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.]

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Posted in Super Editions

Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #7: Jessica’s Animal Instincts

Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #7: Jessica's Animal Instincts by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #7: Jessica’s Animal Instincts by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Jessica’s Animal Instincts

Tagline: Jessica has a new friend… a grizzly bear cub!

Summary: Furry new friends…

Taking care of animals is easy! That’s what identical twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and their friends think when they volunteer at the Sweet Valley Zoo.

Until Elizabeth accidentally lets a mischievous monkey named Spanky out of his cage and Spanky begins showing up in the strangest places…

Until Bruce Patman, who is secretly scared of birds, takes care of a baby bird named Drumstick, and Drumstick just won’t leave Bruce alone…

Until Jessica falls in love with Gus, a grizzly bear cub who’s lost his mother. When the zookeeper tells Jessica they must return Gus to the wild, can Jessica say good-bye to her furry friend?

Initial Thoughts

Wing: *reads title of book*

Wing: HOLY SHIT, DOVE HAS PROMISED ME WEREWOLVES FOR YEARS AND THEY ARE FINALLY HERE.

[Dove: I have repeatedly pointed out they are in Sweet Valley High, not twins. I have done my best to manage expectations given how often you reach for the flamethrower in this series!]

Wing: *reads tagline*

Wing: GODDAMN IT.

Already hate this book. I’m sure this will go well. [Raven: I’m with you.]

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #93: Don’t Talk to Brian

Sweet Valley Twins #94: Don't Talk to Brian by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins #94: Don’t Talk to Brian by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Don’t Talk to Brian

Tagline: Brian Boyd has a horrible secret….

Summary: The news that rocks Elizabeth’s world… [Dove: Yes, Elizabeth. This is all about you.] [Raven: It’s always about Elizabeth.]

Elizabeth Wakefield has always thought that Brian Boyd, the class bully, was bad news. He’s mean and loud—nothing but trouble. As far as she’s concerned, Sweet Valley Middle School would be better off without him! Then she learns a terrible secret about Brian: he’s been taken away from his parents because they physically abuse him.

Elizabeth and her friends are horrified, and so are some Middle School parents when they see how scared and upset their kids are. When Brian is sent to a school closer to his new home, there’s a big sigh of relief.

Now Elizabeth has finally got her wish—the school is rid of Brian. So why does she still feel so rotten?

Initial Thoughts

Why does Elizabeth feel so rotten? Because she’s intruding on someone else’s life again, I bet. I’m already angry at this book, and I haven’t read more than the summary and the tagline. I have no faith that ghostie will handle child abuse well at all, I have a feeling they are going to try to blame his Nazism on his abuse, and I’m primed to burn Sweet Valley to ash.

So let’s do this! /falsely chipper

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Posted in Super Chillers

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #8: The Secret of the Magic Pen

Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #8: The Secret of the Magic Pen by Jamie Suzanne (USA Cover)
Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #8: The Secret of the Magic Pen by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins Super Chiller #8: The Secret of the Magic Pen by Jamie Suzanne

Title: The Secret of the Magic Pen

Summary: A pen that tells the future?

The summer holidays are here, and Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield and their friends have just arrived at sleep-away camp! On a hike through a dark, eerie cave, Elizabeth finds something incredible—a glowing pen! She can’t wait to use it to write an article for the camp newspaper.

But as she writes, Elizabeth is astonished to find herself composing a mystery full of scary twists and turns. And to her horror, little by little the mystery seems to be coming true! This isn’t just an ordinary pen. Could it be haunted?

Initial Thoughts

On the one hand, I love some of the Super Chillers and enjoy the ideas behind almost all of them. On the other hand, Elizabeth. Unless a ghost is around to try to kill her, I’m not really feeling a book about her right now.

On the other other hand, the weather turned again, and I am once more cold enough that a story set in the summer is a pleasure.

Also, I don’t hate the USA cover, but damn, that other one is terrible.

[Note from the future: Y’ALL. THIS BOOK.]

[Dove: I saw no need for me to make a cover, since we have the USA one. Which is good, because my ideas were absent. The first time I read this, it immediately slipped out of my brain – I blame The Carnival Ghost, it just set the bar damned high – but this time around I enjoyed it a bit more. I do love the summer camp trope, and I’d completely forgotten that was the setting for this book.]

[Raven: Ooooh, a magic pen. Spooky! How very Stephen King…

]

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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 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 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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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.]

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Posted in Super Editions

Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #4: The Unicorns Go Hawaiian

Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition 4 The Unicorns Go Hawaiian by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition 4 The Unicorns Go Hawaiian by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Sweet Valley Twins Super Edition #4: The Unicorns Go Hawaiian

Summary: Aloha, Unicorns!

Just when Jessica Wakefield becomes bored with Sweet Valley, [Wing: So every book then?] she wins a trip to Hawaii. [Wing: Wut. Already starting off with a Wakefields must win trope? Damn it.]  She takes five of her best friends from the exclusive Unicorn Club and they’re ready to have the time of their lives.

But things don’t turn out the way they had planned. Jessica has a streak of bad luck, Janet Howell is convinced she is a Hawaiian princess, [Wing: WUT. GOD DAMN IT.]  and Mandy Miller, Mary Wallace, and Ellen Riteman find out a secret they must keep from Lila Fowler.

The girls don’t understand why their trip to paradise is turning out to be the worst holiday ever… until they discover the curse of the Hawaiian volcano goddess! [Wing: WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK ARE YOU SHITTING ME RIGHT NOW. I DON’T WANT TO RECAP THIS.]

Tagline: It’s the trip of a lifetime! [Wing: Considering how rich most of Sweet Valley is, I doubt that.]

Initial Thoughts

WHAT THE FUCK I WANT TO BURN EVERYTHING DOWN OH MY GOD.

Over on Twitter, Dove encouraged me to post a list of the things I rage-feared would happen in this book. I did that right before I read anything about the book.

Here is my list:

  • Some sort of bullshit Hawaiian princess storyline
  • Only white people live in Hawaii except for the SUPER SPECIAL magical native.
  • Someone (probably Jessica) will be amazeballs at surfing without even trying.
  • Someone (probably Jessica) will be amazeballs at hula, just as good as the “locals.”
  • People who live in Hawaii will be called Hawaiians indiscriminately from Hawaiians being actual native peoples.
  • Everyone will wear cheap tourist “Hawaiian” shirts and plastic leis.
  • All the food will be “Hawaiian” simply by adding pineapple to it. There will be no mac salad, loco moco, malasadas, or L&L (oh my god I’m so hungry right now).
  • WW2 references + American imperialism.
  • Fucking haoles the whole entire lot of them, in that terrible stereotypical loud, brash, rich white American tourist way.

CLEARLY I DID NOT SET MY EXPECTATIONS LOW ENOUGH VOLCANO GODDESS CURSE OH MY GOD I NEED STRONGER LIQUOR AND MORE FIRE. [Raven: This is gonna be AWESOME.] [Dove: Or she’s going to drink so hard she falls off her chair and doesn’t finish the recap.]

Shallow: The girls on that cover are not wearing nearly enough purple. 

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Posted in Sweet Valley Twins

Sweet Valley Twins #52: Booster Boycott

Sweet Valley Twins 52: Booster Boycott by Jamie Suzanne
Sweet Valley Twins 52: Booster Boycott by Jamie Suzanne

Title: Sweet Valley Twins #52: Booster Boycott

Summary: No boys allowed.

Winston Egbert wants to join the Boosters, Sweet Valley Middle School’s cheering squad. No way, the girls say! A boy as a cheerleader? So what if Winston happens to be a terrific gymnast? So what if he makes up fantastic cheers? Jessica Wakefield and the other Boosters vow they’ll do anything to keep Winston off the squad.

At first Winston endures the girls’ nasty pranks, Charlie Cashman’s bullying, and his classmates’ giggles. But something happens to make Winston give up for good!

When the state cheering competition arrives, the Boosters are surprised to see that almost every other squad has a boy as a member. Without Winston, they’re sure to lose! Is there any way the Boosters can get Winston back?

Tagline: Winston Egbert wants to join the Boosters! [Wing: We get it, book. WE GET IT.]

Initial Thoughts

Oh, good, I bet this book is filled with gender essentialism. Y’all know how much I love that. BOYS? In CHEERLEADING? Heaven forbid.

[Dove: I really enjoy this book. It’s good fun, and the Unicorns are hilariously ridiculous.]

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