Thursday, January 19, 2017

National Parks Mysteries #3 Cliff-Hanger and #4 Deadly Waters

In National Parks Mysteries #3, Cliff-Hanger, the Landons visit Mesa Verde National Park so that Olivia can investigate why a cougar attacked a hiker.  A girl called Lucky is the Landons' latest foster child.  She and Jack grow close while Ashley insists that Lucky cannot be trusted. Ashley believes that Lucky has taken an artifact from the park, which is illegal.  Jack insists that Lucky is telling the truth about not taking the artifact.

The reader can guess what Lucky's mystery is and can see that Ashley is quite insightful while Jack is clueless.

In this book, both Olivia and Lucky have pagers, which are obsolete nowadays.  Even some books from the last 20 years are already quite dated.

I enjoyed the interplay between Jack and Lucky.  Jack has to decide between right and wrong.  Lucky's story is interesting.

I greatly enjoyed this story, and it is my favorite in the series so far.

In National Parks Mysteries #4, Deadly Waters, the Landon family travels to Everglades National Park so that Olivia can investigate why the manatees are dying.  Foster child Bridger, who is set in his western ways, comes along on the trip. When Jack's camera is stolen, the children have no idea that the theft is a clue to what is happening to the manatees.

On page 110, the author gets in a sly reference to National Geographic by having Jack mention that his photos are not quite good enough for the magazine.

I really enjoyed this story.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Merivale Mall #3 Playing Games and #4 Never Stop Smiling

In Merivale Mall #3, Playing Games, Merivale High and Atwood Academy's football rivalry has reached an all-time high.  Lori's boyfriend, Nick, plays for Atwood Academy, and Lori must decide which school to support.  At first, Lori plans to root for Atwood, but a mean cheerleader at Merivale High insists that Lori prove her loyalty to Merivale High.  Will the rivalry destroy Lori and Nick's relationship?

The main plot of this story is a bit annoying.  I find the subplot to be much more interesting.  Danielle has to volunteer at a daycare for extra credit for one of her classes.  It's fun to see Danielle interact with the children while she tries to keep her extracurricular activity a secret from her snobbish friends.

Danielle also has a secret boyfriend, Don, who is a poor boy who plans to become a mechanic. Don and Danielle's secret relationship is the best part of this series.  I love it.

I enjoyed this book.

In Merivale Mall #4, Never Stop Smiling, several of the girls compete for the title of Miss Merivale Mall.  Both Danielle and her friend, Teresa, plan to win the title and lord it over the other.  Danielle is jealous that Teresa's family has hired a coach, and Danielle schemes to find a way to beat Teresa—even if it means cheating!

On page 73, Danielle thinks, "If the contest were fair, all she'd have to do was show up and accept the crown.  So why did she have to go through this other stuff?"  Right, they should give the crown to Danielle, just because!

I enjoyed this book.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

National Parks Mysteries #1 Wolf Stalker and #2 Rage of Fire

National Geographic published a series originally known as the National Parks Mystery series and later renamed the Mysteries in Our National Parks series.  The books were written by a mother-daughter writing team, Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson.  The series ran for 13 volumes.  All 13 books are available in softcover.  The first 12 books are also available in hardcover with dust jacket.

 1.  Wolf Stalker, 1997
 2.  Rage of Fire, 1998
 3.  Cliff-Hanger, 1999
 4.  Deadly Waters, 1999
 5.  The Hunted, 2000
 6.  Ghost Horses, 2000
 7.  Over the Edge, 2002
 8.  Valley of Death, 2002
 9.  Escape from Fear, 2002
10.  Out of the Deep, 2002
11.  Running Scared, 2002
12.  Buried Alive, 2003
13.  Night of the Black Bear, 2007

I found the first six titles in hardcover with dust jacket in a bookstore.  They caught my eye and were priced at $2.00 each.  I hesitated, thinking they probably wouldn't interest me.  Books published by National Geographic and set in national parks?  I didn't expect much, thinking that the books would probably consist of boring stories with lots of educational content, similar to the Stratemeyer Syndicate's travelogue books of the 1960s.  However, I purchased them anyway, figuring I would later regret the purchase. Still, I hoped to try them eventually, just in case.  That was in February 2016.

The books stayed on the shelf near where I read for month after month.  I'd look at them and wouldn't be interested.  Finally in December 2016, I grew disgusted by all the "mumbling" in Richie Tankersley Cusick's books and felt at a loss as to what to do.  I dropped the Cusick book on the floor as a means of dismissing it and looked around aimlessly.  My eyes fell on the six National Parks Mysteries books I had purchased months before and had repeatedly rejected.  Well, why not?

A reviewer on Goodreads stated in the first sentence exactly what I thought as I read the first book:  "This book was better than I thought it would be."  I was surprised to find the book to be quite enjoyable and interesting.  I was glad that I had finally tried the series.  Once I read the first few books, I quickly purchased all of the remaining titles.  I had found my escape.

The Landon family consists of parents Steven and Olivia and their children, Jack and Ashley. Steven runs a photo lab and hopes to be a professional photographer someday, and Olivia is a veterinarian.  At the beginning of the series, Jack is 12 while Ashley is about 10.  By the end of the series, both children are approximately one year older.

The rangers at the various national parks rely on Olivia's expertise to help them with various problems with the animals.  This results in the Landon family taking trips to the national parks as Olivia works on the problems. The Landon family also takes in foster children on a short-term basis, and in each book, the family has a new foster child who travels with them to the national park.

Each book incorporates park history and typically at least one legend into the text.  The information is not lengthy and is always presented in an interesting fashion that enhances the story.

In National Parks Mysteries #1 Wolf Stalker, Olivia has been asked to investigate the scene where a man's dog was killed by one of the wolves from Yellowstone National Park.  If Olivia cannot find a suitable explanation, opponents to the wolves may decide to begin killing them.  Meanwhile, the Landon's new foster child, Troy, runs away from the rest of the family, causing Jack and Ashley to journey into the frozen wilderness in search of him.

I enjoyed this book.

In National Parks Mysteries #2, Rage of Fire, the Landon family is vacationing at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  While there, Olivia agrees for the family to take Danny, a Vietnamese orphan, as a temporary foster child. The Landons will be taking Danny to his new guardian.  Danny pulls Jack and Ashley into a harrowing adventure in the national park, which results in them being chased by a mysterious woman.

Danny has a mild mystery in his background, but otherwise, this story is not much more than a long chase scene.

While I like the story, this is the weakest book in the series.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Merivale Mall #1 Two for One and #2 The Best of Everything

The Merivale Mall series was published by Troll in 1989.  The series consists of 12 books and is a clone of Sweet Valley High.

Lori Randall attends Merivale High School while her wealthy cousin, Danielle Sharp, attends Atwood Academy.  Danielle is a snob who has no time for Lori, unless she needs a favor.  Lori is always foolish enough to help Danielle, since she loves her cousin.

Lori's character fills the role of Liz Wakefield while Danielle is like Jessica Wakefield. Danielle also has a lot of Lila Fowler in her as well.  Danielle has a couple of dreadful friends who may be more nasty than most anyone in the Sweet Valley High series.

In Merivale Mall #1 Two for One, Lori is attracted to Nick Hobart, handsome quarterback for Atwood Academy.  Unfortunately, Danielle also wants Nick, and she puts the moves on him.  Lori and Nick's romance appears to be doomed before it even begins.

This book sets up the premise for the series. Several of the teenagers work at Merivale Mall, and all of them hang out at Merivale Mall.  

The story arc of this book plays out just like the plot of a Sweet Valley High book, so I knew exactly how the conflict would be resolved.  Near the end of the story is a ridiculous scene in the mall where a note gets intercepted and rewritten multiple times by scheming teenagers.  The note is dropped, changes hands, and is rewritten so many times that I lost track and became annoyed. The scene should have been shortened considerably.  The way it was published is silly.

I enjoyed this book.

In Merivale Mall #2, The Best of Everything, Lori carefully saves for a used car.  She has to make a down payment by a certain date, and she will have just enough money for the payment. Meanwhile, Danielle purchases expensive clothing, and her father warns her to quit going over her credit limit.  Danielle asks Lori for money.  Will Lori sacrifice her dream car to help Danielle?

Anyone who has read Sweet Valley High knows whether Lori helps Danielle and what happens as a result.  And then Danielle has to clean up a big mess.  The way the plot is resolved is very funny and reminds me so much of all the hilarious Jessica Wakefield scenes that I love so much.

I also enjoyed this book, a bit more than the first one.

Note: 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.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Richie Tankersley Cusick The Locker, Someone at the Door, and The Drifter

In The Locker, Marlee and her family have moved to a new town, and Marlee begins attending her new school.  The first time Marlee opens her locker, she has a terrible experience that she knows is real.  Marlee learns that her locker belonged to a girl who disappeared, and Marlee realizes that the other students are keeping secrets from her.

The beginning of the story drags at times.  The second half of the book is much more suspenseful.  I overall enjoyed the story.

In Someone at the Door, Hannah and Meg are stranded alone in their isolated home during a blizzard.  Two strangers arrive needing help, and Hannah suspects that one of them is a dangerous murderer who escaped from prison.  Meg trusts the men, but Hannah is certain that they are up to no good.

The second half of the book is very suspenseful and very scary.  The reader is kept guessing, although the cover art spoils one part of the plot. However, I found that it didn't bother me and actually creeped me out as I neared that part of the story and waited for that part to play out.

In The Drifter, Carolyn and her mother have recently moved into their new home, Glanton House.  Almost right after their arrival, a man arrives wanting to live with them and help them fix up the house.  Carolyn's mother agrees, much to Carolyn's horror.  And events steadily deteriorate into a scary situation.

It's incredible that Carolyn's mother lets a strange man move in when she knows nothing about him. Of course, this is done to set up the story, but it's ridiculous.

This was the first Cusick book where I noticed that the characters "mumbled" over and over.  In some cases, mumbling made no sense.  Yelling would have been better.

I found most of the book to be a bit too slow.  The last one-third of the book is the best part.

This is a decent book and nothing more.  I would never read it again.

My Cusick journey went downhill from this point on.  I tried reading Silent Stalker and had to skim most of it.  The characters tease each other so much that the story is boring.  They also "mumbled" a lot.  Argh!

I then tried reading The Mall and Help Wanted which have lots of teasing, stupidity, and mumbling.  I couldn't read them.  I hadn't read all of my Cusick books, but I had to take a break and read something else.  I don't know if I will get back to the rest or not.

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.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Dark Forces #13 The Curse, #14 Blood Sport, and #15 The Charming

In Dark Forces #13, The Curse, Dana is terrified because her 17th birthday is in three days. During her entire life, Dana has had nightmares about how she will be killed on her 17th birthday. Dana's nightmares worsen, and Dana soon realizes that she is an ancient Egyptian princess who has been reincarnated.

I did not like this book and skimmed most of it.  I felt disconnected from Dana and never cared at all about her.  The book is lacking everything that makes a book interesting to read.

In Dark Forces #14, Blood Sport, Bob is asked to join the Icarus Gymnastic Troupe.  The members travel from city to city doing public performances, and Bob wants the practice so that he can qualify for the Olympics.

Like the previous title in the set, the book is missing something.  I never felt interested in what happens to Bob and never cared about his predicament.

The story is overall good but I was never engaged.

In Dark Forces #15, The Charming, Kathy wants to be a famous actress.  Her boyfriend is in charge of the school play, and Kathy is furious when another girl is chosen for the lead role.

Kathy is approached by an agent, who promises that she can make Kathy famous.  Kathy must agree to two conditions:  She must tell no one about the arrangement, and she must obey all commands.

On page 39, Kathy is told, "[Y]ou read too many Nancy Drew mysteries when you were growing up."

Fortunately, this book is better than the previous two titles.

Just like the Twilight Where Dark Begins series, the Dark Forces series declined towards the end of its run.

I overall greatly enjoyed the Dark Forces series.

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.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Richie Tankersley Cusick Fatal Secrets and House Next Door

In Fatal Secrets, Ryan's sister Marissa falls through the ice and drowns.  Marissa was trying to tell her something just before she died, and Ryan realizes that Marissa had a secret.  Charles Eastman, a friend of Marissa's, arrives at Ryan's home to stay.  Ryan doesn't trust him, but her mother will not listen.  Frightening events occur, and Ryan feels like she is losing her mind.

I realized fairly early in the story that Ryan was being gaslighted.  I was quite engaged in the story as I tried to figure out who was involved. One character behaved so extremely suspicious that I knew he was involved, but other culprits were shocking.

Ryan saw her sister multiple times throughout the story.  It's not clear whether this was a sign of her mental breakdown or whether a spirit was involved.  It is not explained, and the reader must decide.

This is an excellent book.  Some scenes are scary and hilarious at the same time, like when Ryan is chased down a deserted street by Santa Claus.  This book would have made a perfect horror movie.

In The House Next Door, Emma's twin brother, Charlie, dares her to spend the night in the abandoned  house next door.  Soon after Emma enters the house, she meets a spirit and has a strange experience.

When Emma enters the house next door, she travels into the past in a similar fashion as what happens in the book The Twisted Room.

Emma and Charlie tease each other relentlessly.  I found it very annoying and juvenile.  Once both Emma and Charlie are thoroughly frightened by what is happening, the teasing lessens, which makes the story much better.

I did not care for the beginning of the book, but the last part is quite scary and thrilling.

Note:  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.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Dark Forces #11 Waiting Spirits and #12 The Ashton Horror

In Dark Forces #11, Waiting Spirits, Lisa and Carrie are staying with their parents and grandmother in their grandmother's childhood home.  Lisa and Carrie try spirit writing, which summons several spirits to them.  Soon, Lisa realizes that one of the spirits is trying to take over her body.

I like this statement by Lisa's grandmother on pages 96 and 97.
"Your times haven't been so sweet," she said sadly.  "Oh, I don't think it's been all that bad for you.  But the shadows are longer now than they were then.  It all changed in 1945."

Lisa gave her a puzzled look.

"Oh, study your history, child.  That was the year we blew up Hiroshima and learned our planet was as mortal as we are.  I always thought a great dividing line was drawn then.  No one born after that time can understand what it was like to grow up without that shadow."
This resonates with me.  We have now lost even more of our innocence, and the world is very different now than it was when I was growing up in the 1980s.

This is a good book.

In Dark Forces #12, The Ashton Horror, Dennis joins Adrian's fantasy game club.  The club meets in an old cavern that has ancient drawings. Adrian announces that the club will be summoning Mogar out of the past.  The other members think it is all just in fun, but they later learn that Mogar is very real and very dangerous.

The ending of the story is wrapped up way too fast.  Dennis takes some grenades out of his father's weapon collection.  He uses a crowbar to pry the cases open.  I would like to have seen how Dennis would have explained his actions to his father.

I enjoyed this book.

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.