Posted in Nightmare Mansion

Sweet Valley Twins #100: If I Die Before I Wake

Sweet Valley Twins #100: If I Die Before I Wake by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #100: If I Die Before I Wake by Jamie Suzanne

Title: If I Die Before I Wake

Tagline: The final title in the scary Nightmare Mansion mini-series

Summary: On a hill on the outskirts of Sweet Valley sits a beautiful old Victorian house—empty until a big family move in… the perfect clients for Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield’s new baby-sitting service.

Identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and their friends have learned one thing from baby-sitting for the Riccoli family: dreams can come true… and so can nightmares. When the fire in Andrew Riccoli’s dream turned to real flames, the twins took action. They killed the evil creature—half girl, half monster—in the kids’ nightmares.

Before she killed them.

But now the creature has left the kids’ nightmares to terrorize them in real life. And waking nightmares are the scariest of them all.

Don’t go to sleep, Sweet Valley… you may never wake up!

Initial Thoughts:

I hate this series (Too Scared to Sleep, The Beast is Watching You and The Beast Must Die). I hated it when it started. I hated it when it got worse and I can personally guarantee I’m going to hate having to read the next 44k words (the previous books were approx. 29-32k—this is too many boring words).

I can’t tell whether this is badly written or not, because nothing has happened so far and nothing’s going to happen now.

I hate this. This is the worst part of this series. I know there are books that have worse messages or themes, but the obnoxious length of this fucking series takes the piss. Nobody needs 100k+ words where NOTHING happens.

Also, I think it’s time for a short rant about where I’m at with this incredibly stupid mini-series.

1) Steven. He is an utter waste of space and I hope he dies. I think I mentioned, either in the recap or podcast of The Older Boy, that there would come a point where I was just done with Steven. This mini-series is it. There isn’t a single redeeming feature of his scenes. He’s so stupid I’m actually worried that Ned and Alice are wilfully neglecting a child that is limited in his comprehension of the universe. Or that they are ignoring that their fully functioning child is actually becoming a manchild because of their indulgence. I suspect the latter. He acts like an asshole, nobody cares. He shirks his job. Nobody cares. He actively destroys not only Wakefield property, but the property of others too. Nobody cares. The last book ended with him being arrested, and I’m just guessing at the outcome here, but I bet that nobody cares.

His attitude is one of pure arrogance and entitlement. He doesn’t want to apologise for terrifying five children as “a joke” because he doesn’t understand what he did wrong. If he’s laughing, what’s the problem? He thinks he’s entitled to Karen, the hot daughter of one of his lawn mowing clients, simply because he perceives himself as far more attractive and interesting than every other dude on the planet.

Really? This is how idiotic, immature, entitled, incel, rapists are created. A+ parenting, Wakefields.

2) The parents (Riccolis and Wakefields). So, Mrs Riccoli has to be in Florida. Mr Riccoli has vanished from the narrative, because none of the Jamies swapped notes (or a single Jamie is overwhelmed by a four-book deal). And the Wakefields are like, “Yep, I think it’s totally ok that my twelve year olds are responsible for five children, when I wouldn’t let them stay at their own home for a few days without a baby-sitter.”

3) The Baby-Sitters Club. Ok, so you see that your rival book series has a far more interesting hook than “stuff happens but TWINS”, and you rip it off and then you… do fuck all with it. There are five kids in this club, but what do we have? The twins baby-sitting and a their muppet brother riding a lawnmower into whatever doesn’t get out of his way. The baby-sitting is frankly irresponsible. I haven’t dived deep into BSC (but damn, do I love the Netflix show) but their baby-sitting adventures actually show that you must care for the kids, rather than just bitch about how much you get paid. Yes, Jessica is oddly good at looking after kids, but everyone else’s baby-sitting skills range from not bad to screamingly incompetent (Winston giving 8 month old babies soda, for example).

4) The “plot”. The plot treads water for four books. Nothing happens. We’re made to believe that the plot will move forward, but it doesn’t. Nightmares. Oooh. More nightmares. Oooh. Even more nightmares. For fuck’s sake, is this going to escalate or not, because I’m finding it hard to care that Jessica’s sweater got a rip in it after a dream. There’s something going on with Alice, what about that? Well, that’s doing a big fat tread water too. We’ve had eight billion flashbacks to show that Alice baby-sat at that house and Eva had nightmares/sleepwalked. Wow. Such scary. Many engaged.

5) Fluff. Basically, this should be a two-book series, and the b-plots should be removed entirely. While we’re deleting pointless shit, let’s get rid of the monster POV scenes at the beginning and end of each book. They’re boring, pointless and add literally nothing to the story. Bye.

I FUCKING HATE THIS BADLY-PLOTTED MESS OF A MINI-SERIES. tl;dr: I wish Team Grapplegate had been handed this series. They are capable of being funny and sassy.

[Raven: This. All of this. All of this and more.]

[Wing: Dove hit so many points, so I’ll just add that we should take a look at the summary. Specifically: They killed the evil creature—half girl, half monster—in the kids’ nightmares. The last book ended on a cliffhanger. What you do not do is spoil the resolution to that cliffhanger in the summary of the next book. Yes, even if it is clear to us that none of the main characters (or, hell, the supporting characters) will day. Yes, even if it is a flat-out lie like that. Look, I get it, the summary for this was probably written before the last book was finished, but come. the fuck. on. We cannot even get consistency in that?]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #95: Battle of the Cheerleaders

Sweet Valley Twins #95: The Battle of the Cheerleaders by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #95: The Battle of the Cheerleaders by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Battle of the Cheerleaders

Tagline: Aaron Dallas? In a skirt?

Summary: War between the sexes…

Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and their friends have joined the girls’ basketball team. They ask the boys’ team to come and root for them—it’s only fair, since the Boosters cheer at every one of the boys’ games. But the boys say no way—girls’ sports are stupid.

Outraged, the girls boycott the boys’ games. And once the Boosters stop cheering, the undefeated boys’ team starts losing… and keeps losing.

The superstitious boys are getting desperate. They need the girls in order to win. After the boys beg and beg, the girls finally agree to come back under one condition: they not only want the boys to come to their games, they want boy cheerleaders!

Initial Thoughts:

I don’t really have any beyond the fact that the last line of the last book was that the twins were like, “OMG! Why have I never played basketball before? It’s super awesome!” and my feeling was very much: They have.

In fact, Jessica’s hobby of choice was basketball in Steven’s Enemy… admittedly because of the wide array of cute boys that play it, but even so, she cared then. And I’m sure in the earlier books before we started tracking such things, she’s played on the school team. [Raven: Elizabeth also coached Ken Matthews to a standard that allowed him to win a spot on the team. With a tennis ball.] [Wing: #4, Choosing Sides, is where Elizabeth coached Ken after Steven, basketball genius (and apparently coaching genius, too) failed. In #20, Playing Hooky, Jessica’s the fucking star of the SVMS sixth grade girls basketball team. #47, Jessica’s New Look, has at least one of her dates with Aaron to watch the Lakers play. #82 is Steven’s Enemy, in case you want to go back and see yet another book where Jessica discovered her love of basketball. So yeah, I’m going to have a hard time giving this book a fair chance because I am so goddamn annoyed that (a) the twins are discovering basketball all over again, (b) they have to create a sixth grade girls basketball team, and (c) I’m pretty sure there’s a continuity error around the boys team, too.]

Also, Jessica’s been on a bunch of dates with Aaron to see the Lakers play – partly because Aaron was wowed by Jessica’s obvious knowledge and enjoyment of the game, rather than just “yay, date!”

So basically, I’m coming in to a completely new book with a chip on my shoulder thanks to the clumsiness of the previous Jamie, who may well not be this Jamie.

Also, it’s about sexism, so, y’know, I suspect I’ll be a mite tetchy throughout.

Note: Any spelling mistakes or random lines of characters should have been edited out. But if not, I have kittens. Kittens who think the tippy-tappy of my soft keyboard is the most magic thing ever and must be pounced on.

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Posted in Super Chillers

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #9: Evil Elizabeth

Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #9: Evil Elizabeth by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #9: Evil Elizabeth by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Evil Elizabeth

Tagline: Who’s afraid of Elizabeth Wakefield? [Dove: Somehow, everyone and no one.]

Summary: Everyone thinks of Elizabeth Wakefield as the nice twin. That’s why she loves her Halloween mask – it’s so scary that no one can believe Elizabeth is behind it.

But her appearance isn’t the only thing that changes when Elizabeth puts on the mask – little by little it makes Elizabeth act evil… only Elizabeth doesn’t know it. It’s up to her twin sister, Jessica, to destroy the mask… before Elizabeth does something she’ll regret forever.

Initial Thoughts:

OMG, we’re here. WE’RE HERE! WE’RE FINALLY AT EVIL ELIZABETH.

THE TITLE LITERALLY EXPLAINS WHO SHE REALLY IS!

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chillers #9: Evil Elizabeth (cover by Dove)

I’ve been looking forward to this one for awhile now, although I’m now coming at it from the point of view of someone who’s feeling less hateful to Elizabeth. I still think she’s beige fucking paint, and has no hope of a career as a fiction writer, but of late her parents have both put pressure on her to be a grownup, and treated her like a kid. Her boyfriend turned into a massive himbo over Valentine’s day, and a week or so later, he nearly dated her cousin – thanks to her identical twin ruining her life.

So… I do honestly wonder if this will impact how I feel about Elizabeth and this book overall.

But for now, have a cover. Sometimes the simplest things are the best. I basically copied that very famous meme.

[Raven: Best cover yet!]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #90: The Cousin War

Sweet Valley Twins #90: The Cousin War by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #90: The Cousin War by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Cousin War

Tagline: Guess who’s dating Robin’s dream guy!

Summary: The boyfriend battle…

Identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are delighted when their cousin Robin comes to Sweet Valley for a visit. They can’t wait for Robin to meet their friends—and maybe even find a date in time for the Girls-Ask-Boys Dance at Sweet Valley Middle School.

When Robin meets Todd Wilkins, she’s certain he’s the one for her. But she’s in for a big surprise: Todd already has a girlfriend—and her name is Elizabeth Wakefield! Will Robin have to fight her own cousin to win the boy of her dreams?

Initial Thoughts

Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no. I hate love triangles. I know, I know, this is not the series for that (at least when we get to SVH, I’ve heard), but god, I hate love triangles, I hate girls fighting over a boy, I hate the tagline and the summary.

I am not looking forward to this book.

[Dove: Well, I hate love triangles. I hate Robin. I pretty much hate Sweet Valley High’s format of using boy trouble as plots A, B and C in a single book. This is just going to be awesome isn’t it? … Or…?]

[Raven: Pretty much sick of love-centric stories in this series. They always devolve into everyone going “well, we’re not really boyfriend and girlfriend, even though we’ve been together for forty damn books. Look, I just wanna snog this hot newcomer, k?”]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #85: Elizabeth the Seventh-Grader

Sweet Valley Twins #85: Elizabeth the Seventh-Grader by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #85: Elizabeth the Seventh-Grader by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Elizabeth the Seventh-Grader

Tagline: Elizabeth is getting ahead!

Summary: High expectations…

Elizabeth Wakefield is thrilled when she hears the news: her teachers want to skip her to seventh grade! Everyone is proud of her—except her identical twin, Jessica, who wants her sister back in sixth grade where she belongs.

But Elizabeth vows to prove that she can make it as a seventh-grader—even if it means staying up all night to finish her homework, or sneaking out to a seventh-grade party.

Trying to meet everyone’s high expectations is turning Elizabeth into a zombie. Maybe she can make it as a seventh-grader, but does she want to?

Initial Thoughts

I have so many questions. Where are we in the school year? Last book was Valentine’s Day, so we are at the earliest in the second half of February, which means well into spring semester. Elizabeth probably has about three months of school left for the year. And even if we stick to the main series books, the last one felt like a spring semester book. Flu season generally is the heaviest in the first part of the year, and Shakespeare makes me think of second semester English class for some reason. Why the fuck would they promote her now instead of waiting until next fall and having her skip seventh grade completely? Am I really supposed to believe that Elizabeth would be happy to leave her twin, her friends, and the Sixers? Am I supposed to believe that she’d be happy with all this extra pressure when at the end of the last main series book she was annoyed at how much pressure her parents put on her and how they expect too much and she can’t measure up to it? Are you trying to tell me that Elizabeth sneaks out to a seventh-grade party? Unless Jessica is egging her on (and from earlier in the blurb, it sounds like she won’t be), I will not believe this at all.

So many questions. I’m sure the answers will be just fine. Just. Fine.

Elizabeth the Seventh Grader (cover by Dove)

[Dove: I really looked forward to Wing either explaining how this could or could not happen based on US logic, since skipping a school year isn’t a thing here. And she’s irritated before she’s even started. A good sign. Also, since we universally hate these ugly covers, have mine instead:]

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Posted in Super Editions

Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #5: Lila’s Secret Valentine

Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #5: Lila's Secret Valentine by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #5: Lila’s Secret Valentine by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Lila’s Secret Valentine

Tagline: Where is Lila’s valentine?

Summary: Caught in a lie…

Lila Fowler is dreading Valentine’s Day. She has no valentine, and she’s determined not to let her friends in the exclusive Unicorn Club know. So she tells everyone that she does have a boyfriend and sends herself flowers and candy to prove it. Her valentine’s name is Gray Williams, and he’s rich, cute and completely made up.

The Unicorns are totally impressed, and Lila is thrilled—until her friends pressure her into bringing Gray to the Valentine’s dance. How can she bring a date that doesn’t exist.

Initial Thoughts:

Today is Dove and I’s anniversary, so it should be a perfect time to recap a loved-up Valentine-themed book.

However, we’ve just had an argument, so the level of dewey-eyed gushiness this recap with entail remains to be seen. (Don’t worry, we rarely argue, and it’s all a storm in a teacup anyway.)

It’s a book about Lila, on the face of it, which is great. But I suspect there’ll be a lot of pre-teen mushiness, which I’m pretty meh about. We’ll see.

Also, I hate the new covers. I do like Dove’s rework, which I’m sure is displayed below.

Lila’s Secret Valentine (cover by Dove)

[Dove: I’m here for anything Lila, although we’ve reached the point where I kind of don’t remember what’s going on. I didn’t read it as a kid, and if I’ve read it since, it was a few years before we started recapping, so it’s all mush. On the other hand, I did enjoy making a Super Edition cover for this, which you can see here:]

[Wing: Ridiculously adorable cover. I’m guessing this book will have far too many misunderstandings that would be resolved if people would just talk to each other, but since most of them are twelve, I suppose I believe it.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #84: Romeo and Two Juliets

Sweet Valley Twins #84: Romeo and 2 Juliets by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #84: Romeo and 2 Juliets by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Sweet Valley Twins #84: Romeo and Two Juliets

Tagline: Will the real Juliet please stand up?

Summary: A battle for stardom…

Jessica Wakefield is dying to play the part of Juliet in the Sweet Valley Middle School production of Romeo and Juliet. But during the week of auditions, she comes down with an awful case of flu! The only way she can win the part now is by getting her twin, Elizabeth, to try out—pretending she’s Jessica!

Elizabeth reluctantly agrees. She has a great audition and wins the part for Jessica. But there’s a slight problem—Elizabeth falls in love with the part and won’t give it up!

Who will get to play Juliet?

Initial Thoughts

I have been earwormed because of that tagline.

And now you have, too.

Also, the answer to that question of who will play Juliet? I’m 99.9% certain it will be Jessica, and that other .1% is that it will be both of them and they’ll take turns. In part because acting is Jessica’s thing, and Elizabeth’s thing is writing, but also because despite recent events, Elizabeth has no spine, especially when it comes to giving in to Jessica.

Romeo and Two Juliets (cover by Dove)

[Dove: I second Wing’s theory. Doesn’t Jessica always get what she wants? Also, enjoy the alternative cover by me.

Just so you all know: I loathe Shakespeare – the stories are fine, I hate the wording that everyone finds so magical. Probably because I was forced to memorise a full act of the play overnight because Mrs Martin, the worst teacher in the world, gave an exaggeratedly spiteful punishment for talking during class. And, the following day when I had spent all night memorising, hadn’t slept, was reciting it in the shower, on the bus, during assembly in preparation, she said, “Oh, I can’t be bothered to listen to you. Go away.” That’s the kind of thing that makes you hate Shakespeare. Not the fault of Shakespeare, obviously, and I enjoy modern-day retellings, but in its pure form, I loathe it. So this book was a bit of a problem for me when everyone’s like, “Yay, Shakespeare!” my brain just went, “I still fucking hate Mrs Martin.”]

[Raven: On the other side of the coin, I love Shakespeare. I studied film, theatre and television at University, and have acted in a fair few Shakespearian productions. Personally, I think that liking Shakespeare is a direct corrolation to having a good English teacher. As Dove demonstrates above.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #81: Robbery At The Mall

Sweet Valley Twins #81: Robbery at the Mall by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #81: Robbery at the Mall by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Robbery at the Mall

Tagline: Shopping can be dangerous…

Summary: Elizabeth Wakefield and her friend Maria Slater are filming at the Valley Mall with Maria’s new video camera when a jewelry shop is robbed right in front of their eyes! Elizabeth can’t believe the criminal escaped in broad daylight through the crowded mall. She and Maria decide it’s time to start investigating.

Soon after, both the stereo store and the camera store are robbed. Elizabeth is desperate to crack the case. If only there were a clue… Then Maria’s house is robbed and her entire collection of video tapes is stolen. Why would anyone want Maria’s home movies? Finally Elizabeth thinks she has her clue.

Have she and Maria held the key to the mall mystery all along?

Initial Thoughts:

Ooooh, exciting! Some sixth graders are at the mall, and a robbery occurs.

In all seriousness, is sounds like a decent Plucky Girl Detective romp, and has gotta beat stuff like, I dunno, Ithig or Jonny Buck’s flying limousine.

Also, PINKEST COVER EVER! A pink cover showcasing two girls dressed in pink, outside a jewellers which has an odd essence of pink without being actually pink at all.

Finally, hello! You’re right, it HAS been a while.

[Dove: Maria looks like she’s about to twat Liz with that camera. I hope she does.]

[Wing: They are dressed far too much alike for me.]

[Raven: Also, apologies for the weird formatting. It’ll be back to normal asap!]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #79: Jessica’s Blind Date

Sweet Valley Twins #79: Jessica's Blind Date by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #79: Jessica’s Blind Date by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Jessica’s Blind Date

Tagline: Who is Jessica’s mystery man?

Summary: The boy of her dreams?

The sixth-grade newspaper at Sweet Valley Middle School has started running personal ads, and as far as Jessica Wakefield is concerned, it couldn’t have come at a better time. She and Aaron Dallas have nothing in common anymore. Jessica’s ready to find a new boyfriend in the pages of Sweet Valley Sixers.

Soon Jessica’s exchanging the most romantic letters with a mysterious admirer. Her new pen pal loves all the same things she does—even pineapple pizza! At last they decide to meet. It’s going to be the date of the decade. And is Jessica in for a surprise!

Initial Thoughts:

[Raven: Hello everyone! We’re back once again, with the ill behaviour. This week we have a recap (today) and a podcast (Friday), Next week, it’s our scheduled fallow week downtime, and them back on schedule for the following Monday and beyond. I hope you’ve missed us. We’ve missed you.]

Jessica’s Blind Date… interesting.

The cover is decent, although it would work just as well if the mystery chap substituted those flowers behind his back for a kitchen knife. [Dove: The Point Horror version of this would definitely have a knife.]

Jessica’s dress seems a little garish, but – spoilers – it’s a correct representation of the garment described in the relevant scene. Yay for accuracy!

[Wing: From the back, her date looks like he’s in his late teens. Has Jessica gone for an older boy again?]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #78: Steven the Zombie

Sweet Valley Twins #78: Steven the Zombie by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #78: Steven the Zombie by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Steven the Zombie

Tagline: Steven’s in for it now!

Summary: Has Jessica’s joke backfired?

While reading a book about old New Orleans, Jessica Wakefield learns all about voodoo and decides to try it out herself, She knows exactly who she’ll make a voodoo doll of—her brother, Steven, of course.

Incredibly, the doll works. Poor Steven is lurching and leaping and writhing for days. Jessica is exhilarated by her powers… until she loses control of them. Steven’s still moaning in pain, but Jessica’s not doing voodoo anymore. Now Steven’s a zombie, and it’s all her fault!

Initial Thoughts:

Sweet Valley is known for its sensitive approach to everything, so I’m certain that this won’t be 130 pages of exploitation. Right? *wide grin*

Also, if anyone’s been creeped out by the way Wing’s been all “OMG! I LOVE THIS SERIES! IT GIVES ME THE FEELS! I LOVE THIS CHARACTER! THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD!” etc., fingers crossed that this is the book that returns her to form. I have my explosion gif at the ready. [Raven: Marshmallows on sticks are go, people!] [Wing: Oh, god, the pressure. THE PRESSURE.]

Important Note: For anyone who wasn’t here for One of the Gang or skipped my lengthy intro there, I have a mobility disability. This means I use words that are off-limits to able-bodied people.

[Wing: I’m going to share a couple links here before any Wing Goes Boom moments may or may not happen. These talk about Halloween, because that’s when a lot of these conversations happen, but the application is broader.

On Halloween, Insensitivity Goes Beyond Kimonos And Black Face by Leah Donnella over on NPR’s Code Switch.

African Voodoo Should Not be Fodder for Halloween by Shantrelle Lewis over on The Root.]

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