Monday, February 20, 2017

River Heights #1 Love Times Three and #2 Guilty Secrets

The River Heights series is a spin-off of the Nancy Drew Files series.  Nancy Drew Files #39, The Suspect Next Door, features Nikki Masters, Nancy's next-door neighbor who is accused of murder.  Thanks to Nancy Drew, Nikki is cleared of the charges so that she can star in her own series, River Heights.

Many Nancy Drew fans mistakenly believe that the River Heights books are Nancy Drew books.  The River Heights series was an attempt by Simon and Schuster to use the Nancy Drew name to promote a teen romance series.  The books are not Nancy Drew books.  Nancy Drew only appears in a few of them, and just barely at that.  The River Heights books are written in the style of Sweet Valley High and Merivale Mall, which are teen romance series.

Nikki is extremely wealthy, and her best friends are Lacey and Robin.  Brittany Tate's father works for Nikki's father.  Brittany resents Nikki for that reason and tries to mess up Nikki's life.

I like the teen romance books of the 1980s.  You will find my reviews of this series to be positive, but keep in mind that these books are teen romance books.  They are not Nancy Drew books.  Do not make the mistake of thinking that you will like this series if you like Nancy Drew.  You will only like this series if you like Sweet Valley High and books similar to those.

In River Heights #1, Love Times Three, Nikki Masters is having trouble fitting in at the start of the new school year.  Everyone is staring at her and gossiping about the murder case from over the summer break.  Nikki overcomes that hurdle and then falls for Tim Cooper.  Unfortunately, Brittany has decided that she wants him and schemes to keep Nikki away from him.

Nancy Drew is present in the beginning of the story and absent for the rest of it.  After all, Nancy was just being used by the publisher to make money.

On page 11, we learn that the south wing of River Heights High is "early twenty-first century in style."  Hmm.  This book was published in 1989.  What would "early twenty-first century" be in 1989?  Flying desks?

This genre is always very unrealistic with problems solved way too easily.  Everyone gossips about Nikki, but then Brittany declares in front of students that "stale news is out."  Suddenly, everyone forgets about everything, and Nikki's life is back to normal.  It just takes one comment from one person to cause the entire student body to quit gossiping simultaneously.

On page 80, Brittany threatens her sister with "I swear I'll erase every one of your floppy disks!"

I really enjoyed this book.

In River Heights #2, Guilty Secrets, Nikki gets a new car.  She's on top of the world until her boyfriend, Tim, refuses to get near her car.  He keeps avoiding her, and Nikki fears that their relationship is over.

Nikki and Brittany are on the homecoming committee along with Nancy Drew and several other alumni.  Brittany plans to sabotage the halftime skit in order to make Nikki look bad.  Will she succeed?

Of course it would be too logical for Tim to admit what his problem is or for Nikki to ask him directly.

The homecoming skit planning meeting is too long and is very boring.

Nancy Drew appears several times in brief scenes.

I enjoyed this book but not as much as the first one.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Girls of Canby Hall #7 Four Is a Crowd and #8 The Big Crush

In Girls of Canby Hall #7, Four Is a Crowd, Pamela Young is new to Canby Hall.  Pamela's mother is a famous film star, and Shelley is captivated by Pamela.  Dana and Faith dislike Pamela, and the conflict threatens to destroy their friendship with Shelley.  Even worse, Pamela is a devious person, and she plays tricks on the three girls to pit them against each other.

On pages 28 and 29, Pamela mistakenly thinks Faith is a servant because she is black.  While this series just barely scratches the surface with respect to racism, it is nice that the series does incorporate some issues into the plots.

On page 78, a Snickers wrapper was crumbled up and thrown into the trash like a basketball.  That doesn't work with modern plastic wrappers.  Old wrappers were made from paper.

This book uses the phrase "could care less."  No, it's "couldn't care less"!

On page 45, the girls have to wait in line to use the pay phones.  I thought about how modern teens would see these books as quaint older books just like how I viewed the older series books from the 1950s.

I enjoyed this book.

In Girls of Canby Hall, #8, The Big Crush, Dana develops a huge crush on the new school guidance counselor, Michael.  Dana thinks Michael is just as attracted to her, and she fantasizes about their future relationship.  Dana is due for a hard fall when she learns that Michael is dating Alison, her housemother.

Both the front and back cover state that all three girls have a crush on Michael.  They do not! Dana is the only one.  I guess it sounds cuter to have all three girls in love with the same person, but it also sounds incredibly stupid.

Dana annoyed me in this book.  I find that she is rather fickle and is prone to falling in love too easily.  She doesn't think of her current boyfriend, Randy, as she crushes on Michael.  She isn't very fair to Randy, and I don't understand why she stays involved with Randy.

I also enjoyed this book.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Saalfield Boxed Sets

Saalfield was a reprint house that purchased the rights to many of the A. L. Burt Company's books during the late 1930s when that company went out of business. Saalfield published its books on cheap pulp paper, and the books now have deeply yellowed paper and are generally found in rough condition.  I typically avoid all Saalfield books with the exception of the books found in Saalfield's boxed sets.

I have managed to acquire six of the Saalfield boxed sets.  Other sets exist; I only purchase the sets for the series that I collect.  All of my sets contain either the Adventures Girls or Linda Carlton books.

The following pictures show all of my sets together from the front, right, back, and left.

I am not sure of exactly when these sets were issued, but I assume that they are from around 1940.  The boxed sets are very difficult to find, since most of the boxes would have been thrown away decades ago.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Girls of Canby Hall #5 Summer Blues and #6 Best Friends Forever

In Girls of Canby Hall #5, Summer Blues, Dana, Faith, and Shelley sign up for the summer intensives, where each girl studies a specific subject for one month.  Dana's summer may be ruined after she breaks up with Bret.  Things look up after Dana meets a country boy, Randy.

Shelley's hometown boyfriend, Paul, arrives unexpectedly for a visit.  Paul and Shelley's new boyfriend meet each other, and Shelley may lose both of them.

I read this one quickly and really enjoyed it.

In Girls of Canby Hall #6, Best Friends Forever, Dana and Faith visit Shelley and her family in Iowa.  The girls later regret their decision, fearing that they will be bored in a small town in Iowa.

The visit goes better than the girls expected, until Faith becomes deathly ill with a high fever.  Can the doctors save her?

Faith purchases a small dried stuffed alligator that was imported from the Everglades.  Yikes.  I don't know anything about the current laws concerning alligators, stuffing them, and offering them for sale, but this doesn't sound like something that would be legal nowadays.

On page 101, the young people see a tornado half a mile away.  Dana asks, "Are we in any real danger?"  Nah, tornadoes never hurt people.  Of course they're in danger!

I enjoyed this book but not as much as other titles in the set.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Nancy Drew Diaries #14 Riverboat Roulette

In Nancy Drew Diaries #14, Riverboat Roulette, Nancy, Bess, and George attend a fund-raising event on an old riverboat.  The event benefits a local pet rescue organization. George plans to participate in the poker tournament and is eager to play against her favorite player, Brett Garner.  Soon after the tournament begins, Nancy learns that the money raised, $100,000, has disappeared from the safe.  Nancy has just three hours to find the money before the boat docks.

The author of this book is definitely knowledgeable about Nancy Drew.  On page 28, a reference is made to a "Mrs. Benson," and of course the original Carolyn Keene was Mildred Wirt Benson.  Furthermore, the author of this book made Nancy similar to the perfect Nancy of the revised text era.

On page 2, we learn that Bess "would rather send a paper letter than an e-mail." That's a strange habit for a modern teenager.  Before cell phones came into vogue, my teenage students passed folded notes around the room.  I haven't seen a folded note in quite a few years.  Instead, the students send each other text messages.  I wonder whether statements about preferring paper letters are only put in these books to appeal to the older readers.  The statement is so bizarre that young readers probably wonder what is wrong with Bess.

I have a newsflash for Simon and Schuster.  Most of the older readers will never read this book.  They either gave up after the first two titles in the series or after the abomination of The Magician's Secret.  Only the most stalwart Nancy Drew collectors—or gluttons for punishment—are still with this series by this point.

This book is a clear improvement over previous books and even most of the better books in the series.  Let's take it point by point.

1.  The case is urgent.

The basic premise of this story solves one problem I have had with a number of the books in this series.  I noted how in the previous volume, Nancy has to remind herself to get serious about the case.  In this story, Nancy doesn't have to convince herself to get serious.  The theft of over $100,000 is quite serious, and Nancy has only three hours to solve the case.  The case is immediately urgent, which makes the story compelling.

2.  Nancy doesn't go to the restroom.

Nancy and her friends do end up in the restroom, but this is just to discuss the case. Nothing is mentioned about using the restroom.  Thank goodness.  They might have gone while in there, but I was glad not to read about the experience.

3.  Nancy's sleuthing abilities aren't belittled.

Actually Margot does belittle Nancy, but she is rude to everyone in the story.  Nancy's friends support her fully.  Nancy is not the target of jokes.

4.  Nancy is confident.

Nancy goes through a dangerous situation when she crosses from one side of the riverboat to the other on a narrow ledge right above the paddle.  Nancy is aware of the grave danger, but she tells herself, "I [can] do this."  She doesn't have this confidence in some of the other books.

5.  Nancy has above average abilities.

On page 89, Nancy gets a royal flush even though she has never played poker before. In another scene, Nancy cracks a combination in just a few minutes.  Nancy Drew is supposed to be quite capable.  We are supposed to look up to Nancy Drew, and this book nails it.  Nancy Drew isn't Nancy Drew unless she retains her original character traits, which has been one of the biggest problems with this series.

6.  Technology is used properly.

I wrote recently that the Hardy Boys Adventures series uses technology properly while the Nancy Drew Diaries series does not.  Finally, Nancy Drew and her friends understand how to use technology.

In one scene in this story, Nancy becomes aware of something while speaking to a suspect.  Her realization shows on her face, so one of her friends sends her a text message asking her what she has realized.  What a great way to have a private conversation right in front of suspects!

Also, the girls decide that the combination to the safe might have been figured out by one of the people who was filming on their cell phones.  Technology can be used well, and both of these are good examples.

I have three observations that are not so positive.  First, the story is too short.  Second, the culprit is extremely obvious.  I knew who was guilty from the very beginning as soon as the character was introduced.  Finally, the story appears to be a sabotage story.  In the end, the theft is not sabotage, but even a story that appears to be sabotage gives off the wrong impression when practically every other book in the series has been sabotage.

This book is nearly as good as the Hardy Boys Adventures books, which I consider a better series due to the overall inconsistency and lameness of the Nancy Drew Diaries series.  I wouldn't be surprised if one of the good Hardy Boys Adventures authors is the author of this book.  Regardless, Simon and Schuster needs to keep using this person for the Nancy Drew Diaries.  My fear is that they won't.

This is a very good book.  If I had read the book before I read any of the Hardy Boys Adventures, I probably would have rated it excellent or outstanding.  I still like the Hardy Boys Adventures better, but this book is a huge step in the right direction.  If Simon and Schuster will continue the series along the lines of this book but take it just a little further, we'll be set.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Girls of Canby Hall #3 You're No Friend of Mine and #4 Keeping Secrets

In Girls of Canby Hall #3, You're No Friend of Mine, Dana has a big decision to make.  Her father wants her to come live with him in Hawaii for a year.  If Dana agrees, she will have to leave Canby Hall.

Meanwhile, Shelley is torn between Tom and her old boyfriend, Paul.  She doesn't know what to do, and Dana isn't interested in hearing about Shelley's problems.  She thinks Shelley's problems are silly.  Dana and Shelley are at war, and Faith must find a way to bring them back together.

I enjoyed this book

In Girls of Canby Hall #4, Keeping Secrets, important possessions begin disappearing in Baker House.  Soon, the girls are convinced that Mary Beth is the culprit.

Mary Beth acts unfriendly and refuses to become friends with anybody.  She isolates herself, and nobody likes her.  Faith alone tries to be friends with Mary Beth, but she is rebuffed.

This book introduces two new characters, Mary Beth and Millie.  Why introduce two characters whose names begin with the same letter?  After all, there are 25 other letters in the alphabet.  At times, I slightly confused the two characters.  Why do authors do that?!

While reading this book, I was interested to learn the identity of the thief.  I suspected a certain student of being the culprit rather than Mary Beth.

Too much of the text is devoted to trivial events, and much of the story drags.  The book is overall good, but it could have been written in a more interesting fashion.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mystery Solvers Series by Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson

I enjoyed reading the Mysteries in Our National Parks series by Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson.  I really wanted to read additional books by the authors, so I looked to see if they had written anything else that might appeal to me.  I found the Mystery Solvers series from the late 1990s.

1.  Mystery of the Spooky Shadow, 1996
2.  Mystery of the Vanishing Creatures, 1997
3.  Mystery of the Haunted Silver Mine, 1997
4.  Mystery of the Fire in the Sky, 1997

I think I have the books in the right order. Goodreads has the books listed in the wrong order.

Caitlin Marsh and her mother, April, live near Three Peaks, Colorado, in a trailer that is located on Mr. Giles' ranch.  April Marsh earns a living by knitting ski caps, which are sold in the gift shops of nearby ski resorts.

Caitlin is in the third grade, and she really likes Joe Daniel Giles, who is in the sixth grade. Joe Daniel typically ignores her.  Caitlin, Joe Daniel, and several other students are members of the Three Peaks Science Club. The club sponsor, Mr. Mahoney, takes the students on field trips.

These books are for ages six through nine. The stories run around 60 pages.  I don't usually read books for younger children such as these, but I made an exception since I enjoyed the Mysteries in Our National Parks series so much.

In Mystery of the Spooky Shadow, Caitlin and her friends discover a valuable Native American artifact while on a field trip in the nearby national park.  They mark the location and are shocked later when they are told that the artifact has vanished.  One of the students is under suspicion for the theft, but Caitlin is certain that he is not guilty.

In Mystery of the Vanishing Creatures, the Three Peaks Science Club has created a display of reptiles and insects in the library. The students are devastated when the creatures begin disappearing.  Each time a creature vanishes, an ominous note is left behind mentioning something about the creature dying.  Caitlin is determined to solve the mystery.

In Mystery of the Haunted Silver Mine, the science club takes a field trip into the deserted silver mine.  Caitlin and Lily decide to play a trick on another student who is always playing jokes, so they run ahead in the tunnel and hide.  Their prank backfires when they become lost and end up in a dangerous situation.

In Mystery of the Fire in the Sky, Caitlin and her new friend, Paige, are standing on the side of a mountain when they see a bright flash of light in the sky.  They tell the adults, but nobody will believe them.  Finally, the girls find that some of the other children also saw the light.  Mr. Mahoney takes the science club on a field trip so that they can search for evidence of what happened.

The mysteries in all four books are extremely easy to solve.  Even though I could guess the solution in each case, I still found the books to be suspenseful.

I enjoyed reading these books.  My favorite is probably Mystery of the Haunted Silver Mine.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Girls of Canby Hall #1 Roommates and #2 Our Roommate Is Missing

In Girls of Canby Hall #1, Roommates, Dana, Faith, and Shelley begin their sophomore year at Canby Hall as roommates in Baker House, Room 407.  Dana is a New York City girl; Faith is levelheaded; and Shelley is a country girl who has never been to a big city.  At first, the girls get off to a bad start when Shelley is uncomfortable being around Faith, who is black.  Shelly is also terribly homesick.  By the end of the story, the conflict is resolved, and the three girls are good friends.

Shelley is not likable in this book, since she feels sorry for herself for most of the story.  I did end up liking her after reading additional titles.

In Girls of Canby Hall #2, Our Roommate Is Missing, Shelley disappears!  Shelley was snatched by mistake instead of Casey.  The kidnappers plan to use the abduction to keep Casey's father from testifying in a criminal case. Dana and Faith try to figure out where Shelley is so that they can rescue her.

This book is atypical of the Girls of Canby Hall series in that it reads like a series mystery book and follows the same logic as a series book.  For instance, the young people don't tell the FBI agents what they know and instead solve the mystery themselves.  The reasoning is that the adults wouldn't have believed them.  Right.

This is a very good story.

I have created a Facebook group for enthusiasts of vintage teen books such as the ones reviewed in this post.  Please follow this link to join.