September 1, 2015

SVU #42, Sneaking In: Men Behaving Badly

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 5:17 pm by Jenn

No way is this what Nick is supposed to look like

No way is this what Nick is supposed to look like

Summary: If you remember way back to Good-bye, Elizabeth, Liz has just decided to stay in Sweet Valley instead of following Scott to Denver. She and Tom are now back together. Also, Jessica and Nick are still dating but having some trouble because he doesn’t want to be a cop anymore. Jess thinks he’s boring now that he wants to go to college and become a lawyer. So when Jess meets bad boy Clay DiPalma, she’s more than a little interested.

Isabella also meets Clay, though she’s not interested in him romantically. He flirts with her while she’s helping out with a Theta fundraiser, even after she tells him she has a boyfriend. Said boyfriend, by the way, has suddenly become a huge jerk. He sees Isabella and Clay together and Hulks out, basically accusing her of cheating on him. They make up, because Isabella has more patience than I do, but fight again when Isabella asks Danny to go to a frat party that all the Thetas have to attend. He only agrees to go so he can make sure she doesn’t hook up with any other guys.

Clay also flirts with Jessica, who, unlike Isabella, doesn’t mention that she has a boyfriend. Nick catches them talking and also Hulks out, punching Clay in the face. Now Jessica’s interest in Nick is rekindled – who wouldn’t want to be with a tough guy who punches other men? This is all very Jess/Rory/Dean, only without Nick dropping Jessica at the tail end of a dance marathon.

Clay shows up at the frat party, and since Danny’s being a drag, Isabella’s now interested. Nick tells her and Jessica that Clay is clearly bad news, which just makes Isabella want to get to know him more. She starts dancing with a bunch of guys, so Danny tries to get her to leave, because clearly this kind of behavior means she’s a slut. When Isabella refuses to go, Danny storms off. Isabella starts drinking, then smokes a cigarette with Clay, even though she doesn’t smoke.

This is where things go pear-shaped. Clearly there’s something in the cigarette other than tobacco, because Isabella starts hallucinating. She thinks monsters are after her, so she runs upstairs and jumps off a balcony. This is probably the best anti-drug PSA any Sweet Valley book has ever presented. Jessica and Lila find Isabella unconscious on the lawn and are understandably panicked. They tell Nick that they saw her with Clay, who has since disappeared, and Nick figures out that Clay must have put drugs in the cigarette. Tests confirm that the cigarette was laced with PCP.

Isabella spends the rest of the book unconscious, in danger of slipping into a coma. Danny’s upset, of course – but with Isabella herself, not just with the situation. If she hadn’t been whoring it up and smoking, everything would be fine. At one point he literally says that she got what she deserved. If what she deserved was the realization that she shouldn’t be with a jealous, possessive jerk, then yes, she got what she deserved.

Isabella’s condition starts affecting Danny’s grades, because he’s still doing schoolwork even though his girlfriend is at death’s door. His biochemistry professor is especially unsympathetic. Danny accidentally takes a copy of a big exam coming up, but returns it to her without looking at it, even though it could save his grade. The professor accuses him of stealing the test and threatens to fail him. Danny’s like, “Another thing Isabella screwed up for me.” Hey, Danny? Shut up.

Other people involved in this storyline are focusing less on Isabella’s behavior and more on bringing Clay to justice. Even though he’s technically off the police force, Nick decides to do some investigating on his own. He ties Clay to a big-time drug dealer responsible for all the drugs in Sweet Valley. Jessica pressures him into trying to take down Clay by himself, since the cops at the SVPD aren’t qualified. Shh, Jess. I mean, she’s not wrong, but this is still a bad idea.

Jessica proves to be a pretty good investigator herself, calling a friend who tells her where Clay bought a motorcycle he was talking about at the party. Through the motorcycle shop, Nick gets Clay’s phone number and pretends he wants to buy drugs. To no one’s surprise, Jessica wants to come along on the sting. Also to no one’s surprise, Nick is unable to convince her to stay away, so the two of them head to a run-down house to meet Clay.

Nick goes inside while Jessica listens at a window. Clay, who happens to be high, knows that Nick is a cop. He knocks Nick out, then decides to shoot him. Then he changes his mind and just leaves while Nick goes in and out of consciousness. I guess this is supposed to be a cliffhanger ending?

In other news, Elizabeth and Tom are super-happy to be back together, especially with Scott halfway across the country. Scott keeps trying to contact Liz, though, telling her how great things are in Denver and how she should regret not coming with him. But it turns out that Scott has been expelled from the DCIR for plagiarism, fabricating sources, and altering his transcript. Awesome. Elizabeth is very relieved that she stayed in Sweet Valley.

But there’s trouble in paradise. Tom has a deep, dark secret that makes him feel guilty through the whole book. At the end of the book, Elizabeth learns what it is. She finds a half-empty box of condoms in Tom’s room and realizes that he and Dana must have had sex. Oh, no! Two consenting adults with romantic feelings for each other had protected sex! It’s a scandal!

Thoughts: The title Sneaking In makes no sense. No one sneaks in anywhere.

This book is supposed to take place just a couple weeks after Good-bye, Elizabeth. Does that mean the last five books never happened? Then why did I have to read them?

“I’m used to Danny’s insane jealousy.” Sounds like a healthy relationship to me! Also, since when is Danny insanely jealous? He always seemed pretty normal to me.

Going to a drug deal with only Jessica as backup puts Nick in the running for dumbest cop ever. Which explains why he worked for the SVPD.

I assume Tom wasn’t a virgin before he and Elizabeth started dating, so what does it matter if he slept with Dana? He didn’t cheat on Liz. Why does she care?

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June 9, 2015

SVU #38, Good-bye, Elizabeth: We Gotta Get Out of This Place

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 6:17 pm by Jenn

I'm really getting tired of the generic covers that don't show anything that actually happened in the book

I’m really getting tired of the generic covers that don’t show anything that actually happened in the book

Summary: It’s the morning after Elizabeth’s disastrous goodbye party, and Tom is thinking about how he finally got to make out with her again…or so he thought. After a few minutes of kissing, he realized that he was with the wrong twin. By the time he’d figured it out, Elizabeth had left. Jessica, for her part, tells Nick that Tom kissed her. Nick buys it and never bothers to mention it to Tom, so it’s just another lie Jess gets away with.

Scott is ridiculously pleased that he’s about to get what he wants – namely, his obsession with him in Denver, away from Tom. He finds Dana, butters her up, and reminds her that they have the same goal: Keeping Tom and Elizabeth apart. He warns her not to let Tom and Liz be alone together or Liz might change her mind about Denver.

Dana becomes a stereotypical crazed girlfriend, obsessed with keeping Tom and Elizabeth apart. Tom isn’t amused. She cries, pretending to be upset because he kissed “Elizabeth” at the party, then kisses him, making sure Liz sees. Tom is pretty much done with Dana but doesn’t actually tell her that, which I don’t get. Maybe Tom is an any-port-in-a-story kind of guy.

Jessica tells Elizabeth that she pulled a twin switch and learned that Tom still loves Elizabeth. Liz is mad that she meddled. She’s still going to Denver, even though Jess begs her to stay. Scott talks Elizabeth into taking a leave of absence for the rest of the semester and going to Denver early. Like, tomorrow. He takes control of all the arrangements, like Elizabeth is some ’50s housewife who can’t pick up a phone to make a plane reservation. Elizabeth needs better instincts, like, now.

Jess buys flowers to make up with Liz. She runs into Tom, who talks her into letting him take the flowers to Liz. He writes an apology note, declaring his love. Later, Jess learns that Elizabeth’s leaving early, and she leaves Tom a message letting him know. She runs into Dana and tells her, so Dana knows that she only has to keep Tom and Liz separate for 24 more hours. Liz gets the flowers but gives them away to someone at the paper before she can read the note she thinks is from Jessica. Tom tries to talk to Elizabeth, but she’s annoyed with him and tells him to leave her alone.

Bruce invites Tom to his parents’ party. Dana decides she needs to go, too, even though Tom clearly doesn’t want to take her. While packing her things, Elizabeth finds a locket Tom gave her and decides to keep it. Tom finds a silly tie Liz once gave him and decides to wear it to the party. This is, by the way, the third or fourth party in this miniseries. How do these people ever get any studying done?

Dana is so determined to keep Tom from seeing Elizabeth before she leaves that she gets him angry before the Patmans’ party, knowing he’ll speed and possibly get pulled over for it. She also breaks his taillights to cause even more trouble. Unfortunately, her plan works a little too well – Tom is so angry that he talks back to the cop who pulls him over, and when he figures out that Dana broke his lights, he snaps at her. The cop sees him as a violent threat and makes him spend the night in lock-up.

By the time Tom gets out, Elizabeth is about to leave for the airport with Scott. Nick and Jessica rush Tom to the dorm, where Scott basically kidnaps Liz to get her away from anyone who might change her mind about leaving. Dana finds Tom, sees how upset he is, and realizes that she’s gone insane and screwed up his life. She confesses everything she did, including taking the letter he wrote Elizabeth a long time ago in an attempt to apologize for not believing her when she told him what his father did to her. Dana adds that Scott is a nutter, so Tom should try to get Elizabeth away from him.

Tom, Jessica, and Nick race to the airport while Scott continues freaking out about getting out of California. He tries to rush Elizabeth through airport security, acting more and more like a controlling, abusive boyfriend. Liz is wearing Tom’s locket under her shirt, and it keeps setting off the metal detectors. When she finally realizes what’s happening, she gives the locket to a kind security guard, who offers to return it if Elizabeth ever changes her mind.

Like a good little romantic movie cliché, Tom tries to get through security to stop Elizabeth from getting on the plane. He seems to think there’s a special pass they’ll give you when you just want to get to a gate without getting on a plane. He’s lucky this takes place pre-9/11, or he’d land himself back in jail. Airport security finds out that he was arrested recently and thinks he’s a threat. Tom’s mental state at this point isn’t really helping matters.

Liz finally calls Scott on his behavior, as he’s been throwing little tantrums all morning. He finally loses it completely, saying he’s wasted his money on her, and she wouldn’t have gotten into the DCIR without him. They fight, and she finally accepts what she’s been feeling for a while: She doesn’t want to go to Denver anymore. But it’s too late – the plane is leaving.

Tom finally gets to the gate and sees the security guard with the locket Elizabeth gave her. Somehow, he manages to get the plane stopped. Again, it’s like a movie, with the hero getting to his girl at the very last minute and convincing her to stay with him. Not that she needs much convincing. Elizabeth gets off the plane and announces that she’s not leaving Sweet Valley. Not seen: Scott screaming for the entire flight to Denver. So we have a semi-happy ending: Elizabeth is away from Scott, but she’s back with Tom, and I’m not looking forward to returning to that mess.

In other, even less interesting stories, Denise has been hired to cater the Patmans’ party, but it means she has to fool another group of people with lobster that isn’t really lobster. She’s terrified that she’ll be found out and sent to jail. I don’t think you can be sent to jail for serving tofu in place of lobster. But Denise has become dumber with each book, so I’m not surprised she thinks this way. It doesn’t help when she learns that one of the party guests is a reporter well-known for busting frauds.

But luck is on Denise’s side, and when the reporter finds out she’s serving lobster, he announces that a bunch of places in the area were shipped tainted lobster. The Patmans agree that the lobster shouldn’t be served. So you see, kids, if you lie long enough, eventually someone will get you off the hook and you’ll get away with everything!

There’s also a tiny bit about Nick taking college-entrance exams so he can go pre-law, and how his new taste in clothes makes Jessica think of Steven. The two of them fight because Jess doesn’t like the person Nick is turning into (a polite, productive member of society? Sounds about right). With Elizabeth leaving, Jessica decides there’s no reason to stay at SVU, so she makes the impulsive decision to follow through on something she thought about a couple books ago: going to the police academy. We’ll see if that lasts longer than five minutes.

Thoughts: I can’t believe Tom has so much trouble telling Dana that he’s through with her. It’s not like he’s ever had trouble speaking his mind before. Though maybe he’s smart for not coming right out and dumping her. She could react violently, since SHE’S A PSYCHOPATH.

“You must be Scott’s little girlfriend!” Do not work for that man, Elizabeth.

When Lila sees Nick dressed up for the party, she says he looks like “that cute guy in that new lawyer movie…based on that John Grisham book.” A Google search tells me that was The Gingerbread Man, and she’s either talking about Kenneth Branagh or Robert Downey, Jr. (unless Lila has a thing for Tom Berenger or Robert Duvall). I doubt it’s Branagh, so from now on, I’m going to imagine that Nick looks like a young RDJ. Nick “Iron Man” Fox.

May 26, 2015

SVU #37, Breaking Away: Can I Move 1,000 Miles Away from Jessica, Too?

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 8:05 pm by Jenn

They're happy because Elizabeth is going far, far away

They’re happy because Elizabeth is going far, far away

Summary: At the end of the last book, it wasn’t clear whether Elizabeth had decided to go to the Denver Center for Investigative Reporting. But now we have confirmation that she’s going. She tells Jessica, and Jess flips, because she can’t get through life without her other half/babysitter/conscience. At the same time, Danny (hi, Danny! Where have you been?) gives Tom the news. And not long after, Scott warns Dana to make sure things with Tom stay awesome. Obviously he’s worried that Elizabeth and Tom will get back together and she’ll end up staying in Sweet Valley.

Nina and Winston throw the first party of the book, to congratulate Elizabeth on getting into the DCIR. Winston has made a video commemorating Elizabeth’s life. When did he have time to do that? Do these people ever go to class? Todd’s at the party and on the video, and I wish there’d been a twist in this book where Todd and Elizabeth got back together, instead of Tom and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth and Jessica get into a stupid fight about how Elizabeth isn’t showing emotion, and how Jessica never shuts up, or something. Jessica accuses Liz of going to the DCIR to run away from Tom. They both storm off, and Jess goes to see Nick, who’s a little distracted by his plans to take a longer leave of absence from the police force so he can go to college. Thanks for showing up, Nick!

The twins quickly make up, and Jessica decides to throw a going-away party for Liz, even though she’s still upset that Liz is leaving. While she puts that together, Elizabeth gets ready to transfer to the DCIR, returning the books she’s already bought for next semester (of course) and cancelling her classes. Except Scott has already cancelled her classes for her. Elizabeth yells at him, but he does that emotional-manipulation thing and makes himself look like the good guy.

Jessica intercepts a call from the DCIR for Elizabeth; some guy there wants to meet with her. Jessica decides to pull a twin switch, meet with the guy as Elizabeth, and make him want to reject her from the school. I don’t get why this is happening at all, since Elizabeth has already been accepted, and Jess has to know that this will come back around to bite her. Wait, what am I saying? Jessica never thinks about consequences. It doesn’t work anyway, since the guy just thinks she’s goofing around when she acts out.

While all this has been going on, Denise has been struggling with her financial issues. She has yet to figure out a reasonable way to pay off her debts, and apparently the collection agencies start calling two minutes after you rack up debt. Getting a job would be too easy, so Denise tries to think of a way to make money fast. When she hears about Elizabeth’s party, she jumps at the chance to cater, because apparently Denise is a really good cook. Jess is fine with it, and gives her money from Ned and Alice to pay for everything. She wants all the food to be gourmet.

Denise and Winston go all out, buying lobster and other expensive food. Except they accidentally leave the lobsters in the car for hours, rendering them inedible. Raise your hand if you think Denise is getting dumber. Left with little money and even less time, Denise sends Winston back to the store to get something – anything – she can make for the party. He settles on tofu.

Just before the party, Elizabeth and Tom almost have a Meaningful Moment, but Dana interrupts it. Boo, Dana! I don’t even like Tom and Elizabeth together, but boo, Dana! Jessica invited Tom to the party, and he’s coming with Dana. That doesn’t sound like a potential disaster at all!

Speaking of potential disasters, Denise does her best to turn tofu into something resembling lobster. Somehow, this works, and she manages to fool Bruce and Lila. Unless they’re pretending so they don’t ruin the party. It’s not clear. Anyway, Bruce asks Denise to cater a party his parents are throwing, and she’ll need to make her special “lobster” dish again. Denise worries that she won’t be able to fool a bunch of rich people.

Jessica puts into motion her last-ditch effort to make Elizabeth stay in Sweet Valley. It involves another twin switch. She pretends to be Elizabeth and goes off with Tom to find out how he feels about Liz. Tom is still in love with her, and is thrilled to learn that, supposedly, Elizabeth wants to be with him again. Scott spots them kissing and takes Dana out to see what’s going on. She’s devastated.

Now here’s what’s weird: Tom is currently kissing Elizabeth but thinks she’s Jessica. Scott can tell just from watching them through a window that Elizabeth is Jessica. How is that possible? Anyway, Scott finds the real Elizabeth and shows her that Jessica’s kissing Tom. Dana eavesdrops and realizes that Tom is kissing Jess, not Liz. She realizes that she and Scott want the same thing – to keep Liz and Tom apart. And the plan is successful: Elizabeth realizes that she really has nothing keeping her in Sweet Valley, so she can go to Colorado without regrets. Ha ha, Jessica’s plan backfired!

Thoughts: Jessica’s codependency is out of control. Does she plan to live with Elizabeth for the rest of their lives?

Jessica doesn’t like Scott because he seems “slippery,” so somehow, in this situation, her instincts are better than Elizabeth’s.

Speaking of Scott, I notice that no one’s throwing him any goodbye parties. Probably because he has no friends.

May 12, 2015

SVU #36, Have You Heard About Elizabeth?: Not-So-Great Scott

Posted in books tagged , , , , at 8:04 pm by Jenn

Isn't one of them supposed to have good fashion sense?

Isn’t one of them supposed to have good fashion sense?

Summary: UGH, this Elizabeth/Tom/Scott triangle is still going on. Can’t we have another Nina book? No, instead, we have to hear about how a newsmagazine with the stupid name of NEWS2US wants to profile Elizabeth and Scott about the country-club mystery. The interviewer (a woman) mostly focuses on Scott, and Elizabeth is basically asked to be pretty and look at Scott like she admires him. When the article is published, it paints Scott as the sole mystery-solver, and Elizabeth as a groupie.

Elizabeth is understandably upset (as are Jessica, Nick, and Tom, who were major players in the case). Scott tells Liz that the interviewer was just jealous of her, because all women are always automatically jealous of other successful women. He claims that the interviewer also hit on him. Liz is dumb and falls for this.

Tom’s upset when he reads the story, since he knows Elizabeth deserves more credit. He calls a contact at NEWS2US and learns that Scott’s father is on the board of the corporation that owns the magazine. Plus, the elder Sinclair has connections to the Denver Center for Investigative Reporting, a supposedly prestigious journalism school (with a dumb name) where Scott has just been accepted. Tom thinks this is a huge scandal and even does a story about it on WSVU. Clearly Tom has never heard of nepotism.

Elizabeth is also accepted into the DCIR but has a hard time deciding if she should go. She and Jessica are so codependent that she’s not sure they can be that far apart from each other. Tom is also a factor – if she leaves SVU, they might never see each other again. She’s upset that she keeps seeing him with Dana, who’s still as annoying as ever. Elizabeth tries to talk to Tom about the story he did on Scott, but they end up having a huge fight in the cafeteria, which everyone hears. She reveals that she also got into the DCIR and might leave.

At the end of the last miniseries, Jessica decided to leave school to attend the police academy, and Nick decided to leave the police department to go back to school. Jess has seemingly abandoned her plan, as she’s still at school. She uses a hugely embellished version of the country-club case to get an extension on a creative-writing assignment. The professor’s so impressed with her imagination that he gives her an A – she basically just wrote the story on the fly while talking to him.

Jessica’s next big adventure is the swimsuit calendar she previously won a spot in. Nick suddenly decides he doesn’t want her to do it, but Jessica whines enough to make him change his mind. He’s wrong for trying to stop her from doing something, but she’s also wrong for being a brat, so neither of them comes off looking too great here. While Jess gets ready to be a model, Nick gets ready to take his college-entrance exams. Neither of them enjoys the experience. Jess doesn’t like the pictures afterward, and she decides she doesn’t want to do the calendar. Alison’s like, “After all that fighting, you quit??” I guess Jessica needs excitement after the whole country-club adventure.

Nick has been so busy studying that he hasn’t called Jessica in a few days, and she thinks it’s because he got hurt on the job. When she goes to see him, she’s relieved that he’s okay, but she soon realizes that by leaving a dangerous job to do something calm like school, Nick isn’t that interesting anymore. She’s not sure she’ll feel the same about him once he’s no longer a cop. Then all that gets brushed aside when Jess hears about Elizabeth and Tom’s fight and learns for the first time that Liz might go to Denver. At the same time, Elizabeth finally makes a choice about whether or not to accept her spot at the DCIR.

The C-plot belongs to Denise, who is dumber than we all thought. She’s the poorest Theta sister and decides that getting a credit card is what she needs to feel better. Of course, she goes on a huge spending spree, which is why 18-year-olds having credit cards is often a bad idea. Especially credit cards with what appear to be no limits. I don’t get how Denise can spend so much. When I got my first card (sometime in college, but I understood that, you know, you have to actually pay the money you’re charging), my limit was $1,000, I think. Now, at 33, my limit might be twice that, at most.

So Denise’s card gets declined at a super-fancy restaurant, and when she goes to the bank to discuss the situation, the guy who signed her up for the card is like, “Maybe you should…stop spending so much money? Have you thought about that?” Denise can’t even afford to pay the minimum amount every month, and then the college comes after her to start paying interest on her student loans. Which…I don’t think is possible. They have access to her credit reports? And I don’t think they can make you pay anything on your loans until you’re done with school.

Anyway, instead of getting a job, like a reasonable, smart person, Denise learns of a company that will help her consolidate her loans. Of course, the interest will be huge, and she still has to make monthly payments, so this isn’t better than having credit-card debt, but Denise thinks things are wonderful. I have a feeling this miniseries will end with Denise living in a cardboard box, eating the crusts of Lila’s tea sandwiches.

Thoughts: They’re calling the mystery at the country club the Krandall Scandal. That’s beautiful.

Jessica’s in a “detective film fan club chat group on the Internet.” I can only imagine her contributions to those discussions.

Encryption is a word, isn’t it? Or is it kryptonite?” Jessica worries me.

“The Only Bank wants to be your friend.” It’s a cult! Run, Denise!

College-entrance exams require knowledge of trigonometry? If I had to try to get into college now, I’d wind up curled in a ball, whimpering.

Scott, after convincing Elizabeth that he’s not benefiting from nepotism: “I think you’re afraid of your feelings for me, Elizabeth. You keep looking for reasons to dislike me. Don’t you think I deserve better than that from you?” EW EW EW. This is the behavior of an abuser. “It’s your fault you feel that way. You’re crazy for believing that. You’re wrong for thinking like that.” Anyone who tries to make you feel like your feelings are wrong, unimportant, invalid, etc., is someone you need to avoid. Cut him loose, Elizabeth! Don’t get involved with someone like this!

Denise has always seemed like a smart person, so how in the world does she not understand how credit cards work?

Elizabeth spends 20 minutes picking out an outfit before she goes to see Tom…and she settles on overalls. Nailed it! Then she starts chewing a blade of grass. Is she secretly a redneck?

In Tom’s head: “She was so dear to him. He cherished her integrity, her spirit, her intelligence.” Who wants to tell the ghostwriter that no college guy has ever thought like that?

April 14, 2015

SVU #35, Undercover Angels: Spy vs. Spy

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 7:53 pm by Jenn

Elizabeth would never wear a shirt that sparkly

Elizabeth would never wear a shirt that sparkly

Summary: We pick up pretty much where the last book left off, with Bruce upset that Paul hustled him in a tennis game, and Elizabeth going over the details of the investigation in her head. She teases Bruce about calling the police on Paul to report that he’d stolen money he’d actually won. Bruce mentions that he gave Paul a check, which is news to Elizabeth, since she knows Tom saw him with a bunch of cash, including the bill Tom wrote “buena suerte” on, supposedly for a club employee. So the newest wrinkle in the investigation is that money one of the employees collected went to a club member.

Paul’s father, a congressman, is having a reception at the club, and somehow Dana was invited and asks Tom to go with her. Tom is basically done with Dana, but he needs her to get access to the country club, since you can only go there as a couple. What a stupid club. Elizabeth and Scott are also going to the reception, if anyone cares. And of course Lila and Bruce are going, because Lila practically lives at the club now. Lila chats with Paul for a little while, and then he heads off to switch cars with someone, getting into a van with a missing mud flap. Jessica happens to see this.

Elizabeth and Scott review the investigation, so I might as well, too: A caddy named Dwayne Mendoza was discovered dead in the lake at the country club. Brandon Phillips, a fellow caddy and SVU student, was arrested for murder after some of Dwayne’s things were found in his locker. A busboy named Manuel Coimbra has gone missing, and Elizabeth has uncovered possible voter fraud involving him – he got a voter registration card, despite the fact that he wasn’t a citizen. Plus, the card spells his name Manoel instead of Manuel.

Scott and Liz go to the county records office to look for Manuel’s address. None exists, but there’s info on Manoel. Except Manoel was from Brazil and died in 1991 at the age of 76. So it seems someone was employing some good old-fashioned fraud by collecting the votes of dead people. While Elizabeth is busy doing some actual investigating, Jessica snoops in her things to find out what she’s uncovered about the case. Liz catches her, and Jessica mocks her for keeping secrets so she can compete with Tom, instead of trying to solve the case and get justice.

Tom talks to Carlos, the waiter he gave the “buena suerte” bill to, and starts to think that Paul’s extorting the club employees who are working illegally. This makes a lot of sense, but I hate that Tom was the one to figure it out, because I don’t want him to be right about anything ever. Meanwhile, Scott and Elizabeth pose as lawyers so they can visit Brandon in lockup. Except Scott didn’t tell Liz that he’d planned this, which is pretty rotten of him, since I’m pretty sure they could get in a lot of trouble for this. All they really learn from their conversation with Brandon is that Dwayne may have figured out that Manuel was using someone else’s identity, and was killed so he couldn’t tell anyone.

Reception time! There’s a funny scene where Lila gets upset that Bruce isn’t dressed nicely enough for the reception at the club, so she fake-cries until he changes, because she knows Bruce can’t handle tears. If anyone else did this, I would be disgusted, but since it’s Lila, it cracks me up.

Jessica spots Tom and Dana making out, and she’s so surprised that she accidentally breaks character (as Perdita). Lila overhears her and figures out that she’s Jessica. Jess hightails it out of there. Elizabeth also sees Tom and Dana together, so Tom ditches Dana to try to get Liz to agree to work with him on the investigation. Scott shows up, as he always does, and Tom’s so mad to see him that he decides not to tell Elizabeth anything he’s learned, since she would inevitably give the information to Scott. Lila tracks down Jessica but doesn’t care what “Perdita” and “Chip” are up to as long as it doesn’t keep her and Bruce from becoming VIP members.

Congressman Krandall addresses the guests at the reception, and Bruce seems to be the only one surprised that it’s really a fundraiser. Why else would a politician hold an event for rich people? Bruce refuses to give Krandall any money. While he and Lila are fighting about this, Tom overhears him mention that he gave Paul a check after he was hustled, so now Tom is confused about where Paul got all that cash, including the “buena suerte” bill.

Tom goes looking for Carlos, but he’s busy, so Tom tries to talk to a busboy instead. The busboy doesn’t seem to speak English, but Tom knows someone who speaks Spanish: Perdita! Ha, I knew this would come back to bite Jessica. He pulls Jess in to translate, but unfortunately, Carlos arrives before she can really make a fool of herself. Carlos warns Tom to stop snooping around. While Tom’s trying to figure out if Carlos is threatening him or helping him, Jessica breaks her cover again. Tom tries to get her to tell him about the investigation, but she won’t.

Lila’s mad enough at Bruce to tell him they’re through. She can put up with a lot, but not a cheapskate! She thinks Bunny’s bored with Paul, so she just needs to get in good with him to be able to stay at the club. Speaking of Paul, the van Jessica saw him driving has been found abandoned with a few dozen people inside. Nick and Jessica are sent to talk to one of the people, who reveals that they were brought over the Mexican border after being promised papers and jobs by a guy using the name Wil E. Coyote. So Nick and Jessica head out to check out the van. Tom sees them and follows, while Elizabeth and Scott see him and follow.

While this caravan of fools drives around, Bruce goes back to the club and announces that people are being extorted. Carlos thinks he’s uncovered the whole illegal-worker thing, but Bruce is just talking about Paul’s hustling. Lila hopes that the two guys start fighting over her. Oh, Lila. Bruce makes a big scene, then leaves, stealing the trophy from the tennis tournament Lila fixed. Lila falls in the pool. I don’t know.

The others all meet up at the van, where Nick almost shoots everyone because it’s a little sketchy for people to be tailing a cop. He’s pretty ticked that reporters are running around, getting involved in this investigation but not sharing any information. He’s ready to arrest everyone, even though he doesn’t actually have anything to charge them with. Jessica tricks everyone into getting into the van (AKA the crime scene – come on, Jess), then says they can only get out when they start working together. She wants them to feel the way the immigrants felt when they were abandoned in the van.

Nick, Elizabeth, Tom, and Scott finally start sharing information, which leads to them deciding that Congressman Krandall is Wil E. Coyote, and he was using fake votes from illegal immigrants. They also think that Paul was extorting the illegal employees at the club, so they were getting doubly screwed. They ask to be let out of the van, but Jessica’s in no position to help them – Paul has followed them all out there and has stuffed her in the front of the van, which he plans to drive into a reservoir.

Jessica accidentally knocks herself out, which is pretty spectacular. When she comes to, she manages to get out of the van, like I’m so sure Jess was able to jump out of a moving vehicle without killing herself. She heads off to get help, and just happens to come across Bruce (who, hilariously, doesn’t realize at first that Perdita and Jessica are the same person). They head after the van as Jessica fills Bruce in on Paul’s crimes.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth figures that Jessica’s dead, and though the others convince her that Jess is probably okay, they know they’re going to have to save themselves. They face off with Paul, who reveals that Dwayne wasn’t murdered after all. Paul was just going to beat him up, but when he threw Dwayne in the lake, he quickly discovered that Dwayne couldn’t swim. Also, nothing bad happened to Manuel; they just sent him back to Mexico. (Later, Jessica finds out that he was one of the immigrants in the van, having come back across the border for another shot.)

Paul’s accomplice arrives, and the investigators realize that Paul isn’t Wil E. Coyote. So who is? It’s Carlos, the waiter Tom gave the “buena suerte” bill to. This was a nice twist I didn’t see coming. Paul plans to kill all the investigators, starting with Elizabeth. He shoots at her, but Tom shields her, because they’ve kind of reconnected and she’s given him a reason to live, or something. Carlos doesn’t think Paul’s plan is the way to go, and Tom seizes on his conscience to try to talk him out of helping Paul any longer.

It’s a moot point anyway, because rescue comes in the form of Jessica. She shows up with Bruce’s tennis racket and helps the captives overpower their captors. Carlos ends up with the gun, but Tom talks him into not using it. Then Bruce arrives and knocks Carlos out with the tennis trophy. Then Lila shows up, somehow. Why are all these people driving around in the middle of nowhere at the same time? The bad guys are taken into police custody, and Elizabeth and Tom come close to kissing.

The whole mess with the club leads to Lila deciding that she doesn’t want to be a VIP member after all. Also, she’s turned on by how brave and strong he was. He hit someone with a trophy, Li. Calm down. Tom covers the story on SVUTV, and Scott encourages Elizabeth to write about it for the paper. He also makes out with her, and this time, she’s into it. Too bad he’s about to leave – he was accepted into some investigative-reporting school in Denver. He thinks Liz should apply, too. And in other career news, Jessica announces to Nick that she wants to leave SVU to become a police officer. He tells her he wants to leave the police force and go back to school. Womp womp!

Thoughts: Why no, I don’t know why the book is called Undercover Angels. Thanks for asking.

Bruce: “I’m not obsessing. I’m venting. There’s a difference.” I’m stealing that for future use.

Dana wears zebra-print jeans. ICK.

Lila carries a papier-mâché clutch shaped like a sea cow. Uh, what? Rich people are weird.

My favorite thing in this book as how Jessica keeps saying “adios” and running away from Tom before he can completely figure out who she really is.

Nick gets mad at Tom and kicks the van. Jessica: “Why are you kicking the van?” Nick: “Because it’s illegal to kick him.” Hee.

Elizabeth with a gun pointed at her: “Yikes!” Okay, Liz.

“We’re just two college students, completely unarmed except for a tennis racket and a tin trophy cup. What am I supposed to do? Yell ‘Freeze or I’ll double fault’?” Bruce, you’ve just given me a great idea for a unique new action hero…

March 31, 2015

SVU #34, Spy Girl: These People Aren’t Exactly Giving James Bond a Run for His Money

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , at 8:16 pm by Jenn

Twin with bangs, I said no!

Twin with bangs, I said no!

Summary: You may recall that in the previous book, Nick finally agreed to let Jessica partner with him for a case. He needs a woman to accompany him to the country club where everyone’s been hanging out, so he tells Jess to get ready to go undercover. Because Nick is an idiot in so many ways, he doesn’t bother to tell her what kind of undercover assignment they’ll be on, so she dresses like a hooker and goes to meet him on a street corner. Nick is also somewhat in disguise, accidentally dressed like a nerd, and they don’t recognize each other. He thinks she’s some criminal he’s busted before, and she thinks he’s a geek from high school.

Once they sort things out, Jessica confesses that she told Lila she was going to go undercover, which means she and Nick will both need to get really good disguises before they go to the country club. Jessica says she’s channeling Eva Peron, wearing vintage clothes, dyeing her hair black, and calling herself Perdita del Mar (which roughly translates to Lost from the Sea, and how I wish it translated to Lost at Sea). Nick becomes Chip, a preppy who I doubt Eva Peron would ever associate with, but whatever.

At the club, everyone falls all over themselves to impress “Perdita.” She makes up a bunch of stuff about Argentina, and everyone pretends it’s right because who’s going to correct the hot chick? Jess manages to fool everyone – including her best friend AND HER OWN TWIN – until Liz gets up close to her and realizes, “Hey, this woman has my EXACT FACE!” I’m thinking that Liz might want to go into something other than investigative reporting.

Speaking of which, Elizabeth and Scott are still investigating Dwayne’s murder, under the guise of writing a story about a tennis tournament. Scott is having trouble with boundaries, even though Elizabeth has told him straight out that nothing is going to happen between them, and that they need to stay professional. Liz goes back and forth between doing exactly the right things and being too wimpy to tell Scott when he’s making her uncomfortable and generally being a creep.

Meanwhile, Tom realizes that he doesn’t actually like Dana as more than a friend, and that he’s been using her to try to get over Liz. He breaks things off with her, but quickly starts stringing her along again when he needs a partner to get back into the country club. Dana is too vindictive to care what’s going on; she’s just happy to keep Tom from spending time with Elizabeth.

The investigation has few developments, but Elizabeth learns of the disappearance of an employee named Manuel and steals a letter he never received. It’s addressed to a Manoel instead of a Manuel, and it mentions that his voting location has changed. But Elizabeth was told that Manuel barely speaks English, which means he’s probably not a citizen, which means he wouldn’t be allowed to vote. So I’m guessing the whole murder mystery/cover-up has to do with the club violating employment laws by hiring non-citizens, and people being killed because they threatened to blow the whistle.

Meanwhile, Tom gets chummy with a waiter and catches him collecting money from some of his co-workers. The waiter claims that it’s for someone’s birthday. Tom offers up a $10, writing “buena suerte” (good luck) on it. Later, he spots the bill in a stack of money Paul (see below) has, and wonders how it got to a club member instead of the employee he was told it was going to.

Throughout the book, Elizabeth and Tom keep crossing each other’s paths and competing over who can solve the case first. I’m sure Dwayne’s family would be happy to know that two reporters are vying to see who can find his murderer first – not to get justice, but to make each other mad. Eventually they agree that they should work together, and they let down their guards long enough to almost kiss. Then Scott pops up and pretends that Liz was just using Tom to get information. Tom storms off, and the rivalry is back on. Thanks a lot, Scott.

Lila has somehow been put in charge of the tennis tournament, which people imply to her needs to be rigged. While she’s working on that and sucking up to the other country club socialites, Bruce is stuck hanging out with Paul, the fiancé of Bunny, a girl Bruce once dated (and ditched without formally breaking up with her). Paul is…dumb. So dumb he would spell it dum. He can also barely walk five steps without falling over. He and Bruce start playing tennis, and Bruce slaughters Paul. Paul thinks he’s doing okay and asks if they can play for money. Bruce actually feels bad for taking the guy’s money – Bruce is possibly a pod person in this miniseries – but he figures he should get a reward for having to spend time with Paul.

The games continue, and Paul still sucks but keeps raising the stakes. Poor, naïve Bruce keeps agreeing to the bets, because he doesn’t know that this is a classic hustling technique. Indeed, Paul suddenly becomes a tennis star and beats Bruce over and over, collecting a bunch of money from him. Ticked that he was made a fool of, Bruce calls the police and anonymously reports that Paul stole money. But Bruce is dumb, and the police simply ask Paul where the money came from, and when he says he won it, the police are like, “You’re dumber than he is, Patman.”

Thoughts: “Barely two weeks had passed since he’d seen her tramping around the quad with Todd Wilkins.” “Tramping”? I HATE YOU SO MUCH, TOM WATTS.

“His father is Sweet Valley’s number one congressman.” Sweet Valley has its own Congress?

Who drinks iced tea with lime? Is that a super-rich-people thing?

Paul calls Bruce “old chum” and “dear chap.” Shut up, Paul.

I’m so sad that none of the Spanish-speaking club employees speaks Spanish to Jessica and busts her for not really being fluent.

Elizabeth doesn’t recognize Jessica’s voice as Perdita? Mmm-hmm, sure.

March 17, 2015

SVU #33, Out of the Picture: You’ll Find Me in Da (Country) Club

Posted in books tagged , , , , , , , at 8:08 pm by Jenn

Twin with bangs: No

Twin with bangs: No

Summary: For this book, we have to pretend that the previous four never happened, and that it’s only been a few days since Gin-Yung died. We start at her funeral, where everyone is understandably somber, but somehow Elizabeth is the saddest. Interesting, since they were never friends and both wanted the same guy. Todd is also wrecked, and he decides he needs time to himself to mourn, so he and Elizabeth are over. Again. For the 19th time. After the 20th, they get a free sub!

Elizabeth decides to sweep aside the breakup and all the other messes she’s been in through the SVU series, and make a fresh start. She quits the TV station and joins SVU’s paper, the Gazette. What’s awesome is that Liz, star reporter and editor of the Oracle, is a big ol’ nothing at the Gazette. No one cares that she edited her high school paper because everyone at the Gazette did the same. I think a lot of the time Elizabeth forgets that she’s a freshman, and that freshmen have no standing anywhere.

Pretty much the only person who’s happy to have Elizabeth at the paper is Scott, who’s obviously in love with her. He keeps trying to spend time with her, and he’s gotten a little touchy-feely. It makes Liz uncomfortable, but she tells herself that he doesn’t mean any harm. Yeah, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell him to stop. It doesn’t matter what someone’s intentions are – if his/her behavior makes you uncomfortable, speak up. Okay, end PSA.

Elizabeth is assigned to do a fluff piece about the Verona Springs Country Club. She’s mad that she’s given such a softball, and the editor reminds her that she’ll have to work to get to the juicier stories. But Liz does some research and comes across a better story: a murder. The body of Dwayne Mendoza, an SVU student who worked at the club as a caddy, was found in the lake. The club kept the murder quiet for a week before going to the police, more worried about protecting their reputation than getting justice. Yeah, that’s not shady at all. Also, no one at SVU seems to know about the murder. Dwayne’s things were found in another caddy’s locker, so it looks like that caddy robbed and murdered Dwayne, but obviously that’s not the case, since the police are still investigating (more on that later).

While this is going on, Tom’s father, George, is still trying to reach out to him, because he thinks Tom should be over the fact that George hit on Elizabeth. He sends Tom two memberships to Verona Springs, encouraging him to give one to Elizabeth. Because there’s nothing a college freshman wants more from her ex, who dumped her because he believed his father over her, than permission to wear tennis whites and hang out with snobby rich people. Shut up, George.

Tom takes Dana to the club instead, even though Dana is, like, totally punk rock, yo, and completely the opposite of everyone at the club. I’m surprised they let her through the gates.  They run into Elizabeth and Scott, and everyone is really awkward with each other. Then they encounter a gardener named Juan, who’s Dwayne’s uncle. He obviously knows something about Dwayne’s murder but is too scared to say anything. Tom decides to investigate as well, and hopefully beat Elizabeth and Scott to the scoop. Oh, and then Scott kisses Elizabeth, and she’s like, “When did I ever give you the impression that I wanted your lips on me, creep?”

Jessica is obsessed with playing cop – she wants to go on a stakeout with Nick, who keeps insisting that it’s too dangerous. Also, they don’t just let random people go on stakeouts. Of course, Jessica has never heard a “no” she can’t turn into a “yes,” so she keeps bugging Nick no matter how many times he refuses. This somehow turns into her saying that she wants to be a cop herself. It also somehow leads to Nick deciding that he needs to choose between his job and his girlfriend. He decides he’ll take one last case – the murder investigation at Verona Springs – and then quit.

Nick is paired with another cop, Eileen, and they go undercover at the country club. Jessica goes nuts over this. How dare her boyfriend work with a woman who’s not her, after he told her the job was too dangerous for her! How dare he do his job and accept the partner who was assigned to him! How dare he speak to another female! Eileen has to leave the case to be with her ailing father, so Nick’s chief suggests that he take Jessica to the club in her place. Yeah, okay.

Jessica thinks Nick’s cheating, so she takes all his stuff to the police station and throws it at him, screaming about what a jerk he is. Hilariously, other cops can be heard in the background, egging her on. Nick tells Jess that she wins – she can be his partner. Because the best way to handle Jessica is to give her exactly what she wants.

Lila is affected by Gin-Yung’s death more than you would expect – it makes her remember losing her husband, the count. Bruce can relate because he lost Regina. Not really the same, but okay. He tries to cheer Lila up with trips to the country club, and she develops a new obsession: VIP membership. She and Bruce are currently just “couples only” members, which I guess means they can only go to the club with each other, but being VIP members would give them access to more areas of the club. I find it hard to believe that they’re not VIP members because of their families, or that they haven’t just bought their way to the top echelon.

Lila’s in for VIP membership is Pepper Danforth, and you can tell from her name exactly what kind of person she is. People named Pepper are usually snooty (exception: Pepper Potts). Pepper is a horrible human being, and hanging out with her makes Lila start acting like her. Amazingly, Bruce doesn’t like her new behavior, and is actually offended by how horribly they treat the staff at Verona Springs. When did Bruce develop human feelings?

Thoughts: The police hang out at a coffee shop called the Mug Shot, which is owned by a former crime-scene photographer. That is brilliant.

Jessica, after learning that Nick and Eileen are going undercover together: “Exactly what kind of covers do you two plan to be under?” Also brilliant.

With all the gossip we know goes on at SVU, how is it possible that a student died and no one heard about it? Wouldn’t the newspaper have run an article about it? Wouldn’t the administration have said something? Why is this the least believable part of the book?

Dana wears a purple dress and red sneakers to the country club. Even Claudia Kishi would class it up more than that.

Dana also calls Dwayne’s uncle “some old Mexican dude,” despite not knowing his ethnicity, which is awesome because I already hated her, and now I feel justified.

December 23, 2014

SVU #29, One Last Kiss: That’s One Less Love Triangle to Deal With

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

I still don't believe that's Todd. He doesn't look the way I've always pictured him

I still don’t believe that’s Todd. He doesn’t look the way I’ve always pictured him

Summary: Things n Sweet Valley have been too happy for too long, so it’s time for someone to die. As Todd and Elizabeth learned in the previous book, Gin-Yung has an inoperable brain tumor and not much time to live. She’s now in the hospital, dying a particularly unpretty death. I’m actually surprised the series doesn’t soften things a bit. But no, Gin-Yung must suffer. And Elizabeth must suffer, too, because somehow, this poor girl’s death is about her.

So anyway, Todd wants to be with Gin-Yung during her final days, since she wants him there. This means he and Elizabeth have to spend time apart. Poor, poor Liz. It’s so hard being beautiful and healthy and having so many guys want you. Like, Gin-Yung will be dead in a matter of days, and then Todd is all yours. Chill. Gin-Yung’s sister Kim gets Todd to promise that he’ll hang around so Gin-Yung can get what she wants. Kim is kind of annoying, but then again, at one point Todd thinks about how he doesn’t have time to sit at his ex’s deathbed, so maybe they’re both jerks.

There are a bunch of scenes of Todd and Gin-Yung spending time together as her health declines. He starts regretting that they can’t still be together. But there will be no miraculous recovery for Gin-Yung. After sharing a final kiss with Todd, who promises he’ll always love her, she dies. ‘Bye, Gin-Yung! I thought you were cool!

Elizabeth has been avoiding the SVU TV studio so she doesn’t have to deal with Tom, but she realizes that she shouldn’t have to give up something she likes because of a stupid boy. As soon as she returns to the studio, she meets another stupid boy. Scott Sinclair is interning for the station, since he wants to switch from print to TV journalism. I’m not completely sure he actually goes to SVU, though. Or maybe he’s going back to school? I don’t know. Anyway, he and Liz immediately hit it off, and he encourages her to give up TV journalism and go back to print. I guarantee that not one reader cares about this.

While all this is going on, Jessica is being a flipping idiot. She thinks her relationship with Nick is boring and that they need to do something exciting. By the way, her ideas of exciting activities aren’t actually exciting. Girl just wants to go to the beach. Jess seems to think that dating a cop should be a lot more interesting than it is. When Nick has to leave an evening with her to go on a stakeout, Jessica tries to invite herself along. Nick manages to leave without her, but then she takes a message from one of his fellow cops asking him to bring a hub cap to the stakeout. Jessica thinks it has to do with their investigation, so she takes the hub cap to Nick, all, “Yay, I’m going to be a hero!”

At the stakeout, which is at a chop shop, Nick and the other cops face off with the criminals. One of the criminals is about to shoot Nick without Nick realizing it. Jessica tries to Frisbee the hub cap at the guy, and though she fails, she at least distracts him enough for Nick to overtake him. Then there’s a shootout, and Nick is cornered again, this time with Jessica beaning the criminal with a wrench to save her boyfriend.

Now Jessica thinks she’d be an awesome cop. Never mind that the hub cap had nothing to do with the case and was just something Nick had picked up as a favor for a co-worker. Jessica wants to team up with Nick and become an awesome crime-fighting duo. Nick realizes that he’s never going to be able to work as a cop and date Jessica at the same time. Because she’s bananas. But you knew that.

Having learned in the last book that Elizabeth was telling the truth about Tom’s father hitting on her, Tom goes to confront the creepster. His father is pretty much unapologetic about the whole thing, so Tom decides to cut him off. He also realizes that he’s still madly in love with Elizabeth, even though he’s been dating Dana.

After a talk with Danny, Tom decides to write Elizabeth a letter telling her he knows that she was right about his father the whole time, and how sorry he is that he screwed things up. Elizabeth goes off with Scott, so she doesn’t see the letter at the station before Dana does. She’s realized that Tom still loves Elizabeth, and she’s determined to keep her man. (I don’t know what the appeal is.) Later, Tom returns to the station, and since the letter’s gone, he thinks Elizabeth read it. He’s all hopeful until he sees Liz comforting Todd over Gin-Yung’s death and realizes she doesn’t want him back. Yeah, move on, Tom. I hate this love triangle.

Thoughts: Todd hits the denial stage of grief early: “Maybe she’s just exhausted from her trip – a bad case of jet lag or something.” Yes, Todd. Neurologists often confuse fatigue and brain tumors. I’ve heard that jet lag often manifests itself on MRIs, too.

“I don’t want Gin-Yung to die. But if Gin-Yung lives, I can never be with Elizabeth again.” Todd sure has his priorities in order.

I thought Dana was okay before – now suddenly she’s a jerk? Where did that come from?

Jessica should have been arrested for interfering with police business and endangering people’s lives. I wish people could also be arrested for being complete morons.

Apparently Alice likes to say, re: traveling, “If you accidentally leave something behind, it means that you never wanted to go.” That’s stupid. What if you just have a bad memory? Shut up, Alice.