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?]

(more…)

Posted in Nightmare Mansion

Sweet Valley Twins #99: The Beast Must Die

Sweet Valley Twins #99: The Beast Must Die by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #99: The Beast Must Die by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Beast Must Die [Wing: This is a goddamn lie.]

Summary: When Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield began babysitting for the Riccoli family, they soon learned of the kids’ bad dreams. And slowly, the terrifying truth becomes undeniable. The nightmares are real. Something evil is in the kids’ house and in their dreams—something that wants them dead. So when they can no longer stay awake, there’s only one thing left to do: the baby-sitters and the kids must enter the deadly world of their dreams…

Don’t go to sleep, Sweet Valley… you may never wake up! [Wing: The way I feel at this moment, never waking up sounds like a pretty good deal.]

Tagline: 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 babysitting service.

Initial Thoughts

The day I’m writing this, Ruth Bader Ginsburg died. I am heartbroken and in mourning. I am sharp edged and angry and even more afraid for vulnerable people in my country (including myself). Ginsburg meant a lot to me for a variety of reasons, and to this country, to the fight for equality and personal rights.

Which is to say, I am in a terrible place to be recapping Sweet Valley, have little patience, and even less ability to be funny. So this’ll be a grand old time!

(Not recapping the recaps, but here is the first book and here is the second book. We’ve not had much fun with this mini-series so far, though I liked the last book more than Dove and Raven did. Also: 99th main series book! I’m pretty pleased to have that number, and I’d like to party like it’s 1999 again.)

[Dove: I hate this whole series. I can’t even think of something witty to say. The entire thing is treading water. By the end of this, we’ve had 120k words of nothing happening, except Steven tits about on a lawnmower, which we’re supposed to find hilarious. I want to thump whoever came up with this. It’s fucking stupid and the Jamie(s) in question should be embarrassed.]

[Raven: Another chapter of this terrible mini series. Roundly bang the sounding brasses, let joy be unconfined, it’s time to get SHITFACED.]

(more…)

Posted in Nightmare Mansion

Sweet Valley Twins #98 – The Beast Is Watching You

Sweet Valley Twins #98: The Beast Is Watching You by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #98: The Beast Is Watching You by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Beast is Watching You

Tagline: 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 babysitting service…

Summary: Little by little, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield’s dream job of baby-sitting for the Riccoli kids is turning into a nightmare. Andrew Riccoli dreams that someone tried to set fire to his room—and then wakes up in a cloud of smoke. Then Gretchen Riccoli dreams she’s falling—and wakes up at the bottom of the mansion’s dark, winding staircase. The twins are getting scared… too scared to close their eyes in the Riccoli mansion.

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

Initial Thoughts:

The first book in this series is hardly a zinger. For a spooky book with an action-packed premise, not a lot happened.

Here’s hoping the second swings a little harder for the fences.

[Dove: This is where I really lost my patience with this mini-series. The b-plot is my personal bugbear and I will never forgive or forget. I hate this mini-series.]

[Wing: I did not have high expectations. I was partially correct.]

(more…)

Posted in Nightmare Mansion

Sweet Valley Twins #97: Too Scared to Sleep

Sweet Valley Twins #97: Too Scared to Sleep by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #97: Too Scared to Sleep by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Too Scared to Sleep

Tagline: The first 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…

The Wakefield twins and their friends love baby-sitting for the Riccolis, until little Juliana Riccoli starts having horrible nightmares. One night she wakes up crying, saying a monster attacked her. The twins tell her that bad dreams aren’t real, but Elizabeth is secretly afraid. If the monster isn’t real, why does Juliana have deep scratches on her back?

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

Initial Thoughts:

Hey kids, do you love Baby-Sitters Club?

YEAH! (excited cheering from a bunch of tweens in the 80s/90s)

And do you love A Nightmare on Elm Street?

YEAH! (one or two kids back away nervously muttering that their mum wouldn’t approve)

And do you love it when boys are so utterly mentally incapacitated that it’s actually cruel to leave them alone without adult supervision?

… (kids look unenthusiastic. a tumbleweed blows past)

WELL, GREAT! THIS SERIES IS FOR YOU.

[Raven:

] [Dove: Damn you for using my favourite Meat Loaf song.]

[Wing: Nothing like opening with a Meat Loaf song to put Wing in a good mood.]

(more…)

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!]

(more…)

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.]

(more…)

Posted in Super Chillers

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #5: The Curse of the Ruby Necklace

Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #5: The Curse of the Ruby Necklace by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #5: The Curse of the Ruby Necklace by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Curse of the Ruby Necklace

Tagline: A mysterious death in a spooky old house… [Wing: I first read this as “in a spooky old lighthouse” and now I’ve made myself sad it isn’t true.]

Summary: A necklace, a movie, and a murder…

Identical twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are thrilled when they land small parts in a movie being made in Sweet Valley. The film is based on the true story of the mysterious death of twelve-year-old Lillian Keller, and it’s being filmed at the creepy old Keller mansion.

One stormy afternoon, Jessica finds an old necklace on the beach near the mansion. She puts it on, and that very night she has a terrible nightmare about a girl falling to her death. She becomes convinced that someone—or something—is trying to tell her that the mystery of Lillian Keller’s death is far from solved. But can a necklace really hold the secret to a murder?

Initial Thoughts

Despite my little lighthouse wish when reading the tagline, I am excited as hell to recap this one. I’m hoping for Jessica the Sleuth, fun murder mysteries, and creepiness galore. Also, now that I’ve finished the book, that cover is kind of ridiculous; (a) that’s not storm clothing even on the beach and (b) they looked like that when Becka hired them?

(Also: Happy New Year! I wrote this at the end of 2018 and it posts at the beginning of 2019, which delights me to no end. Here’s to another year of these ridiculous books. Spoiler: For once, this is a great thing.)

[Dove: Is it just me or does Jessica have zombie face on the cover? “Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.”]

(more…)

Posted in Super Chillers

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #4: The Ghost in the Bell Tower

Super Chiller 4: The Ghost in the Bell Tower by Jamie Suzanne
Super Chiller 4: The Ghost in the Bell Tower by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Super Chiller #4: The Ghost in the Bell Tower

Summary: Midsummer nightmare…

When the Wakefield kids are invited to their aunt Helen’s country inn, Steven and Jessica are determined to use the eerie old mansion to scare their sister, Elizabeth, into believing in ghosts. But no matter what Steven and Jessica do, logical Elizabeth always works out their tricks.

Then things start happening that even Elizabeth can’t explain, and all the Wakefield kids are afraid that the inn really is haunted. Will they make it through the summer sharing their holiday with an unfriendly ghost?

Tagline: A holiday in a haunted house!

Initial Thoughts

I’m not sure if I knew that Aunt Helen had a country inn, but I do love creepy old mansions and ghost stories and siblings teasing each other. HOWEVER. If the goal is to get Elizabeth into believing in ghosts I’M PRETTY SURE THAT THE CARNIVAL GHOST DID THAT FOR YOU ALREADY.

Oh, wait, that would suggest continuity. Never mind.

[Dove: Well, so far, so good. I was under the impression that Wing would either love or loathe this. So far she’s not mentioning fire. I’ll take that as a good sign. Me? I didn’t own this back in the day. Back then, I thought the only Super Chillers were the first three. Possibly I’d have more attachment to it if I had read it back then.]

(more…)

Posted in Super Chillers

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #2: The Ghost in the Graveyard

Super Chiller 2: The Ghost in the Graveyard by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Super Chillers 2: The Ghost in the Graveyard

Tagline: Is Sweet Valley Haunted?

Summary: Strange things have been happening to Sam Sloane ever since he moved from San Francisco to Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield’s neighborhood in Sweet Valley. He can’t work out why everything in town looks so familiar—or why he’s mysteriously drawn to a crumbling old mansion in town. When he visits a cemetery in the dead of night and sees a ghost who looks just like him, he turns to Elizabeth and Jessica for help.

At first the twins think Sam is imagining things. After all, who believes in ghosts? But the more the girls get to know their new friend, the more they feel he’s telling the truth. Something is out there. The twins are going to have to do a little ghost hunting of their own. But what happens if they do discover the ghost? Or worse, what happens if it discovers them?

Initial Thoughts:

Although my chosen moniker is suitably gothic, I do not have a horror pedigree.

Sure, I like horror films. They are fun, and scary. And horror books? I love me a bit of Stephen King. I’ve screamed at Freddie and Jason, cowered from Samara, laughed at Chucky and was Finally Destined to face down Fate itself.

I enjoy it… but I don’t live and breathe it.

Both Wing and Dove have a much more visceral pull into the fright genre. They devour it whole, consuming all they can in a search for more thrills and for the love of the form. It’s a long love, from childhood, and it informs their nostalgia for this very site. Go check out all the fine work on point horror dot com for proof. [Wing: Well, he’s not wrong. Even our names come from a Point Horror book.]

But me? I’m a fairweather frightmeister. If pushed, I prefer a belly laugh or a pewpewpew space epic.

The point of this confession?  A mere FYI.

This Super Chiller isn’t really in my wheelhouse. So take all you read with a hefty pinch of salt.

Onward!

(more…)

Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #3: The Haunted House

Sweet Valley Twins 3: The Haunted House
Sweet Valley Twins 3: The Haunted House

Title: The Haunted House

Tagline: Will a witch’s spell come between Elizabeth and Jessica? [Dove: Not until Super Chiller #9, and it’s more of a curse than a spell…]

[Wing: SPOILERS.]

Summary: Everyone at Sweet Valley Middle School has always said the Mercandy mansion is haunted. Strange lights flicker in the windows at night, and no one ever sees the owners come and go. So when Nora Mercandy moves into the run-down house, rumours spread fast. Jessica Wakefield and her friends are convinced Nora is a witch.

But Elizabeth, Jessica’s twin, is certain that Nora is just an ordinary girl. She’s determined to stick up for her new friend. She’ll get to the bottom of the mystery of the Mercandy mansion – even if it might mean losing her sister’s friendship!

Initial Thoughts:

Scary witches at Halloween. Sounds fun! As my pseudonym implies, I’m a sucker for a Halloween Special. I’m sure this will be no different. Of course, Nora won’t actually be a witch. If she is, I’ll eat my (large and pointy) hat.

The Front Cover: Blonde Girls Encounter Brunette Outside A Place. How exciting! The brunette is at a jaunty angle, with arms crossed to convey maximum sass. Also, it’s getting dark, so this is the closest I’ll ever get to reading Twilight.

(By the way, I’m Raven. I’m new. Hello!)

[Dove: This was the first ever Sweet Valley book I read. I picked it up in a charity shop during a particularly boring visit with my grandfather. So the moral of this story is: don’t visit your relatives, or you’ll get hooked on awful books filled with hateful characters.]

[Wing: I blame your family for everything. Also, we should recap the Twilight series with Raven.]

[Raven: Not happening.]

[2 Feb 2017 update: Wing: For another take on this book, check out the Super Serials podcast episode.]

(more…)