Crash Landing!

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!

How will I collect them all?

As I 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 they weren’t the best written book. Most of them are cheesy, silly, or sometimes don’t make sense; but these were the ’80s-’90s versions of Gossip Girl or One Tree Hill except with a different type of drama.

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 short series, 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, supernatural, had psycho characters, or other themes that fall in line with this blog.

So the novel series is similar to the Nancy Drew Files were you have a little teaser at the end like a preview, and the book picks up from there. In the last review Elizabeth was kidnapped. Since then Elizabeth (who always lectures Jessica) cheated on her boyfriend with Nicolas Morrow, Tricia Martin’s sister had some trouble, Roger turned out to be Bruce Patman’s cousin and a millionaire, Caroline had a fake boyfriend, Bruce and Regina got together but Regina had to leave for Switzerland, and Jessica and Lila fought over a two-timing guy who turned out to be a drug dealer and threatened Jessica’s life.

Quite a lot. So here we are onto the next book:

Crash Landing! (Sweet Valley High #20) by Francine Pascal & Kate William

Remember in Secrets (Sweet Valley High #2) Enid reconnected with old boyfriend and pen pal George Warren. Well, since then—George has been stepping out on her with her pal Robin, a cheerleader.

Ugh cheerleaders.

But we aren’t supposed to hate Robin, we are supposed to feel bad because they are in “love”. They meet in pilot’s class and “fell” in “true love”. Sorry for the snark, I’ve been reading the blog Snark Valley and it must have been rubbing off on me.

Elizabeth had caught them and made them promise to tell Enid and Allen (Robin’s boyfriend) the truth. George agrees to do so after they go on their first flight. But all goes wrong and they end up crashing in Secca Lake.

George is okay with a bump, but Enid loses her ability to walk and has to use a wheelchair. They are investigating the crash, but George knows it is all his fault as if he was more experienced he would have handled it.

So the mystery is-What caused the plane to crash? Will George date Enid even though he is no longer in “love”? And what about poor Robin?

It’s like a soap opera.

Usually I do a little synopsis that they provide, but my copy of this is a hardcover and doesn’t have one.

I know, right?

So Jessica has hated Enid since she chose her sister over her, but in this when she discovers that Robin and George were cheating-she totally becomes Team Enid and has all the girls freeze Robin and George out.

“…Jessica really did feel sorry for Enid. She had never thought much of George Warren one way or another-but now she was prepared to see him as a villain”.

I can just see him as a regular guy, then in the next scene wearing a handlebar mustache and top hat to show his evilness…sorry-the snark is just overflowing. 

Low Jessica, very low.

Now some may say this is hypocritical, but at this point in the series she has only had one boyfriend, Bruce Patman, (who cheated on her-maybe that’s why she takes it to heart). She has never cheated as she was never in a serious relationship-she does later-but at this time not a hypocrite. Elizabeth is as she is always cheating on Todd. She always “owes” people a date or some stupid justification.

Anyways, George decides to stay with Enid as she saved his life and lost the ability to walk. No George, no. Don’t do it.

Even though I’m actually in love with another!

This is probably why I love Lifetime movies and such. These books trained me.

Hmmm…?

George breaks up with Robin, of which when people see his car out front think he is meeting her for a tete-a-tete. Robin becomes so blue she goes off her diet and starts consuming everything.

Enid has to go through surgery and they have no clue what will happen, will she be able to walk or lose her ability forever?

Robin kind of annoyed me, coming from someone who struggled with anorexia I don’t think they dealt with her emotional issues the right way-in how she starts becoming anorexic and develops emotional eating issues.

The writers

Robin reaches out to “Everyone’s Best Friend and Always There to Help” Elizabeth Wakefield, but Liz totally disses her. Man you are awful. How dare you say you are a friend and not even care to listen at all.

Liz has a dinner party for herself, Enid, George, and Todd. It is super awkward as George is finding it harder and harder to pretend to care about her romantically when he doesn’t, and Enid is clinging to him tighter and tighter. It makes me think in Couples Retreat when the counselor is talking to Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell.

Don’t leave!!!

They are having a dance, I think in almost every book there is a dance or fancy party. I have to stop and say it gave me highly unrealistic views for how high school would be. At the dance it is super awkward and after watching George and Robin, Enid puts it together. But even though she knows he’s be cheating, she wants him and ignores it all.

Elizabeth hatches a plan to “save” Enid and wake her up and use her legs. She borrows Teddy Collins, Mr. Collins’ son, and will have him “drown” until Enid saves him. Only one giant problem with this, Elizabeth is sure that Enid will jump in and save Teddy, getting the use of her legs back. But what if Enid doesn’t save him? What if it isn’t the plan that awakens motion in her legs, but what if she instead has a heart attack as she can’t save Teddy and thinks he is really drowning? Or what if she tries to save him but doesn’t get the full use of her legs and drowns herself? I think Dr. Elizabeth should be sued for malpractice.

But of course it works, and Enid is saved and then she lets George go.

Meanwhile, Jessica’s B story is really sad. She and Lila are taking a gourmet cooking class-which Lila walks out on she was never one for doing “work”. Jessica excels at everything and has a real knack, but because she screws up once her family treats her like crap. In fact, her mom, dad, and sister are pretty awful and condescending to her in this. And then Elizabeth’s all holier-than-thou saying Jessica is awful for being mean and judgmental to Robin when she was the same like a few days earlier. When I read this series as a kid I always liked Elizabeth, but as an adult looking at her, she is full of baloney. Jessica may do some screwed up things, but at least she is honest about who she is. I really felt bad for her in this book-she definitely got the short end of the stick while Elizabeth is the golden child, meh.

Whatever…

No outfits in this one. So let’s move on

The Next Book in the Series:

Another thing I loved about these books 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:

[Jessica] had just about enough of her family treating her badly all the time. And since her plan to impress them had been such a miserable failure, she was going to have to come up with some other way of changing their minds about her. Only I better think of something fast, she told herself, tears tricking down her cheeks as she threw herself onto her bed. Because I don’t think I can stand things the way they are around her for another minute!

Jessica embarks on a desperate course of action in Sweet Valley #21, RUNAWAY!

But we will not be reviewing that. The next will be #26 Hostage

For more Sweet Valley High, go to Kidnapped!

For more mystery reviews, go to The Glass Forest

Ashes to Ashes

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Ashes to Ashes (A Kovac and Liska Mystery #1) by Tami Hoag

This wasn’t the first I read in the series, that being The Bitter Season, but as I have to review them in order I’m starting with Ashes to Ashes.

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Plot Synopsis:

Minneapolis has a firebug, that is a an arsonist, nicknamed The Cremator. He has been killing prostitutes, destroying all witnesses so the police had nothing: but now things have changed. He’s been witnessed by prostitute and teenage runaway, Angie DiMarco.

Looks like we just caught a break.

Looks like we just caught a break.

But Angie isn’t talking.

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Ar first they hope to rattle her by threatening jail, but when that does no good Kate Conlan, ex-FBI, gets called in to handle their victim/witness.

what have i gotten myself into star trek next gen

To up the  ante even further, the Cremator has chosen to abduct the daughter of billionaire Peter Bondurant.

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Now not only are the police being pushed to solve this crime, but Bondurant has used his connections to bring in FBI whiz and looker, Special Agent John Quinn. Who wouldn’t you know it, has a past with Kate that she’d rather keep silent.

urkelgif interesting hmm

As Sam Kovac and his partner Nikki Liska are on the case, aided by Quinn and Kate. But as they start investigating they find a lot of strange and suspicious things.

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Peter Bondurant isn’t acting like the normal bereaved father, hardly being involved but instead sending his lawyer to ask/answer questions? What’s the story on that?

HMMM

Why would the cremator break habit? Why stray from his routine?

I wonder...

I wonder…

Something about the missing girl’s best friend seems off as well. They didn’t seem to be the type to run in the same circles, why are they together?

weird

The house they send Angie to to protect her also has an odd couple running it. And it happens that they are connected to the three previous dead girls. Could they possibly be involved?

IndianaJonesHmmMaybe

Through the frenzy, hysteria, dead ends, a can of worms, and politics; Kate discovers that this Cremator is set out for one big finish, with Kate as his star player.

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Thoughts After Reading:

I thought it was a fantastic mystery; gripping, incredible, and just mind blowing.

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I thought I had it all figured out…was completely wrong.

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However, while this book was good, I liked The Bitter Season better. I liked that the characters that were already established, and as much as I like Kate; I enjoy the Kovac/Liska partnership better. They just complete each other so well.

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And while I did enjoy this book, let me warn you it is not for the faint of heart. It can be graphic at times in descriptions and language.

AAhhorrorifiedwhat

But otherwise it was very enjoyable.

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For more mystery reviews, go to A Taste of Fame

The Girl on the Train

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Thoughts Before Reading:

Goodreads has been pushing this book on me non-stop since it was published. It kept recommending it, had all these ads I would accidentally click on (I think Goodreads did it on purpose), I think they might have even run a contest for it.

I mean they wouldn’t leave me alone.

hughappy

So I added it to my to-read list, but we all know what that is like; am I right?

Agatha Christie, surrounded by some of her 80-plus crime novels.

Times a million

But then I saw the movie is coming out Friday and decided I should read it before I watch it. Here goes, but don’t worry I won’t reveal any spoilers.

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Plot Synopsis:

So the book is told by three different female narrators, through a series of flashbacks and present time. It can get rather confusing, but that’s the tool Hawkin’s chooses to fog over the book and leave you guessing.

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1) Rachel

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Rachel Watson was married to her husband Tom for five years. He had an affair with a younger woman, Anna, got her pregnant and divorced Rachel. Rachel is still incredibly in love with him and hasn’t gotten over him, wishing they were together still.

Every day she rides the train from the house she is renting a room from to her work in a public relations firm in London. As she looks out the window she watches this couple she thinks is absolutely perfect; one she calls Jack and Jessie.

I wish I had that.

I wish I had that.

It reminds her of how she and her ex-husband Tom used to be.

Aw...

Aw…

Speaking of Tom, every day she passes their house, her old house! Tom moved his new wife in there, and they have a little girl. Everything about it upsets her and makes her so furious how he left her.

It's not fair.

It’s not fair.

Rachel is also an alcoholic, and when she drinks she completely black out losing that time and never recovering it or knowing exactly what took place.

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She continues to drink and ends up losing her job. She tries going into London to the library to find another, but instead spends more of her time just riding the train back and forth and watching “Jack and Jessie”. Wanting that life.

Aw, how cute.

Aw, how cute.

But on one Friday she looks out and Jessie isn’t with her husband. Instead she is kissing another man.

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Already thick with drink, Rachel continues on and becomes more and more angry. So furious at Jessie’s betrayal as it is so:

wrong

It reminds her of her own betrayal and she starts thinking about how she would like to go over there and hit her or tell her to stop, like she should have done to Anna at the time. Instead of continuing on to her destination, she gets off on that stop and…

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The next day Rachel wakes up bloody and vomiting. She has a giant bump on her head and some of the blood on her is not her own. And she can’t remember anything.

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It turns out that late that night Jessie, who is really Megan, has vanished. No one knows where she went. Of course the police are looking at her husband (the one Rachel named Jack but is really Scott). Rachel can’t believe Scott would do such a thing and injects herself into the investigation and Scott’s life.

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She tries to tell them about the affair and what she saw, but soon she is thrust out, her alcoholism labeling her unstable and her obsession with the couple making her a person of interest. Maybe she killed Megan because of her anger? Maybe she thought she was Anna, they do look similar, especially at night and in a drunken state?

I wonder...

I wonder…

Rachel realizes that she doesn’t really know Scott or Megan, just the people she made them up to be; and that she has nothing helpful about that night. She starts going to therapy to help her figure out her life and maybe shed light on what happened. But does she really want to know?

Uh-oh-dexter-9352138-275-155

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2) Anna

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Anna Watson was a real estate agent when she meet Tom Watson. She instantly liked him and decided he was the one for her, not caring that he was married.

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She loved being the other woman and never cared about Rachel’s feelings. Rachel was a real witch anyway. She was abusive; always getting drunk and embarrassing, manipulating, or trying to hurt Tom. And man he was such a saint, taking care of her that long. Thank goodness they had a baby and Tom was finally able to free himself from her.

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So everything is blissful in the new Watson home; except they are living in her (Rachel) old house with all her things, the baby is driving her crazy with all it crying, and Rachel won’t leave them alone. She calls all the time, she comes by, and even at one point she got in the house and took the baby out; probably trying to kidnap her!!

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Anna wants the police involved, a restraining order, something! Anything! But no, Tom always goes and talks to Rachel promising that it will be the last time. But it never is.

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In fact, it has gotten so bad that Anna is feeling completely paranoid and unsafe. In fact she saw Rachel the night that Megan disappeared and is completely sure that she is involved, why else would she be hanging around Megan’s husband Scott.

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Anna knew Megan as she just lived down the street and used to nanny for her. Megan quit suddenly one day, saying she got another job; but where in their tiny suburban town?

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And then as people search more into Megan’s life a lot of skeletons come out of the closet. Megan wasn’t the person Anna thought she was, maybe she was lucky she quit.

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3) Megan

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Megan is a beautiful, vivacious, blonde. She looks perfect, her husband looks perfect, her life looks perfect…but this woman has an intense past.

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Megan was traumatized over the death of her brother Ben and ran away from home. She was picked up by an older boy and lived with him; drinking and getting high. Eventually she left that and moved on working at a gallery, and later managing that. She meet Scott and married him, ever since feeling lost in Suburbia. Especially after the gallery she opened closed.

Aw...

Aw…

She can’t sleep, and all she does is spend her life in her head. After her husband’s nudging, she begins to see a therapist, Dr. Kamal Abdic.

After seeing him, she becomes attracted to him. The two pushing the boundaries of the doctor-patient relationship.

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This hasn’t been Megan’s first affair, (whether emotional or physical). She loves her husband but at the same time doesn’t feel as if it is enough. She has been with lots of men, always covering her tracks as to what she is doing behind her husband’s back.

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She has many, many secrets hidden inside her; but which one is the reason she has been killed? And who did the act? Rachel? Scott? Dr. Kamal Abdic? One of her lovers?

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Thoughts After Reading:

I thought it was very well written although it reminded me a lot of Gone Girl.

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In Gone Girl you had a hard time figuring out fact from fiction, because the first narrator, the husband, introduces himself  having a face that makes himself always look as if he is lying. As you read you start wondering if he is a liar, otherwise why is he so defensive? On the other hand, the second narrator, his wife, tells her story through writing a journal. But is it the truth? After all a journal is where you release your emotions. It is just a moment and selective in memory.

I wonder...

I wonder…

Hawkins does a similar thing with her narrators. First we have Rachel, who is unreliable. She drinks far too much, and a lot of her memory is broken, uncertain, fuzzy, or unknown. Besides that she has an overactive imagination and the things she has seen might not have even occurred. They could just be in her mind.

HMMM

Anna is biased against Rachel, discussing how she does feel her a threat (to her body and marriage) and is planning on doing anything necessary to hold on to Tom. Could she lie or make things up to try and get Rachel out of their life? Will she lie or hurt others to ensure Tom stays with her and her only?

IndianaJonesHmmMaybe

And then there is Megan. She talks a lot, but most of it is shallow things. The deep she keeps tucked away with us not knowing the whole story. Or if she does allow the reader to glimpse her innermost parts, she still keeps key things buried. How will we ever know if her account is correct or whole?

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I thought it captured your attention, kept you going, and was very enjoyable.

I did figure it out:

I'm that good

I’m that good.

But was still enjoyable and recommend trying it out. The end was really good. I promised no spoilers so I’m only going to say this one thing and try to be very vague.

With each of the characters, especially Rachel, there is a label of untruthfulness or liar; due the lies they tell, giving half-truths, or withholding by keeping secrets. While I figured out which character was the killer early on, I never thought the author would take those themes of lying/liar as far as she did; giving us an interesting twist. Plus that very last part with how the killer is stopped was completely unexpected.

cluelesstravistwothumbsup!

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For more not in a series mysteries, go to The Winter People

For more mysteries that involve a disappearance, go to Cookie Dough or Die

For more mystery reviews, go to Sleeping Beauty