons, are less than impressed with the Sanderses’ line of work. Noah finds Ellen hiding in the bathroom, nervous about her first day of work. She complains that Noah’s niceness in helping her find a new job is putting a lot of pressure on her. She also thinks he’s babysitting her so she won’t drink.

Kelly decides that she and Matt should start planning their wedding. Dylan joins them at the Peach Pit, noting that if they get married in a church, Matt can make use of the confessional. A guy named Mitch teaches Donna and Camille about Internet shopping and advertising. Donna’s skeptical that anyone will want to buy her clothes online; how will they find her shop? She also doesn’t want to put up any money or look for investors when she hasn’t secured any sales.

Janet complains to Steve about the neighbors (by the way, the husband’s name is Booth Gunderson, which…okay). Steve encourages her to be nice because their daughter goes to a great private school, and they could use the Gundersons’ pull to get Maddy in someday. Georgia puts the brakes on that plan by coming into the house with the Gundersons’ dead bunny in her mouth. Thanks a lot, Georgia!

Camille goes to the After Dark to ask Dylan if he’s interested in investing in an Internet company. Dylan sends her to his office while he tries to cheer Matt up. Matt thinks Dylan’s enjoying the fact that Matt screwed up. He also thinks that if Dylan were in his shoes, he wouldn’t tell Kelly he slept with someone else. Kelly and Matt visit a potential wedding venue, and clearly, Matt isn’t interested in this part of wedding planning. Kelly notices that he’s not in the best mood and tells him to deal with whatever’s making him so distant.

David checks in with Donna, who tells him she’s not going to go the Internet route. She prefers having a regular store with customers who come in to shop. Camille comes in with Dylan in town and announces that he’s going to invest in their website. Donna’s still hesitant, so Dylan suggests that they discuss the idea more before she makes a final decision. David’s obviously annoyed that Camille approached David.

The Gundersons are out, so they don’t yet know that Fluffy’s dead. Steve doesn’t want to have to be the one to tell their daughter that her pet is dead. He thinks the best option is to throw the rabbit’s corpse into the Gundersons’ yard and make it look like the Gundersons’ dog killed it. Janet says no, but when she mentions how she picked Georgia out at a pet store, Steve comes up with a new plan.

Donna, David, Camille, and Dylan meet with Mitch, who points out to Donna that the Internet will give her a bigger market. David’s now on Donna’s side, cautious about going along with Camille’s idea. Donna lets Mitch know that she’s not hesitant because of him; he’s been very persuasive. He wonders if his powers of persuasion will convince her to have dinner with him. Meanwhile, David blasts Camille for taking over what’s supposed to be Donna’s business.

Later that night, Kelly goes by Dylan’s hotel room to ask him if anything happened on his trip with Matt. Dylan says no, though Kelly isn’t sure she should believe him. Steve’s new plan involves finding a new bunny to pass off as Fluffy, but he hasn’t been able to find one with Fluffy’s markings. Donna’s interested in any details Kelly might have decided on for the wedding, but she hasn’t made any progress. Donna tells Kelly that she’s going on a date with Mitch, even though it could be awkward since he’s a friend of David’s.

Camille comes to the beach apartment to apologize to Donna for overstepping her bounds. Donna reveals that she’s agreed to take Dylan up on his investment offer. Dylan warns Matt that Kelly has questions about their trip, and that he lied to her. He encourages Matt to get better at covering things up if he’s really not going to tell Kelly he cheated.

Steve and Janet try to sneak a new bunny next door, but Steve drops the cage and the rabbit escapes into some bushes. Steve gets distracted and overhears the Gundersons trash-talking him and Janet. The bunny goes into its hutch on its own, and Steve barely escapes the yard without being spotted. Donna takes Mitch to the After Dark, like, why would you take your ex’s friend on a date where that ex works? David’s also not thrilled to see Dylan and Camille chatting. Dylan assures him that there’s nothing between them but business.

Ellen arrives and tells Noah that her first day at work was awful. She slams him for pushing her to take a job she wasn’t ready for. Matt decides to come clean with Kelly, but she has such a bad reaction to hearing that he accidentally took drugs that he chooses not to finish his confession. Kelly announces that she doesn’t believe him – he’s been acting way too weird to have just drunk spiked punch. Matt’s annoyed that he can’t win with her, whether he’s telling the truth or keeping secrets.

Noah saves Ellen’s job, but she doesn’t want his help anymore. He tells her he can’t stop trying to make her life normal. She replies that, in that case, they’re not going to keep having a relationship. Matt asks Dylan if he’s going to swoop in immediately when Kelly and Matt inevitably break up. Dylan says he doesn’t want to see Kelly get hurt. If Matt loses her, it’s his fault and no one else’s.

David is still opposed to the online store, telling Donna that he doesn’t want to see her get pressured. Donna doesn’t want to be the reason he and Camille have problems. Dylan brings some champagne for a toast, trying to convince David that Donna and Camille are making a good decision. David would be a lot happier if Dylan didn’t hug Camille in front of him.

Steve and Janet head to the Gundersons’ for an Easter egg hunt, agreeing to tell them the truth about the bunny. That will be easier said than done, since the Gundersons are confused as to why there’s a bunny in their yard. After all, Fluffy died two days ago and was buried in their yard. “Risen from the dead on Easter? Cool!” the Gundersons’ daughter exclaims. Steve and Janet realize that this would make a great story for the Beverly Beat.

Donna and Noah make awkward conversation at the Peach Pit about her online store. He tells her that when he started drinking again and Donna tried to help him, he realized that he needs to save himself. He hopes Ellen comes to the same realization. I hope she leaves and we never see her again because this plot is dumb.

At David’s, Camille thinks her boyfriend should be a little happier about the fact that she did something good for Donna. David tells her he’s not happy about her sudden friendship with Dylan. Camille throws his friendship with Donna in his face, though David argues that their history makes it a different situation. Camille says the friendship is his problem, not theirs.

Kelly tries to make up with Matt, regretting how she reacted to his confession. He should feel safe coming to her with difficult topics of conversation. Matt assures her that everything’s fine, but he still doesn’t tell her what really happened on his trip. Everything’s great and they can get married and live happily ever after! Yay!

Thoughts: Mitch is played by soap actor Mark Collier. P.S. He’s cute.

I think my favorite thing about Janet is that she doesn’t hide how dumb she thinks Steve’s schemes are, but she still goes along with them.

Donna really needs to stop hanging around her exes so much. Who is she, Robin from How I Met Your Mother?

Does Noah see anything likable in Ellen? Beacuse I sure don’t.

December 15, 2015

SVT Super Chiller #3, The Carnival Ghost: Best Friends Forever (Literally)

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 5:32 pm by Jenn

If that's what Claire looked like then Elizabeth's an idiot for not figuring things out

If that’s what Claire looked like then Elizabeth’s an idiot for not figuring things out

Summary: It’s the day after Christmas, and the Wakefields are having lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Jess is annoyed that her fortune cookie calls her vain. Heh. Smart cookie. Heh again. Elizabeth’s warns her to avoid high places if she doesn’t want to fall. Jessica notes that that’s not exactly a deep thought.

Apparently a carnival comes to Sweet Valley every year, and on the way home, the Wakefields pass the fairgrounds where it’s being set up. The twins decide to hang out and watch everything get set up. Some other SVMS students have the same idea, including Amy, Lila, and Ellen. I’m surprised Lila’s that interested in something a lot of 12-year-olds would consider juvenile. Maybe things in Sweet Valley are particularly boring right now, so everyone’s extra excited about the carnival.

On opening day, the twins head to the carnival bright and early. They head to the haunted house, which gives visitors a choice of paths to take. The girls split up, with Jessica taking the vampire path and Liz taking the ghost path. As Liz walks through, she sees a girl of about ten years old with dark hair and an old-fashioned dress. She follows the girl, who disappears. As Elizabeth leaves the haunted house, walking through an open grave, she sees the initials C.C. and the dates 1882-1892 carved on it.

Liz spots the girl in the crowd and goes after her while Jessica visits a fortuneteller, Mademoiselle Z. Mlle. Z says something good will happen to Jess, which is all she needs to hear. When the twins reunite, Elizabeth gushes about the girl, Claire. Her father owns the carnival, which travels, so Claire moves around a lot and doesn’t have friends. Elizabeth to the rescue!

At home, Ned and Alice tell the kids they’re all getting raises in their allowances. Jess is thrilled that her fortune came true. She goes back to the carnival and hangs out with some of the Unicorns, urging them to go see Mlle. Z. Lila doesn’t believe in fortunetellers, so she’s all snotty about it. Mlle. Z. warns that something bad will happen to her. I feel like Mlle. Z. could branch out a little in her predictions. Maybe be a little more specific. In this case, though, it doesn’t matter – a horse gets spooked, which in turn spooks Lila, who falls in a mud puddle and ruins the Johnny Buck shirt she just won.

The next day, Elizabeth heads back to the carnival without even waiting for Jess. She’s excited to spend more time with her new BFF. Amy comes by, having planned to meet Elizabeth so they could go together. Jess tells her that Liz has someone better to hang out with now. Ouch. At the carnival, Elizabeth hangs out with Claire some more, noticing that she keeps wearing the same dress. Claire says it’s her second-favorite – her favorite got ripped.

Mlle. Z. sees the two girls together and glares at Claire. Claire tells Liz that the carnival workers don’t like her; they think she’s a spy for her father. Mlle. Z. tells Claire to leave Elizabeth alone, but Claire says everything’s fine. Not long after, Jessica goes to see Mlle. Z. for another fortune. Mlle. Z. says she knows what Jessica’s friend is up to, and Jess needs to stay away from the carnival if she wants to stay alive. Jess thinks she’s talking about Lila, but she’s not clear on what Mlle. Z. means. Still, she’s spooked enough to run away.

Jessica realizes she left her bike at the carnival, so she goes back to retrieve it. She runs into Patrick Morris, who tells her he was riding the Ferris wheel when he saw a ghost floating next to him, inviting him to come play with her. Jessica’s justifiably spooked again. She’s ready to call it a day on the carnival, and since Lila’s already done with it, they decide to host their own for New Year’s Eve. Later, Jessica sees a man in the yard, seemingly watching her through the window.

Around this point, Elizabeth starts to become completely obsessed with Claire. She’s always thinking about her and wanting to be with her at the carnival. The two have grown so close that Claire seems to be able to read Elizabeth’s mind. She plays a trick on Liz, turning her lemonade black, and Liz asks if she can write about her tricks for the Sixers. Claire just wants to hang out.

She takes Elizabeth to see the funhouse from behind the scenes, and then Liz wants to see the horses. The one she pets is clearly not a fan of Claire’s. Then the girls go to a shooting booth, where Elizabeth is suddenly a great shot. The man running the booth doesn’t seem to register that anyone is there with Liz. Elizabeth remembers that Alice asked her to invite Claire to dinner, but suddenly she forgets all about it. In the middle of the night, Jessica hears Elizabeth moaning during a nightmare. She’s dreaming about walking through the grave at the haunted house and seeing her initials in place of C.C.’s.

Jessica and Lila get together to talk about Lila’s party. Jess is going to be a fortuneteller, and the girls decide to come up with all their fortunes ahead of time so Jess can pull them from a bowl and pretend she’s thinking of them on the fly. Steven’s there and makes fun of them. The party has pretty much all the elements of the real carnival, including a haunted house and a Ferris wheel. Elizabeth is still obsessed with Claire and can barely focus on the party. She’s also suddenly not a good shot.

Jess does her fortunetelling thing, and everyone seems pleased. When Elizabeth takes a turn, Jess tells her that she’s going to learn the value of her true friends. Lila’s last to go, knowing that the only fortune left is one that says she’ll be a supermodel. But there’s a different one in the bowl: “Soon you will go completely bald.” Lila hilariously spends the rest of the book obsessed with her hair.

The carnival is closed the next day, so Elizabeth is miserable. She thinks Claire will be coming over for dinner. Amy stops by to talk about the haunted house; she did some research and found the guy who built it. Elizabeth doesn’t want to talk to her, so Amy turns to Jess. The girls go visit the man, who’s surprised to hear that Claire told Elizabeth that her father owns the carnival. As far as he knows, the carnival is owned by a corporation headed by a man with no children. He adds that when he build the tombstone in the haunted house, it was blank. The initials and date mysteriously appeared one day.

Jessica shares this news with Elizabeth, who accuses Jessica of making things up because she’s jealous of Claire. Speaking of Claire, she never shows up for dinner, of course. Ned and Alice tell Elizabeth not to hang out with her anymore. Things get heated, and for probably the only time in her life, Liz gets grounded. But her obsession is so strong that the next day, she sneaks out to the carnival. Jessica follows her and brings her home.

The next day, Elizabeth pretends she was sick the day before, to explain her strange behavior. She convinces Ned and Alice to let her go to the carnival to say goodbye to Claire, since she’s leaving soon. (Also, Claire didn’t come to dinner because she was sick, too.) Jess briefly distracts her with a recon mission in Steven’s room; she needs a handwriting sample to prove that he wrote the fortune Lila got at the party. (He did.)

Elizabeth heads out, staying at the carnival a lot longer than she said she would. A worried Jess is about to go look for her when a man calls to warn her that “the girl is in great danger.” Jessica goes to the haunted house to find Liz, but instead runs into Mlle. Z.’s assistant. He takes her to Mlle. Z., who reveals that she’s had her assistant (who’s also her fiancé) follow Jessica to keep her away from the carnival.

Story time! Mlle. Z. tells Jessica that the carnival was once owned by a man who was mad that he couldn’t be an acrobat anymore. He took out his anger on his wife and daughter. After his wife died, he became very strict with his daughter, forbidding her from riding any of the rides. This made her bitter as well. On her tenth birthday, she asked to ride the Ferris wheel. When her father said no, she snuck in to ride it alone. Her dress got caught when she tried to jump out, and she was dragged up to the top before the dress ripped and she fell to her death. Creepy!

Jessica puts everything together: The girl was Claire, and Elizabeth has been hanging out with a ghost. Mlle. Z. is confused – she thought Jessica was Elizabeth. When she was a child, Claire appeared to her, but Mlle. Z. let her know that she wasn’t interested in Claire’s idea of friendship (which apparently involves killing someone so they can be friends forever). Mlle. Z. has her fiancé release the horses so they’ll freak out when they get close to Claire (since animals sense and are scared of ghosts).

Meanwhile, Claire’s ready to make Elizabeth her forever friend. The girls go to the Ferris wheel, which Claire starts up just as Jessica and Mlle. Z. arrive. Jess gets in with Elizabeth, who’s so entranced by Claire that she’s practically catatonic, and tries to break Claire’s hold on her. Liz almost steps out of the Ferris wheel to join Claire, but Jessica manages to keep her twin inside the Ferris wheel. The two of them fight over Liz until Jessica gets hurt and Elizabeth realizes what’s going on. She knows she can’t be friends with someone who would hurt her sister, so she’s not going to join Claire in the afterlife. Claire screams until she disappears. Cool!

Liz goes back to normal, and I’m sure everyone’s happy that she’s no longer talking about Claire all the time. Also, Jessica and Lila play a trick on Steven, making him think that Lila really did go bald. Weak, girls.

Thoughts: For most of the book there’s no mention of Claire possibly being a ghost, so the title kind of ruins the “twist.”

Lila finds merry-go-rounds babyish, but the general idea of a carnival is fine to her. Okay….

You’d think that after the events of this book, the twins wouldn’t be so interested in a carnival in Return of the Evil Twin. (Oh, and that was on New Year’s Eve, too. What a weird theme to continue through the series.)

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