Secrets

Secrets (Sweet Valley High #2) by Francine Pascal

Ah, Sweet Valley. Nothing takes me back to be preteen years faster than looking at this book series I was completely obsessed with. When I first became interested in them, they were out of print which just made me want them more!

As a kid I really liked the series and wanted to even live in their idyllic Californian world, and I thought the stories were fun and interesting. But as an adult I know these weren’t the best written books. Most of them are cheesy, silly, and sometimes don’t make sense; but these were the ’80s-’90s versions of Gossip Girl or One Tree Hill.

So the story follows twin sisters, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. Both are juniors, blonde, 5’6, and size sixes. Elizabeth is the smart, responsible one who dreams of being a journalist or writer. Jessica is the fashionable, social butterfly, cheerleader that dreams of parties and popularity.

They live in Sweet Valley, near Los Angeles, and attend school with their friends. The first book focused on the two girls, but the later ones were divided into two stories: one about a friend or relative while the other is about the girls. The later series got a bit darker and was done in miniseries, two or three books that went together. The topics ranged from drugs, sex, school dances, serial killers, sports, werewolves, princes, vampires, kidnapping, stalkers, etc. You know normal teenage girl stuff. 😉

Yes, as the series progressed the writers changed, and while I didn’t like some of the alterations I still continued to read and collect (still do so today) the novels. What can I say? They are such a big part of my childhood they bring on a tsunami of nostalgia.

So what does that have to do with us? Well quite a few of the books in the series were mysteries, had supernatural elements, psycho characters, or other themes that fall in line with this blog. So we get to review them!

So the novel series is similar to the Nancy Drew Files where you have a little teaser at the end like a preview, and the book picks up from there. In the last book Double Love, the sisters competed for the same guy, Todd Wilkins. Todd really liked Elizabeth, but Jessica did all she could to stop the romance. A bunch of other stuff also happens with the football field being involved in a big tug-of-war between companies, Elizabeth and Jessica afraid their dad is having an affair, Elizabeth and Jessica’s brother dating a girl from the wrong side of town, Jessica pretending to be Elizabeth and damaging her reputation, dances/parties, etc.

This book picks up after Elizabeth played a trick on Jessica, getting her dunked fully clothed. So here is where our story begins…

SECRETS

It wasn’t fair, Jessica raged, tears streaming down her face. Enid was going to the fall dance with Ronnie, and she was sure to be named queen. Ronnie was so blind with love that he’d swing a million votes her way.

Jessica sighed. She just had to win. If she were queen, Bruce Patman would finally notice her. She’d never wanted anything so badly in her entire life. She’d do anything to make it happen.

Out of the corner of one wet eye, Jessica glimpsed a piece of paper sticking out from under the bed. It looked like a letter.

Dear Enid,” she read with a sudden voracious interest. A smile crept slowly across her features as a plan shaped itself in her mind.

Time to put my evil plan in motion…

Jessica is mad that her sister got one over on her and had her dunked in front of everyone. But she doesn’t think on it too long as she has something more weighty on her mind. She has been in love with Bruce Patman for years but he never paid attention to her. She has watched him go through every A-list girl except herself! Her latest attempt to snag him is to win Fall Queen, as Bruce is nominated Fall King. If the two are crowned, they will have to go to the following dances and school activities together-and he will fall madly in love with her.

The dance is two weeks away and Jessica can’t wait!

I’m so excited!

Elizabeth has noticed that her best friend Enid Rollins has been so down lately. The decide to do a marathon baking session to cheer her up-but no dice. Finally Elizabeth just asks her and Enid unloads. Enid has a secret-a big secret. She has a police record.

When her parents divorced two years ago, she got involved in drinking and drugs. She and her boyfriend, George Warren, hit a boy while driving. The kid turned out to be okay-but the two were arrested, given 6 months probation, and put through drug counseling. Enid was changed by it and George was sent away to a private boarding school.

Enid is worried about her boyfriend Ronnie Edwards finding out. He said a lot of stuff in the last book that makes Enid certain that if he discovered her secret he’d dump her right away.

In my open she would be much better without him. He’s a rude, jerky, jealous, control freak, and abusive.

Enid has been writing to her friend George these past years and is afraid that Ronnie will see it as cheating on him. She shows the letters to Elizabeth, but it is nothing more than average friend encouragement and support. Elizabeth promises to keep the letters a complete secret.

Meanwhile, Jessica and her friends are talking about Ms. Dalton the French teacher. Jessica’s best friend Lila Fowler hates Ms. Dalton as not only is her father dating the 25-year-old teacher (really? 25), but her boyfriend, Ken Matthews, has a giant crush on her. She starts a rumor that Ms. Dalton and him are having an affair.

Jessica returns home later in a bad mood. She tried to charm Bruce Patman-but received nothing. She wants to hang out with her sister-but she’s gone again off with Enid. Enid who hates Jessica. She starts thinking of everything that is wrong and goes in her sister’s room-as her’s is painted an ugly brown (bad idea by Jessica) and too messy (she hates cleaning). As she sits there she spots a letter, and a terrible, awful idea is born.

Later Enid, Ronnie, Elizabeth, and Todd are double dating when Elizabeth and Todd notice something is off with Ronnie. The couples split ways with Enid and Ronnie heading to the classic make-out spot. Ronnie acts totally different and all over Enid-and then breaks their date to the dance.

When he tries to go farther than Enid wants, she manages to get loose-but then it all comes out. Ronnie knows all about George and her past.

“The letters. Liz must have told him about the letters.”

Jessica leaves for a party at Lila’s hoping to snag Bruce Patman there. Elizabeth calls up Enid, but she won’t have anything to do with her. Elizabeth stays home wallowing in confusion, while Jessica heads out.

Jessica is super disappointed to find out Bruce already has a date to the dance and puts her eyes on now dateless Ronnie.

Elizabeth confronts the question of how this could have happened, discussing it with her favorite teacher-Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins tells her to look for the key thing-motivation. Why would anyone want to do this? Break up Enid and Ronnie?

Hmmm…

Like the Nancy Drew Files, one of the best things I love in this series are the clothes, the author always gives great detail to what the twins wear. I’ve decided to add a special section for this in these reviews too.

Outfits-

When Jessica goes to Lila’s party-but imagine in burgundy:

The dance: I see Jessica in this…

And Elizabeth in this:

Thoughts After Reading:

As a teen I loved it! From beginning to end. As an adult, I still enjoyed it-good pacing and the better writing than later books in the series.

The Next Book in the Series:

Another thing I loved about these mysteries is that they were designed like radio shows and TV episodes. They always made sure to leave you with a little preview of what will come next:

Just then Bruce sailed past, nearly colliding with her as she stumbled backward in an attempt to escape Winston’s murderous feet. He swept her with a long look that sent an electric shock tingling up her spine. There was a hint of invitation in his smile, and more than a spark of interest in his sexy blue eyes. Some of her misery faded. Could it be?…

Can Jessica play Bruce Patman’s game and win? Find out in SWEET VALLEY HIGH #3, Playing With Fire.

Of course we won’t because that isn’t a mystery. I don’t think I will be reviewing anything until book #13, Kidnapped. When I get there I’ll do a quick recap-and then continue.

For more young adult fiction, go to Christina’s Ghost

For more books were letters play a key role, go to This Pen for Hire

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C is for Corpse

c is for corpse

C is for Corpse (Kinsey Millhone #3) by Sue Grafton

Thoughts Before Reading:

I love my mysteries to challenge me, I love it when an author has completely bamboozled me. The truth being there the whole time, but I was too busy following a red herring to figure it out.

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Now if a book cannot surprise me, they must bring my admiration instead through their amazing characters.

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This book falls into the second category.

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In this book I figured out very quickly who the murderer was, but I didn’t care. I liked Kinsey Millhone and I so enjoyed these writings of Grafton that I continued reading all the way to X.

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Plot Synopsis:

So in this book, Kinsey is still recovering from the events that occurred in B is for Burglar. Part of her physical therapy and improvement is going to gym and working on her arm.

One day she meets a young man in his ’20s, Bobby Callahan. Bobby was in a horrible accident; being covered in scars, and his face and body misshaped. He tells Kinsey that he doesn’t remember anything that happened in that time period. However, he does have this feeling of urgency that he knew something and someone was after him. He believes the car accident was an attempt on his life.

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He and Kinsey become friends and he hires her to investigate, doing a retrograde crime with very little to go on.

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Kinsey begins and meets his family; a stepsister who is a drug addict, anorexic, and probably has a ton of other issues;

Idon'tthinkso Idontseeit

a stepfather that doesn’t know how to father and is bland;

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and his mother, a real powerhouse but also control freak.

what have i gotten myself into star trek next gen

Three days later Bobby is dead.

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Split on whether accident or suicide, Kinsey becomes even more intent on searching for the murderer and to bring justice to Bobby.

avenged

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Thoughts After Reading

*Contains Spoilers*

So I thought this was well written, but was really sad.

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I loved Bobby. I hate when authors introduce such great characters but then kill them off. Lillian Jackson Braun is another writer that always seems to do that. They just love breaking our hearts.

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I also thought that Kinsey was a little slow on the ball here. If we know the woman who was having an affair with Bobby’s secret, it being that she and her lover killed her previous husband; hid it to look like a burglary, and he is now threatening to expose the gun used with her fingerprints: well then, I think it is safe to assume that as she remarried, she probably married her lover of the time.

duh

And as that lover is her husband, then you shouldn’t trust the husband.

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I still enjoyed the book though and think it is a great read.

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For more Kinsey Millhone mysteries, go to B is for Burglar

For more mysteries with female private investigators, go to Snagged

For more mysteries with female private investigators, go to  A Study in Scarlet

For more mysteries involving mysterious car accidents, go to Cape May Court House: A Death in the Night

A Study in Scarlet

studyinscarlet

A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Thoughts Before Reading:

For those of you who don’t know, this month marks the 128th anniversary of this book. Published in July of 1888, these characters have found a way into all our hearts.

So Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite literary detectives.

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I’ve read almost all his stories, seen countless films and TV shows, and just all around enjoy his character. His massive intellect and keen observational skills are just so admirable, I can’t resist him.

So A Study in Scarlet is the first novel to have this brilliant detective. Many assume it is based on Edgar Allen Poe’s detective character that came out year’s before, Charles Dupin, but Doyle insisted that it was based on one of his professors.

So while the novel is split into two parts, in my opinion it is actually divided into three.

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Part I: Mr. Sherlock Holmes

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In this we are introduced to Dr. Watson. Shortly after he received his medical degree he was attached to the military as their assistant surgeon. He was sent off to India, where he was wounded and sent to a hospital. There he had even worse luck, catching a fever and becoming severely ill.

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After that he was sent home, honorable discharge, where he decided to move to London. Staying in a hotel he quickly burned through his money and found himself in need of cheaper lodgings.

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He runs into an old friend who tells him of an acquaintance that is also looking for a roommate, a Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

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We are first introduced to Sherlock Holmes doing an experiment in which he has found a way to prove how old blood is and whether a stain is blood or not. He also knows that Dr. Watson has recently returned from Afghanistan.

wow

Sherlock tells him about the rooms and when Dr. Watson and he look over the place and hear the rent price they find it most agreeable.

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Sherlock Holmes is not a difficult way to live with.  He is quiet, had his own habits he stays firmly by, has extensive energy when interested in something, but would have moments when he was hit by a “mood” and wouldn’t get up for months. Watson notices at times he looks like he is under a drug (opium) but Watson cannot believe such a man devoted to cleanliness could do such a thing.

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Sherlock knows nothing of contemporary events or anything that he feels does not relate to his studies. In fact Watson lists of everything he does and doesn’t know:

  1. Knowledge of Literature — Nil.
  2. Knowledge of Philosophy — Nil.
  3. Knowledge of Astronomy — Nil.
  4. Knowledge of Politics — Feeble
  5. Knowledge of Botany — Variable. Mostly poisons, nothing of practical gardening.
  6. Knowledge of Geology — Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance the different soils from each other.
  7. Knowledge of Chemistry — Profound.
  8. Knowledge of Anatomy — Accurate, but unsystematic.
  9. Knowledge of Sensation Literature — Immense. Knows every detail of ever horror perpetuated in the century.
  10. Plays the violin well.
  11. Is an excellent singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
  12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.

Sherlock is also a keen observer and tells Watson how he knew of his time in Afghanistan. He also shares about how he often helps the police solve crimes. And at that very moment, a Marine comes with a note that Sherlock is wanted.

Interesting

Interesting

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Part II: The Lauriston Garden Mystery

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Sherlock receives a note from Detective Gregson to come to Lauriston Gardens as they are at a loss to how the crime was committed and by who?

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Sherlock invites Watson to come along, and the duo are off. When they arrive on the scene, Sherlock surprises Watson as he doesn’t rush inside the house to search it, but spends a long time looking at everything, from the ground, to the sky, to the house’s outside, etc.  He notices that a cab has been there. but neither Gregson or Detective Lestrade or their men know anything about that.

suspicious Hmm

The victim is about 43 or 44. He is dressed well in a heavy broadcloth frock coat and waistcoat. . His hands were clenched and arms thrown abroad while his lower limbs were interlocked as though he went through a struggling death. A look of hatred on his face and blood everywhere, but no wound on the corpse. A woman’s wedding ring is also found, along with the word “RACHE” painted on the wall.

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The detectives believe the word to have been Rachel but cut off. Sherlock points out that the murderer was male, over six feet high, smoked a trichinopoly cigar, had a florid face, long fingernails on the right hand, killed the man by poison, and that rache is German for revenge.

Whoa

The two them head down to the first officer on the scene, John Rance. They learn from him that there was a drunk there that night, but they just sent him off. Sherlock berates the man as this drunk was clearly the murderer, a cabdriver which explains the cab marks left behind.

You let him get away!

You let him get away!

Sherlock sends out advertisements in the newspapers about a found wedding ring knowing that by using it, it will be the perfect bait for the trap.

Meanwhile, the detectives have discovered that their victim was acting ungentlemanly toward his landlady’s daughter. Her brother was on shore leave, and is known for a temper. They know the two got into it and to make it worse, just like in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, they discovered the brother with a bloody walking stick.

Not-Good

Sherlock of course doesn’t believe that and is set on his way. To his surprise, he is approached by a woman saying it belongs to her daughter. Sherlock follows her, but looses her in the crowd. Is Sherlock wrong?

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Part III: The Country of Saints

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Here we get our killer’s backstory and reasons for poisoning these people. Back in Utah, John Ferriar’s wagons traveling west have been destroyed and everyone is dead except for him and a young girl, Lucy. With all gone, John adopts the young girl.

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As they are dying of thirst, they come upon some Mormons who allow them to join their group and save them from death. Over ten years layer, John’s farm has prospered and Lucy has grown into a fine, beautiful woman. All the young Mormon men want to add her to their families and John’s land to their own. But both John and Lucy don’t want to become ingrained with the Mormons, in fact Lucy falls for Jefferson Hope, silver miner and son of John Ferriar’s old friend.

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With the Mormons threatening the group, Hope and Ferriars hatch a plan to escape.

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However, the plain is foiled and Hope is left stranded in the desert. When he gets back to the area he discovers that both Ferriar and Lucy have died.

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He decides to avenge their death and tracks them down all the way to England to kill them.

avenged

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Thoughts After Reading:

I really loved the first two parts of the novel when we are introduced to Sherlock and his investigation.

loveitSupernatural

Amazingly well written and a definite winner.

fantastic

However, I didn’t really care for the Utah backstory. It was boring.

NO emotion = BORING!

The book would be better without it, but even with it it is still good.

likeit

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For more on classics, go to The Unsolvable Mystery: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

For more private investigators, go to Decked