Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #83: Amy’s Secret Sister

Sweet Valley Twins #83: Amy's Secret Sister by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #83: Amy’s Secret Sister by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Amy’s Secret Sister

Tagline: Amy has always wanted a sister…

Summary: The surprise of her life…

Amy Sutton has just made a discovery that will change her life forever: before her father married her mother, he was married to someone else. And not only that—he and his former wife had a baby. Amy has a sister!

Amy’s sister, Ashley, is only a year and a half older than Amy, and she’s coming to Sweet Valley to spend Thanksgiving with the Suttons. What will Ashley be like? How will she feel about Amy?

Amy is frantic with excitement and worry. Can an only child ever get used to having a sister?

Initial Thoughts:

Nice! Amy does Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Let’s hope that Ashley is a little less annoying than Dawn. [Wing: HDU. Dawn is wonderful.]

Actually, that’d be a great crossover. Amy is activated as a Slayer, and both the Wakefield twins are devastated that neither of them are the Chosen Ones. It’d be sweet to see a lank-haired spunkwaffle become a kickass baton-twirling bringer of demonic destruction. [Wing: …I may be writing this as soon as I finish my comments here. Which are late, because I got swept up in work and completely forget. Sorry, all!]

Quick note on the cover: I’m presuming Ashley is in the middle (wearing a HIDEOUS dress), hugginh Amy on the left. That makes the red nodad-waistcoated atrocity on the right Elizabeth. Loving the way she’s slightly out of shot, as if the Sutton Sisters are tired of her meddling. There’s a little of the “I’m important too!” in her overly-wide eyes. [Dove: There was much mirth on a skype call when Wing and I realised that Liz isn’t wearing a really long pink tie. That is, in fact, a candle.] [Wing: I still see a tie whenever I look at it. Takes a second for the candle truth to click. Every. Single. Time.]

To battle!

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Posted in Super Chillers

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #7: The Haunted Burial Ground

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #7: The Haunted Burial Ground by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #7: The Haunted Burial Ground by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Haunted Burial Ground

Tagline: Haunted…or tricked?

Summary: The Unicorn Club is throwing the best Halloween party Sweet Valley Middle School has ever seen! Lila Fowler’s dad has lent the girls a rundown shack in the woods—a perfectly spooky place for the party.

But as the Unicorns are fixing the shack, strange and scary things happen: Ellen Riteman discovers a human skull, Jessica Wakefield gets lost in a cave full of bats, and a mysterious girl appears out of nowhere to relay ghostly warnings.

Then the twins hear that the shack was built over an ancient Native American burial ground. Could the shack really be haunted? Or are the Unicorns the victims of a terrifying Halloween trick?

Initial Thoughts

Jesus fucking christ, that cover. That title. That summary. I know I went into The Unicorns Go Hawaiian expecting the worst and was pleasantly surprised, but the haunted burial ground trope is even worse, and even if it turns out to be a terrifying Halloween trick (and, no lie, I expect it to be about 50/50 as to whether it is supernatural or mundane when it comes to the Super Chillers), the stereotypes are likely to be horrific and offensive.

There has been some interesting analysis as to why the trope came into existance in the 80s. Here are a couple of links to get this started: TvTropes’ Indian Burial Ground, Jana Schmieding’s Bury My Guilt in an Indian Burial Ground, AVClub’s Read This: Digging up the origins of the “Indian burial ground” trope}, Atlas Obscura’s Why Every Horror Film of the 1980s Was Built On “Indian Burial Grounds”, and Northwest Public Broadcasting’s Horror Older Than America: Whitewashing Native Tales For A Mass-Market Audience.

From Schmieding’s piece (Schmieding is a Lakota writer):

All I know, from the point of view of one Lakota Native who enjoyed The Shining as much as you did but with one eyebrow raised, is that the only “ghost stories” I’ve ever heard from my own people are that of ancestors who carry wisdom, who aim to protect, who are considered sacred and powerful, and whose manifestations as malevolent only occur when they’re not talked about. When their story isn’t told. There’s a moral here that I hope you’re grasping. When someone tells you that their house is built on an Indian Burial Ground and it makes the hair stand up on your arms, ask yourself, “What am I really afraid of? Am I afraid of Indigenous people because of pop culture’s portrayal of them as unholy, spurned beasts of the underworld? Or am I afraid of my own willful ignorance of settler colonialism and modern Native issues? Am I afraid that Natives’ stories haven’t actually been told?” I’ll go ahead and assume that it’s a mix of all. But until Native filmmakers and television writers get a chance to scare the shit out of mainstream audiences with our own stories, we’re all stuck with supernatural microaggressions and embarrassingly coded displays of white guilt.

With all that in mind, here we go.

Super Chiller 7 – The Haunted Burial Ground (cover by Dove)

[Dove: My brain says that the Super Chillers went downhill after the covers changed, but in all honesty, maybe Christmas and Carnival Ghosts just set the bar and everything since has been hopelessly flailing at that bar ever since.

On another note, I don’t know if I’ve ever made it clear publicly, but god knows poor Wing has to patiently listen to me bitching about “the new covers” and “the geocities covers” like they’re the worst thing in the world. Every week. Every time we skype, I bring it up. So, in an attempt to put my money where my mouth is, I will be creating badge-style covers for the books from now on. Well, after this we have Amy’s Secret Sister, but after that we are officially switched over to the new covers. So, without further ado, here’s my first cover creation.

I’ve done much better covers after this – this was a bitch to render and I kind of screamed and gave up at some point. Elizabeth’s hair kept pushing through her face (don’t ask), and my computer kept falling over under the weight of the background. So, while it’s not the greatest cover, stick with me, I fully intend to get much better.]

[Wing: A billion times better than the actual cover for so many reasons.]

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Posted in Podcasts

Episode 34: The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley

Wing, Raven and Dove talk about Sweet Valley Twins 53: The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley. They also discuss Bleak Valley and how the book ties into this theory.

Music is provided by Stuart Taylor, who can be contacted on taylorstuart602@gmail.com if you wish to commission music.

You can read our recaps at Sweet Valley Online, tumblr or visit us at Facebook or Twitter (follow @SweetValley_)

Raven: Hello! How the flippin’ ‘eck are ya? Yeah, it’s been a while. Have you been hitting the gym? You look good. Nice shoes!

In April, we declared a short break. Turns out, it was a long break. But we’re back! This week it’s a podcast, recorded pre-break (the last of our “banked” material). And next week, it’s a recap from moi which is, quite frankly, rather odd. Then there’s Wing, then there’s Dove, and we’re back in the groove.

More recaps, more podacts, and more snark. And then it’s Christmas! Yay!

Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #69: Won’t Someone Help Anna?

Sweet Valley Twins #69: Won't Someone Help Anna by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #69: Won’t Someone Help Anna by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Won’t Someone Help Anna?

Tagline: Can Cammi help Anna survive at Middle School?

Summary: From the minute she arrives at Sweet Valley Middle School, everybody loves Anna Reynolds. She’s outgoing and funny—and almost as boy-crazy as the Unicorns! All of Anna’s new friends are especially impressed that she can handle the pressures of school as a hearing-impaired student.

The only one who isn’t impressed is Cammi Adams. For some reason, Cammi is convinced that Anna won’t last long at their school. When her prediction starts to come true. Cammi realizes that she may be the only one who can help Anna. But if she does, it will mean revealing a secret she wants to keep hidden forever!

Initial Thoughts:

ALERT! ALERT! A MINORITY HAS BREACHED THE TOWN DEFENSES!

DEPLOY THE WAKEFIELD AGENTS! JESSICA001 TO BULLY THE MINORITY INTO LEAVING, AND ELIZABETH001 TO BEFRIEND AND TERRIFY THE MINORITY. IF THEY DON’T SUCCEED, DEPLOY NYDICK001 WITH OPTIONAL WHIRLYCOCK ATTACHMENT.

*ahem*

[Dove: You missed out she’s a twofer. She’s both Asian and disabled. Sweet Valley will not tolerate this. The wall building will commence shortly.]

[Wing: Obligatory BURN SWEET VALLEY TO THE GROUND just to get us off on the right foot.]

To the text!

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #58: Elizabeth and the Orphans

Sweet Valley Twins #58: Elizabeth and the Orphans by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #58: Elizabeth and the Orphans by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Elizabeth and the Orphans

Tagline: Can Melissa and Andy make it on their own? [Raven: They’ve got to hold on to what they’ve got. It doesn’t make a difference if they make it or not. They’ve got each other, and that’s a lot. For love… they’ll give it a shot. #AndyUsedToWorkOnTheDocks.]

Summary: Friends in need…

Elizabeth Wakefield’s friend Melissa McCormick needs help. Her mother has suddenly died, leaving Melissa and her brother, Andy, alone. Their father left years ago, so they have only each other to depend on.

If the social workers find out that Melissa and Andy are now orphans, they will be put in separate foster homes. So Andy devises a plan: he and Melissa will get jobs to pay the bills and they’ll tell everyone that their father is returning home soon.

Only Elizabeth knows the truth, and she sees how fast the bills and responsibilities are piling up. She also knows she has to do something—the right thing—before it’s too late.

Initial Thoughts:

I have to be honest, I didn’t re-read this one after purchase. I really liked Melissa in a later book, Poor Lila, but I don’t know if her characterisation is the same in both. Honestly, I don’t like parent death books. It pisses me off. I know everyone’s grief process is different, but I have never once seen a kid in a book grieve like I did.

Backstory, my dad died when I was nine. (My well-meaning but idiotic family never explained he got cancer. They told me he had a stomach bug. This has left me with a deep-seated phobia of vomiting.) What happened was: he was healthy, he was sick for a few months, he died. I cried for about 20 minutes straight after hearing about it, and while I was intermittently sad for a period of time after, I was not broken. This event changed my life, obviously, but mostly because it left me in the care of an emotional abuser. I hate parent death books because most of the time the grief is gigantic and life-changing, and the parent is their best friend, even twenty years later the wound isn’t healed, and oh gosh, wouldn’t things just be perfect if dead parent was still alive?

For this reason, I try to avoid books with a parent death in them. So I read this once, maybe twice, for completest reasons, but never returned.

[Wing: Sorry, all, unexpected family stuff over the weekend, and I’m only having a chance to comment Monday, 20 August, around 10 a.m. Central USA time.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #55: Brooke and her Rock-Star Mom

Sweet Valley Twins #55: Brooke and her Rock-Star Mom by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #55: Brooke and her Rock-Star Mom by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Brooke and Her Rock-Star Mom

Tagline: Having a famous parent should be great… shouldn’t it? [Raven: I dunno, you don’t hear many people shouting stuff like “My dad’s Fred West!”]

Summary: A mom with a secret…

Brooke Dennis’s dream has come true. Her mother, who has been living in Paris, is moving back to Sweet Valley. When she returns, Brooke’s mother has a new family—and a new career. [Wing: This made me think the new family was supposed to be one of the surprises, which infuriated me, so thank god it wasn’t that.] It turns out that she is Coco, the incredible new rock singer all Sweet Valley is talking about!

Sweet Valley Twins #55: Brooke and her Rock-Star Mom (USA Cover)

When Brooke finds out that her mum is the cool new singer, she’s ecstatic—until she learns that she must keep her mother’s identity a secret. Coco’s agent thinks that if the public finds out that Coco has a family, it will ruin her image.

How is Brooke going to keep something so fabulous a secret—especially when all of her friends are going Coco crazy!

Initial Thoughts:

First off: the cover, as you can see, says “mum”, the British spelling, but the book itself says “mom” all the way through. Why bother changing the cover but not the content? We English have grown up on American books, we know what a “mom” is. We also figured out sneakers, trash cans, sidewalks, parking lots, and so forth. It’s ok, we can keep up. Ok, so we don’t totally get the American use of “jumper”, but mom/mum is pretty self-explanatory. [Raven: Fun Fact – originally, this book was entitled Brooke And Her Rock-Star Maoam.]

I’ve only read this book maybe once or twice in my tween-teen years. I only recently bought a copy when I was finishing my collection. At the time, I wasn’t all that fussed about it. It seemed like your standard Sweet Valley fare, OMG the angst I feel for being soooo soopah speshul! I’m rich and my mommy’s famous, cry meeee a riiiiivahhhh!. Reading it as an adult who is now aware of her issues? Yeah, this is not a healthy book at all.

#TeamBrooke (or #TeamBrookette)

OMG, THE SONG TITLES IN THIS BOOK.

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #53: The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley

Sweet Valley Twins #53: The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #53: The Slime That Ate Sweet Valley by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Slime that Ate Sweet Valley

Tagline: Will Jessica get slimed?

Summary: Best actress Jessica Wakefield?

It’s green. It’s gooey. It gobbles up humans. It’s The Slime that Ate Sweet Valley coming soon to a cinema near you and starring Jessica Wakefield!

At first, Jessica is thrilled to win the leading role in the Sweet Valley Middle School’s sixth-grade movie. But soon she learns that being an actress is hard work. When she discovers that she’ll actually have to kiss Winston Egbert and Randy Mason on camera, she begs her twin sister, Elizabeth, to rewrite the script. But it’s too late. The show must go on.

To Jessica, the only thing worse than getting gobbled up by The Slime is having to kiss two boys in front of all her friends!

Initial Thoughts:

I like this book. I actually wish the movie was a Sweet Valley book. It sounds like a NaNo project – a schlocky b-movie about an ooze that covers an adorably perfect town.

I have suggested that Raven write the script for the movie, complete with director’s/writer’s notes in the margin, for NaNo this year. He wasn’t completely opposed to it. So if I mention it here, hopefully Rosey and Jessica T will bully him into it. [Raven: No pressure… *eyeroll*]

Note: If I refer to the Slime as the Smooze, I’m not even sorry. NOTHING CAN STOP THE SMOOZE.

[Wing: I’m already fond of this book because it sounds like a Goosebumps story.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #51: Elizabeth the Impossible

Sweet Valley Twins 51: Elizabeth the Impossible by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 51: Elizabeth the Impossible by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Elizabeth the Impossible

Tagline: Has Jessica created a monster? [Dove: Well, evil begets evil, I suppose.]

Summary: Jessica Wakefield is convinced that her sister, Elizabeth, is perfect. Who else is as smart, friendly, and creative as her identical twin? So when Sweet Valley Middle School announces it will be choosing a Model Student, Jessica launches a secret campaign to make sure Elizabeth wins.

But Jessica doesn’t count on what happens. As soon as word gets out about the contest, Elizabeth takes becoming a Model Student a bit too seriously. She starts telling everyone what to wear, what to eat, and how to act. Elizabeth’s become positively bossy! Jessica would do anything to get the old Elizabeth back. What will it take to turn Elizabeth the Impossible back into the girl everyone knows and loves.

Initial Thoughts:

I deliberately swapped for this one. This is a book I love. I think it’s a joy to poke fun at Elizabeth, and this book really delivers.

Also, if you read it with a cynical eye, it’s actually a story of dysfunctional relationships, and someone with no power socially using one single pressure point to take over another person entirely, to the point where they drop their friends and change their life to appease this one person. Basically, Elizabeth/Pamela is one fucked up ship. And it’s hella interesting. And once I get to a certain point in the story, I will go into that a bit more in depth.

Warning: As above, I’m going to liken the Pamela/Elizabeth friendship to an abusive relationship. While it’s going to be light, I will use phrases used by emotional abusers that may act as triggers. It’s light, but exercise good judgement.

Note: I’m going to quote a metric fucktonne of this book.

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #45: Lucy Takes the Reins

Sweet Valley Twins #45: Lucy Takes the Reins by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #45: Lucy Takes the Reins by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Lucy Takes the Reins

Tagline: Can Elizabeth help Lucy face her toughest challenge? [Dove: Obv. Nothing is too hard for Saint Elizabeth.]

Summary: Elizabeth Wakefield’s friend Ted Rogers is in big trouble. He’s fallen behind with his payments to Carson Stables for the care of his horse, Thunder. Unless he wins the prize money in a regional jumping championship, he’ll have to sell the magnificent animal.

With everything riding on this competition, Elizabeth offers to help Ted train. Soon they’re spending most afternoons at the stables. That’s where they meet a mysterious new girl named Lucy Benson. Lucy seems to know a lot about horses. And when Ted has a bad fall, only weeks before the competition, Elizabeth is convinced that Lucy can take his place. Elizabeth doesn’t know that a secret fear has kept Lucy off a horse for the past two years. But she does know that Lucy needs to compete – and to win – for Ted’s sake… and her own.

Initial Thoughts:

I was under the impression that I’d never read this before – the story seemed unfamiliar to me, but then Jessica referred to currycombs as “hairycombs” and I knew I had read it before. It just didn’t stick. So that’s a really good sign. [Wing: HAIRYCOMBS OH MY GOD.]

Note: As someone who generally adores Ellen, the only way I can get through this is to pretend that the Ellen in any horse book is a completely different Ellen to the one we see at school. This isn’t me being a Malfoy apologist (“Jason Isaacs is hot, so Malfoy racism is excusable…” thinking), it’s just that the Ellen who rides horses is shrill, spiteful, vindictive and violent, whereas the one we see in school tends to be vague in her meanness. Absolutely she’s in the mean girls clique, but she has a strong follower stance. Yes, she’s mean, but she appears to take her cues from Lila and co. In this, she has no leader and she’s a real alpha bitch, not a beta one. If you look at Holiday Mischief, when Ellen is away from the rest of the Unicorns, it doesn’t occur to her to keep being mean, and she actually helps Anna hide her lack of singing ability. That’s why an Ellen sans Unicorns who leads two terror crusades against other horse riders seems so strange.

[Wing: This is the Ellen I love. She’s horrible and holds her own with Jessica and Lila.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #40: Danny Means Trouble

Sweet Valley Twins 40: Danny Means Trouble by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 40: Danny Means Trouble by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Danny Means Trouble

Tagline: How do you help a friend who doesn’t want to be helped? [Dove: I dunno, Elizabeth, maybe don’t? He’s not your friend and he doesn’t want your help, so how about you back the fuck off?]

Summary: Jessica Wakefield can’t wait to get to school to see what Danny Jackson will do next. He’s only been at Sweet Valley Middle School for a couple of months but he’s already well known as the best runner on the athletics team and as a major troublemaker. While Jessica is enjoying the effect Danny’s bad behavior is having on her classes, her sister Elizabeth is worried. Doesn’t Danny realize that his pranks are going to get him thrown off the team for good?

When Elizabeth writes a story on Danny and the team for the school paper, she discovers the real reason he’s been getting into trouble. It’s something he’s been hiding from everyone. Can Elizabeth help Danny without betraying him? [Raven: Is it drugs? It’s drugs. It’s drugs, isn’t it. Or, he’s actually a cauliflower!]

Initial Thoughts:

I don’t like this book. It’s not so much that I think Danny should wallow in his issues without help, I just want to stab Elizabeth for butting in. She’s such a busy-body I want to staple her to a wall and have people walk past, muttering about their issues, leaving her impotently unable to act. I think the stress of being incapable of interfering might be the only true way to kill her.

Also, Danny Jackson is not Denny Jacobson. Denny Jacobson is Pamela’s brother and Janet Howell’s love interest. This kid? No fucking clue. And this comes from someone who’s read almost every book in the Twins series. [Raven: Oh, I thought the book title was actually his name. “Hello, nice to meet you. the name’s Trouble. Danny Means Trouble.”]

[Wing: The only initial thought I had was that of course the girl on the cover is Elizabeth. Look at that outfit. JESSICA WOULD NEVER.]

The cover

Two things:

At work, someone once said to me, “Go see, $person. You know who she is, she’s the one with the proper twattable face.” And the thing was, even though I’d only been there for three weeks, I knew exactly who she meant. Elizabeth too has a “proper twattable face”.

Love the white socks/ankle-swinger trousers/brown loafers combo, Elizabeth. Could you look like more of a bell?

[Wing: I see I should have saved my comment for here.]

[Wing: NOTE: This recap contains vague references to abuse, including child abuse (within the text and in real world) as well as scientific violence to animals.]

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