Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sweet Valley High Revisited - Hostage!

Man, to look at, Hostage! promises so much. It's got the exclamation mark title, which has served us pretty well in the past, it's got Regina being threatened by what's presumably a chloroform-soaked rag, held by some dude in a giant shirt, but it's actually just not that good. Plus, nothing depicted on this cover ever actually happens. But we're not going to let that stop us now, are we? ARE WE?

Sweet Valley High #26: Hostage!


Jessica and Elizabeth are sunning themselves in their back garden by the swimming pool and Elizabeth is trying to convince Jessica that something weird is going down over at Regina Morrow's house. Also, it's literally the second page and we've already had aquamarine eyes darkening with concern and golden hair being tossed from shoulders. And they're covering themselves in BABY OIL. GIRLS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING. Man, I've missed these sexy idiots. Anyway, Elizabeth heard from a student who works part-time as a delivery boy for the supermarket that Regina Morrow is back from Switzerland, having been over there for the last few books to undergo treatment to restore her hearing. Elizabeth called over to the house to welcome her back but the gates were locked and the place looked deserted. Also, Bruce Patman hadn't heard anything about it and when he rang the house, a strange woman claiming to be Regina's aunt answered the phone and told him that Regina was sleeping and her parents were away. But Regina doesn't have any aunts! Ruh roh!

Elizabeth is determined to investigate further so she calls by the house again, and the door is answered by a severe looking woman who must be up to no good, because severe looking people aren't allowed in Sweet Valley. Look wholesome and have twinkling eyes or GTFO. The woman tells Liz that Regina isn't there, but while trying to give her the brush-off, Regina appears in the lobby and looks frightened. The mystery lady tells her to go back upstairs and says that Regina is unwell and can't see anyone, before closing the door in Liz's face.

Convinced more than ever that something's afoot, Elizabeth tells Jessica about what happened and they come up with a plan. They find out from Eddie - the kid who works in the shop - when the next delivery is to be made to the Morrow's place and get Bruce to pose as a delivery boy. They hide a note for Regina in a copy of Ingenue magazine, asking if she needs help and instructing her to drop a message for them out her bedroom window and they'll come for it that night.

Cut to Regina sitting sadly in her bedroom, thinking about how everything went tits up for her when she got out of a taxi at the airport in Bern eight days previously. Her parents had sent a message saying that they were coming to visit and to meet them there, but instead it was the cross woman with a gun in her bag. She made Regina call her doctor and tell him that her parents are taking her home for a while. It turns out that Regina's parents are being held hostage and if she doesn't comply, they'll be killed. The lady took Regina back to Sweet Valley, where an equally severe looking dude was waiting for them. The kidnappers' plan is to steal a revolutionary prototype microchip from Mr. Morrow's computer company by having Mr. Morrow call his office, tell them that he's been detained "in Europe" and that he's sending Regina in to collect the microchip. Unnecessarily convoluted corporate intrigue! Gasp!

The lady kidnapper, Claire, tosses the copy of Ingenue into Regina's room, presuming the delivery boy made a mistake by including it in the order. Regina finds the note from Bruce, Liz and Jessica and drops a reply stashed in a silver compact out her bedroom window, onto the lawn below. The Scooby Gang collect the letter under the cover of darkness and find out all about Regina's parents, the kidnapping, the microchip plan and Regina warns that if she and her parents aren't all rescued at the same time, the kidnappers will kill whoever is left. She also tells them that her brother Nicholas is staying with a friend in San Francisco and to let him know what's happening. Oh and they can't get the police involved, or there'll be some dead Morrows.

They call Nicholas and fill him in on the situation, so he comes back straightaway. Regina mentioned that she thought she heard Claire say "money is heaven" while on the phone (she can't hear perfectly yet, so her hearing is at like 80%) but none of the intrepid investigators can figure out what it means. It clearly means Monday at seven. Nicholas and Elizabeth check out the house again and see a man coming out of the driveway in a blue car. Not one to miss an opportunity, Nicholas gets Liz to make out with him in the car so the guy won't suspect them. Goddammit Nicholas. They get the reg plate and Nicholas realises he's a guy called Philip Denson who was fired from his father's company years before for stealing. He went to prison and only got out last year and appears to have held a grudge about the whole thing.

Elizabeth finds a P. Denson listed in the phone book, so she, Jessica and Bruce cut school the next day and go with Nicholas to check out the house listed as Denson's possible address. There's a hot guy around Bruce's age mowing the lawn outside the house, so they deploy their secret sex weapon, i.e. Jessica, to go talk to him and find out whatever she can. Jessica tells him she's taking a census for a school project and blasts him with enough hair tossing and smiling sweetly to find out that he's Mitch Denson and his father works in computers. When Mitch goes inside to get Jess a drink of water, she creeps up to the sitting room window and looks inside to see Mr. and Mrs. Morrow on the couch. When she gets back and tells the rest of the gang what she saw, they have to convince Nicholas not to run in and punch Mitch in the face. They head back homewards and decide that they need to figure out when the kidnappers are arranging for Regina to go into her father's office before they can do anything else. It's Monday at seven, guys. Come on.

When the twins get home, Alice has left a message for Elizabeth saying that someone called Suzanne rang looking for her from the office at school. Elizabeth panics, worried that it's related to her skipping school, but when she calls back it turns out it was just Suzanne Hanlon, a sophomore who's organising a literary evening and wanted to know if Elizabeth would read something at it.

Privately, Elizabeth thought Suzanne was a little bit affected. She seemed to like giving everyone at school the impression that she was sophisticated and very cultured. But Elizabeth didn't want to judge her.

DIDN'T WANT TO JUDGE HER! Oh my god that whole bit is just Elizabeth in a nutshell. You little wagon.

On Saturday, the twins and Nicholas are over at Bruce's mansion and put their heads together in a effort to break the fiendish "money is heaven" code. They don't get far with it (MONDAY AT SEVEN, GODDAMMIT) and try to logically work out when the kidnappers are most likely to send Regina into her father's plant. While they're busy doing that, Jessica suddenly cracks it and works out that it'll be Monday at seven. (Suck it, Elizabeth.)

"I told you reading all those mysteries would pay off one day, Liz."

Oh come on, being a bookworm is totally out of character for Jessica. As if she's ever sat at home reading Agatha Christie with a hot chocolate. Those boyfriends won't steal themselves, you know. What are you even doing, Ghostwriter Lady.

Anyway, they come up with a plan to try to rescue Regina's parents while Claire is with Regina at the plant, so Claire won't know what's happening and even so, Regina will be relatively safe as the plant is guarded. The only snag is that they don't know where Philip Denson will be while all this is going down, so everyone turns to Jessica to act as sex-bait for Mitch Denson again and try to find out from him where his dad will be. She reluctantly agrees and then tries to throw Bruce into the pool. Yeah I don't know why, either. Then they all go to beach for the afternoon.

On Sunday morning, Skye and Kurt Morrow are in the Denson's kitchen eating a breakfast that Mitch made for them, while Skye reassures her husband that none of this is his fault and he says things like "My business is very high-profile. I get so much publicity." which sounds like Tommy Wiseau dialogue from The Room. Then Philip Denson comes in, with a toothpick hanging from his mouth because he's a Bad Guy, see. He fills the Morrows in on the plan for tomorrow and how he's going to sell the microchip to some guy in Rio and when the Morrows ask what's going to happen to them he tells them not to worry about it, leaving them convinced that they're going to die. BAD GUY!

Regina. That yellow sweatervest. I'd kidnap you too, if only to take you to Topshop.

Meanwhile, Jessica arrives at the house in a carefully-chosen blue denim miniskirt and a halter top and rings the doorbell. Mitch answers and Jessica launches her charm offensive, inviting him to a beach party the following night. He says Monday isn't a good night for him and doesn't give a straight answer when she asks if his dad will be there that night, so Jessica looks hurt, strokes his arm and gets him to agree to her dropping by at seven and if he's busy she'll go on to the made-up party without him. So she doesn't actually get to find out where Philip will be and Mitch is too squirrelly to get any further info out of him.

Monday rolls around and Philip gets Kurt to make a phonecall at gunpoint. He calls the plant and tells them that he's been held up in Switzerland and has an important meeting in a few days and is sending Regina in that evening to pick up the microchip before she catches a plane back to Bern.

Jessica, Nicholas, Elizabeth and Bruce all meet up and run over their plan one last time. Nicholas and Elizabeth are going to go to the plant, where Elizabeth will intercept Claire and Regina on their way out and stall them. There's a payphone just out of sight of the main entrance to the plant, which is where Nicholas will be positioned. He'll call Jessica and Bruce who will be in Nicholas's Jeep (which has a carphone) over at the Denson place as soon as he sees Regina enter, which will be their queue to send Jessica to the door to keep Mitch occupied while Bruce sneaks into the house and rescues the Morrows. Then Nicholas has to call the cops while Elizabeth is talking to Regina and Claire.

Everyone takes their position and Jessica and Bruce eventually get the call. Jessica rings the doorbell and Mitch answers again, but tells her that it's not a good time. He sees his father's car coming towards the house and tells Jessica that he likes her but she has to leave right away, for her own good. Philip goes in the side entrance of the house, so Jessica screams for Bruce to warn him and runs in past Mitch, but collides full tilt with the Morrows and Bruce, at which point Philip is pointing his gun at all of them. Mitch shouts at him to leave them alone and knocks him over, giving them all a chance to make a break for it and run to the Jeep.

Back at the factory, Elizabeth pretends to be a reporter for the Sweet Valley News and bothers Claire with a bunch of questions while Nicholas calls the cops. Claire pulls Regina away and they begin to leave, so Nicholas runs over and grabs Regina. Claire says she's got a gun but then Jessica, Bruce and Mammy and Daddy Morrow arrive on the scene in the Jeep, closely followed by Mitch and Philip, so everyone ends up together with both Claire and Philip pointing guns at them. Philip does some Bad Guy talk explaining how terrible his life has been since getting out of jail, but then there's the sound of police sirens approaching, so Nicholas and Bruce jump on Philip and pin him to the ground, Claire fires a shot and just misses Nicholas and then a bunch of cops arrive and arrest Philip, Claire and Mitch.

Everyone goes back to the Morrow's mansion for takeaway pizza and champagne. It turns out that Regina won't have to go back to Switzerland to complete her hearing treatment and can finish it off in an outpatient clinic in LA instead. The Morrows are going to throw a Hooray Nobody Died party to celebrate all this great news and also because there hasn't been a party or dance in this book yet. Oh and Mitch was let off because he was being lied to by his dad and wasn't really involved and is moving to New Jersey to live with his aunt. So that's nice!

Notable outfit:
Jessica runs home with this one in her outfit for the party at the end of the book.

Jessica was wearing a black leather miniskirt and a white t-shirt, the short sleeves rolled up. She had two clips in her hair that looked as if they should be holding loose-leaf notebook paper, and a brand new pair of sandals.

What.

Things I counted:
Number of pages: 135
References to the twins' blue-green eyes: 5
References to the fact that the twins are blonde: 4
Amount of times the kidnappers are described as "mean": 4

Monday, January 18, 2016

I Know What A Tracker Mortgage Is*

Hello. It's been awfully quiet around here for the last while, but you see the reason for that is because the Bear and I went and bought a HOUSE! With walls! And a stairs! And doors and everything and it's all OURS!


It's been a legit rollercoaster of emotion since we decided to look for a place to buy last March, complete with falling in love with places that we got immediately outbid on, swearing revenge on useless estate agents, despairing over banks acting like it's a total disaster that my job is contract-based rather than permanent and briefly overreacting to rejection for life cover from two insurance companies in one day (i.e. welling up at my desk and wailing "they think I'm going to DIE!" before pulling myself together).

Then there was the STRESS of the run-up to getting the keys, where two days before the appointed Key Day we were informed that the bank had issues with our application even though they'd already given us approval and basically dicked us around for a week and a half filled with intensely stomach-churning anxiety, checking my inbox for updates that never arrived when they said they would, and three days of waiting for someone in their head office to email a fucking form. It was the sort of antsy stress that led to Wednesday pints in an attempt to blow off some steam, which resulted in a hangover the next morning where my lack of co-ordination had me drop the last tablet in my pack of Ovranette so I ended up on my knees in the kitchen, Googling "missed last pill in pack" while holding a fork covered in cobwebs from unsuccessfully trying to fish it out from the gap between the floorboards and the wall behind a large wine rack. I've had better weeks.

Slagging off estate agents in Stellar magazine.

In any case, we got there eventually and it all worked out and now our evening and weekends and any free time in general has either been spent carrying boxes around in a house-wide game of moving Tetris, patching up and painting damp bits on walls, wandering around B&Q without a fucking notion of where anything is and having four hours slide by in Ikea in the blink of a Swedish meatball. We've had a week and a half of no heating because the ancient boiler had long given up on life, where we kept warm by lighting the fire in the sitting room and carrying an electric heater around from room to room as needed. You could see your breath in the hallway, bathroom and kitchen, but as I've been told, it's all part of the "moving into your first place experience", which is nice and all and works as a charming anecdote in that vein, but mostly I fucking hate being cold so YAY NEW BOILER. Then the shower broke, so there was a week of dropping over to the Bear's sister's house for showers in her lovely bathroom that had a Max Benjamin candle burning in it and Kerastase shampoo for me to be delighted by. (I'm so unfamiliar with Kerastase that it took me three attempts to spell it and I had to look it up in the end.)

Also, conversations with me have become incredibly boring, as now when I'm asked if I got up to anything for the weekend, the reply is something along the lines of me being overly excited that our washing machine and dishwasher have finally been plumbed in. I found myself watching The Walking Dead a few weeks ago and admiring kitchen cabinets in the background of a gory stabbing frenzy. I joined Pinterest and have a board filled with bookcases and subway tiles. I swear, I'm >this close< to tweeting a photo of our new Ikea doormat.

So, what I'm saying is that life has become a never ending string of house-stuff that's really exciting for us, but probably not huge fun to listen to and I PROMISE I'll have a Sweet Valley post up soon. After all, Regina Morrow isn't going to kidnap herself, now is she?

*Kinda. And it turns out they were pretty fucking sweet.

 
>