Danielle Explains

Blood and Chocolate (Movie)

This week Danielle completes a double-feature with the 2007 movie Blood and Chocolate. Hold on to your hats werewolf fans, because we’re back with lycanthropes! If you hoped this movie shares more than a name with the book, prepare to be greatly disappointed. This time, our much more adult werewolf Vivian is in Bucharest, and while breaking into a werewolf church (go with it) she runs into Aiden, a graphic novelist making a new book about werewolves, of course. Aiden is super into Vivian but she doesn’t feel the same at first. That’s the boring stuff, the crazy stuff is that now the city seems to be run by the werewolves now called loups-garoux. They also seem to abduct people, possibly criminals, to hunt for funsies. Vivian is not into the hunts, but her cousin Rafe is, and the pack leader Gabriel really don’t like humans at all. Also, he wants to dump Vivian’s aunt Astrid to hookup with Vivian, but now it’s somehow even creepier than in the book. Anyway, as you might expect, Vivian and Aiden start dating in secret, but that secret doesn’t last long. When Gabriel finds out, he sends Rafe to confront Aiden in the bone cathedral (Sam’s favorite part) and utters possibly the greatest line in cinema history. While the plot seems thin, that’s because the movie is just stuffed full of irrelevant werewolf lore that Danielle loves and Sam is just confused by. So come learn if the movie is as good as the book (spoiler: it’s not). Oh yeah, there’s also a prophecy, but it super doesn’t matter. Enjoy!

Blood and Chocolate

This week Danielle brings the 1997 Annette Curtis Klause novel Blood and Chocolate. It’s not even Spook Retorts yet and Danielle is bringing the werewolves! Vivian is your average teenage werewolf who just moved to a new town because her family was chased away from their previous home by an angry mob that burned down their home and killed a bunch of her pack, all because the group of teenage boys in her pack had been murdering a few of the people in that town; total overreaction. Anyway, since her dad was the pack leader (don’t worry, Sam doesn’t let that bad wolf science slide) they pack needs to pick a new one, and the expected top dog (ha!) is Gabriel, who’s also dating Vivian’s mother. As for herself, Vivian has a picture she made published in the school journal next to a story by some boy named Aiden about transforming into a wolf. Vivian is disappointed to learn that Aiden isn’t another werewolf, just a nerd who dresses like a hippie, but Vivian decides to date him anyway, much to the dismay of her pack and especially Gabriel who, in addition to dating her mother, is also kinda into her, and it’s all kinds of gross. The other problem is the teenage boys in her pack are still up to their shenanigans and not at all regretful about all the murder, so we’re sure that won’t cause any problems. Finally, in Sam’s favorite scene, Vivian decides to reveal her wolf side to Aiden and it does not go well. Distraught, Vivian blacks out from having wolfed-out too hard and wakes up the next day to learn there’s been a murder. Afraid she’s losing control, and might cause her family to be uprooted again at the very least, Vivian starts to panic. But first, she stalks her ex and then trashes the room of his new maybe-girlfriend, because teenagers. So we hope you enjoy this very out of season spooky book where the scariest part about it is the patriarchy.

Sleepless in Seattle

This week Danielle brings Sam the classic 1993 Nora Ephron movie Sleepless in Seattle. Sam, the Tom Hanks character henceforth referred to as Tom to avoid confusion, recently lost his wife. In his grief, he decides it’s a good idea to move him and his eight-year-old son to Seattle from Chicago. Also, Tom is an architect because he’s a romantic interest in a 90’s movie. Anyway, in Seattle Tom’s son calls into to a national radio therapist show (somehow this isn’t Fraiser) to lament that his dad hasn’t found a new love in the mere 18-months since his mother died. Coincidentally, Baltimore based…journalist? Annie (Meg Ryan, of course) hears the radio show and immediately becomes creepily obsessed with Tom despite already being engaged to the perfect man: future president and ghost mansion owner Bill Pullman. Annie decides to abuse her journalistic position and also hires a private investigator to track Tom down. She also writes him a letter saying they should meet on the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day, so she’s gone full wacko. Tom, meanwhile, has begun dating a lovely woman, but his son is determined to break them up because he read Annie’s letter and thinks they should be together instead. And here’s where the movie takes a hard turn into crazy town. Annie lightly stalks Tom and his son, his son continues to be a jerk and manages to run away to New York. Annie is also just the worst to her fiancé, who’s just the nicest and best person, as she waffles back-and-forth about whether she should run off to the Empire State Building to maybe meet a man she has only heard on the radio and dump Bill Freaking Pullman. So join us to hear Sam and Danielle lose their minds as they try to figure out why anyone would root for these people to get together.


This week Danielle brings Sam the 1994 Don Bluth animated feature Thumbelina. In past France, of an indeterminate time ago, a lonely woman secures a magic barley corn which grows a flower which, in turn, an adolescent girl pops out of fully formed but just two inches tall. Unfazed by this nightmare, and possessing a sick sense of humor, the woman names her new “child” Thumbelina. As a teenage girl fresh to the world, Thumbelina is lonely with literally no one in the world she can relate to. Fortunately, the fairy prince (go with it) happens to be out riding his apparently massive bumblebee and sees Thumbelina falling instantly in love with her. After a quick flight on the bee, Thumbelina is on board, and really, he’s definitely her best option. However, while they were out and about a toad named Grundel had also fallen in love with Thumbelina and has his mom (voiced amazingly by Charo) kidnap her to become part of his song troupe/wife. Thumbelina escapes, but is set upon by just so many random animals who all lust after this diminutive human teenager, and Sam is intensely disturbed by all of it. The only creature not wanting to marry Thumbelina is a bird that does all he can to help her except the only thing that would actually help, which is fly her around. With the fairies forced to bring on winter (oh yeah, they control the seasons) after a full two days of autumn, Thumbelina is desperate to find her love the prince before she is forced to either freeze to death or marry a mole at the behest of a mouse voiced by Carol Channing. This movie is bonkers, y’all.

Janie Face to Face

This week Danielle concludes the Janie series with the 2013 Caroline B. Cooney novel Janie Face to Face. Janie is headed off to college and wants to use that as an opportunity to assert her independence from her family. She does this by only going back to stay with her family every weekend. Also, Janie’s Connecticut parents are now in assisted living since her father is not doing well after the stroke he had in the last book and they somehow lost all their vast wealth. Janie decides that’s a good enough reason to start distancing herself from them. At the same time, we’re introduced to Hannah and are gifted little vignettes that tell the story of how she kidnapped Janie. This sections are not kind to Hannah, and also amazingly bonkers. Meanwhile, at school, Janie meats a new boy, Mike Hastings, who quickly reveals himself to be an absolute creeper. However, Janie decides that’s all fine until she learns that Mike has been working with a supposed true crime writers to investigate her life for his latest book. In what might be her only good decision in this book, she dumps his butt. However, the rest of her family is still receiving solicitations from the writer, and some of them seem far more willing to talk than Janie is. In another disturbing trend, Stephen and Janie both reunite with their terrible exes, Kathleen and Reeve respectively. In a spur-of-the-moment decision at Janie’s departure from a visit, Reeve proposes by shouting his request across the airport (romantic) and Janie actually says yes. Wild. Anyway, it soon becomes clear that the person behind the book, and the investigation, into Janie’s life is not what he seems to be, and the revelation has the potential to upend Janie’s life forever (but it definitely won’t).

What Janie Found

This week Danielle is back to finish (kind of) the Janie series with the 2000 Caroline B. Cooney book What Janie Found. Janie’s back and more teen than ever! While rifling through her father’s office (he had a heart attack/stroke, don’t worry about it) she comes across a folder labeled “HJ” and immediately concludes it has something to do with Hannah. Also, Reeve is back in her life, trying just so hard to get back into her good graces, which, for some reason, she is allowing him to do. Reeve notices Janie looking at the folder but wisely decides not to pry this time since he’s still on thin ice. Janie discovers a checkbook in the folder and deduces that her father (the Connecticut one) has been sending money to his estranged daughter, and Janie is not on board with this. Meanwhile, in Colorado, Stephen is dating a girl named Kathleen who’s father just happens to have been in the FBI, and they are both super interested in the Janie kidnapping story, to a degree that is problematic. They grill Stephen about the story over dinner and this is in no way foreshadowing for how terrible they are. Janie, meanwhile, discovers that the checks her father was writing are being sent to, of all places, Colorado, so she concocts a plan to go there on the pretense of visiting Stephen, but with the intention of tracking down Hannah to get some answers. This is obviously a terrible plan, so of course her brother Brian and freaking Reeve come along. Unrelated, but Janie is also a bridesmaid in Reeve’s sister’s, Lizzie the Lawyer’s, wedding for reasons that are dumb. Anyway, in Colorado, Janie waffles on whether to leave a note for Hannah in the PO box, and in the meantime Kathleen, encouraged by her father, grills Janie about her experience as a “kidnapette”, and that term tells you all you really need to know about Kathleen and her father as people. The question remains: Will Janie confront Hannah and finally get the therapy she so desperately needs? All we can say is that there’s actually a fifth book, surprise!

The Voice on the Radio

This week Danielle dips back into the Janie well with the 1996 Caroline B. Cooney novel The Voice on the Radio. Taking place a few months after the previous, Janie’s boyfriend Reeve is off to college in Boston, and Sam is still irked at not getting the prom scene that was teased. While Reeve is enjoying the college life and his new job at the college radio station, Janie is back home leafing through wedding magazines and fantasizing about their future. This is all totally normal teen stuff and not at all foreshadowing. One night, Reeve gets his big break and is given the chance to DJ on the mic. Did anyone bother to help Reeve come up with a plan for this show? Apparently not, as he’s shoved in front of the mic and immediately panics. So Reeve does what any normal person would, he spills the beans on Janie’s very traumatic and private kidnapping history, in what Sam declares is the progenitor of all true crime podcasts. This horrific betrayal of trust goes over extremely well with the radio audience and Reeve has the new hit show on campus. In the meantime, Janie is dealing with her school wanting to dedicate a page to her kidnapping story, something she is not on-board with since she feels it’s far too private (hear that, Reeve, ya jerk?!). Despite momentary feelings of unease, Reeve is all-in on trading Janie’s story and trust for college radio fame, and even manages to dodge a few close calls where Janie almost uncovers it all. Alas, we all know Janie will eventually find the truth and have to deal with that betrayal, and then Reeve will have to deal with his greatest challenge yet: Exercising even a minuscule amount of willpower. Whatever happens between Janie and Reeve, there’s one thing we can all sure of: This book will for sure end on a cliffhanger. Enjoy!

Whatever Happened to Janie?

This week Danielle brings more of the Caroline B. Cooney Janie series with the 1993 novel Whatever Happened to Janie? Jenny/Janie has contacted the Spring family, which she was taken from, and they demand that Janie sever ties with her current family and friends for at least three months and come live with them in New Jersey. It has to be one of the single worst decisions we’ve ever encountered in any media for this podcast. Janie, naturally, has a hard time adjusting to life with the new family, new school, and no friends. It doesn’t help that her new siblings alternate between pitying and resenting her, and sometimes blaming her for not thwarting her kidnapping as—and this can’t be stressed this enough—a three-year-old child. It’s criminal that no one in this family is receiving the therapy they all so desperately need. Janie eventually wears her new parents down enough that they let her call her previous parents, which at least seems to help a little. Also helping is that her hunky former neighbor Reeve is still all aboard the Janie train and drives down to take her out on a date. The plot to this book is about as thin as the previous book, but Sam still gets plenty upset at all the characters behaving abominably in a situation that requires way more empathy and kindness than is on offer. It also doesn’t help that the end of this book is so inconsequential that it feels like half the pages are missing. So enjoy as Sam continues to be mad at very slowly learning Janie’s story.

The Face on the Milk Carton

This week Danielle brings Sam back to the 90s with the 1990 Caroline B. Cooney novel The Face on the Milk Carton. Fifteen-year-old Janie Johnson is your average lactose-intolerant teen who just wants to fit in and kiss the cute boy next door. However, one day at school she sees a picture of a missing three-year-old child on a milk carton and is immediately convinced it’s probably her from twelve years ago. This immediately sends Janie spiraling into an existential crisis. Amazingly, Janie starts to have flashbacks to memories of her three-year-old life, improbable as it sounds for her to have one, much less just so freaking many memories from when she was three or younger. Janie begins to question if her parents are really her parents, but instead of asking them outright anything about it, or contacting the hotline from the milk carton for clarification, Janie stalks the family of the missing girl by coercing her kinda-boyfriend into driving her to New Jersey only to chicken out before actually knocking on the door. Finally, Janie confronts her parents who tell her a story about how her mother, their daughter, ran off to join a cult and then showed up one day to dump baby Janie on them, which they raised as their own. Amazingly, the story doesn’t just end there with everyone getting a lot of therapy. No spoilers, but Sam is very upset by the “twist” that everyone just accepts and is downright angry by the end book, so you know this is going to be a good one!

Crabs’ Moon

This week Danielle thrills Sam by bringing the crabs back with the 1988 Guy N. Smith book Crabs’ Moon. In this companion novel to Night of the Crabs the cow-sized crabs are back! Kinda! This novel briefly mentions Cliff Davenport but instead focuses on a new set of characters that are entirely irrelevant to the overall story, so it’s thrilling stuff. Irey, young mother looking for a good man to bring excitement to her loveless marriage has her would-be lover killed by giant crabs, which is a real bummer as a start to her vacation. It gets worse as the resort she’s staying in is put into lock-down by the evil owner to prevent people from ruining the resort’s reputation or something. If you think this villainous billionaire will get his crabby comeuppance, boy, are you going to be disappointed. Anyway, they decide to build a wall of sandbags to keep the crabs out which is exactly as ineffective as you’d expect since Irey’s young children manage to escape and almost get murdered by crabs. Also, there was a crab living in a lake at the resort that just wanders off at some point, and Sam has many questions about this book, mostly focused on why it exists. There are more characters that get killed, some in hilarious ways, and not one of them matters to the story. The good news is that the crabs don’t disappoint being as weird as ever and, even better, Danielle returns with a fresh, steaming basket of Crab Facts!