Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Hardy Boys #80 Roaring River, #81 Demon's Den, and #82 Blackwing Puzzle

In Hardy Boys #80, The Roaring River Mystery, Frank and Joe work on solving a bank robbery in which a large amount of money and a valuable diamond ring were stolen.  The boys also assist their new friend, Ollie Fernandez, as he hopes to lead the first expedition through the rapids of Roaring River.  Ollie believes someone is trying to stop him.  Almost all of Ollie's life jackets have been stolen, and Ollie has had several other acts of sabotage.

It should be noted that the stolen life jackets were purchased from a store very close to the bank and that the bank robbers had been in the store.  By page 40, I had already guessed the significance of the stolen life jackets and was annoyed that the Hardys have no idea.

On page 77, the boys realize that someone is after the life jacket that Ollie still has, a life jacket that had already been noted to have a mended tear.  Hmm.  Clueless Frank and Joe don't inspect the life jacket.

So there's a missing diamond ring.  Hmm.  I wonder where the diamond ring could possibly be?  On page 117, Frank remarks, referring to the life jackets, "I still can't figure out what the crooks want with them."  Well, gosh, I wonder.

On page 140, the numbskulls finally open the mended tear in the life jacket to find what I knew was there all along.  Idiots!

While I enjoyed this book, it has no suspense.  The solution is obvious all along, and the only reason the story has a mystery is because Frank and Joe act like fools.

In Hardy Boys #81, The Demon's Den, Frank and Joe vacation in Vermont with Chet and Biff.  A boy goes missing from a nearby camp, and Frank and Joe look for him.  Meanwhile, Fenton Hardy is looking for a missing scientist who may be working for a foreign power.  The scientist is believed to be in Vermont, and the boys look for him as well.

This book captured my interest quickly.  I did lose interest at times, since I found the story of the missing boy to be more interesting than the story of the missing scientist.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this book.

In Hardy Boys #82, The Blackwing Puzzle, an old house is said to be haunted by the ghost of a slave trader.  A strange black shadow hovers in the sky over the house.  Frank and Joe suspect some kind of aircraft holds the solution, but they cannot figure out why no motor can be heard. 

The story has slightly too many characters, which always decreases my enjoyment.  I had trouble keeping all of them straight. 

The book also has too many subplots.  One subplot, which has to do with a jeweled butterfly found by the boys, is not necessary to the case.   Focusing more on the old house would have been better.  The boys spend very little time in the house.

While I enjoyed this story, it could have been better.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Hardy Boys #77 Crimson Flame, #78 Cave-In, and #79 Sky Sabotage

In Hardy Boys #77, The Crimson Flame, Frank and Joe travel to Arizona to assist Alfred McVay, a rancher who fears that his valuable ruby will be stolen.  Once in Arizona, the boys notice that several of the McVay's employees are behaving suspiciously, although McVay refuses to believe that any of them could be in on the plot.

As soon as I began reading this book, I felt that this is more like it.  This is the type of plot I enjoy.  While I have read many stories set on ranches with suspicious employees, I never tire of that type of story when it is written well.

I enjoyed this book.

In Hardy Boys #78, Cave-In, Frank and Joe are asked to find a missing Hollywood actor, Richard Chase.  Their search takes them to the an old hotel near Lake Tahoe.  The hotel is the set of Chase's latest movie.  Frank and Joe also find themselves in the middle of a conflict between rival teen gangs and soon suspect that the villains are pitting the teens against each other.

I greatly enjoyed this book from the very first page.  I don't know what it is, but the book had me from the opening paragraphs.  Some books are easier and more fun to read, and this is one of them.

I really like the setting at and near the ski lodge.  I enjoyed the setting with the two rival gangs of boys.

The boys end up staying with Tim because Phil Cohen mentioned him, thinking he works on the set of the movie.  Tim didn't tell the truth and used Phil so that he could get the Hardys to help him fight the rival gang.  The Hardys refuse, and in fact, end up spending time around the rival gang.  Soon, the boys learn that someone is pitting the two gangs together.  It has something to do with the mine, and this is an intriguing mystery. 

Stories like this are so much more engaging to me than reading about Pentagon spies, terrorist organizations, and gambling on football games.  It's a throwback to a simpler type of book that is much more interesting.

I greatly enjoyed this book from start to finish.  Nothing was boring, and nothing dragged.

In Hardy Boys #79, Sky Sabotage, Fenton Hardy believes that a sabotage attempt will be made to prevent the launch of an important satellite from Cape Canaveral.  Frank and Joe go to Florida to investigate.  Meanwhile, the boys also search for some missing pet porpoises. 

One scene in this book is ridiculous.  A loan shark steals an electric eel so that he can use it to torture someone who owes him money.  A metal plate is inside the aquarium and wires run from the metal plate to a chair where the victim is strapped.  Each time the eel comes into contact with the metal plate, the victim is shocked.  This is crazy!  It sounds like the sort of thing that would happen in a Kay Tracey book.

On page 124, Chet has been abducted by the criminals.  Fenton Hardy tells his sons, "Chet's been in tight spots before.  He'll be all right."  Sure Fenton, whatever you say.

The book lost me a little bit in the last several chapters, and I skimmed some parts.  There were a few too many characters, which always causes me to lose interest.  Overall, I enjoyed this book, even though the number of characters took away from my enjoyment.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Purchasing More Books to Read

I continue to have a strong desire to build sets of series books that I have not yet read, so I am constantly looking ahead to what I plan to read in the coming months.

In the fall, I purchased the complete set of the Girls of Canby Hall books.

My plan was to read them immediately after finishing the original 58 Hardy Boys books, but I decided instead to read the Hardy Boys Digest series.  Soon after I began reading the Hardy Boys Digests, I decided that I wanted to compare and contrast Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as both series have evolved over the years.  This means that I decided that I will read the Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers series and then the Hardy Boys Adventures series immediately after I finish reading the Hardy Boys Digest series.

I had already purchased nine of the Hardy Boys Adventures in hardcover editions in December when I saw a wholesale lot of remaindered books on eBay.

I just purchased the two most recent Hardy Boys Adventures books from Amazon, so now I have the complete set of what has been published so far.

I held off for the last couple of months hoping to get a set of Undercover Brothers cheap, but books never do show up when I need them. 

I decided in early April to set a goal to read 300 books this year.  At that point, I was on track to read 282 books.  I sped up my pace, and I am now on track to read slightly more than 300 books.  This means that I am progressing rather quickly through the Hardy Boys Digests, and I need to build the Undercover Brothers set in advance of needing them.  I project that I will be finished with the Hardy Boys Digests before the end of June, and that isn't so far off.

This is what I have so far, purchased from three different sellers.

Since time is beginning to draw short, I went to and purchased every title I could find that I had not already acquired.  There were two titles, #19 Foul Play and #20 Feeding Frenzy, that were not available on Thriftbooks.  Obviously I could purchase both books individually elsewhere.  However, Foul Play presented a dilemma, since unfortunately a Hardy Boys Casefiles book is also titled Foul Play.  I would have no way to guarantee that I would get the Undercover Brothers book instead of the Casefiles book, especially since most sellers who have one available are the volume sellers who pay no attention to detail.  I then realized that I could solve the problem by purchasing Foul Play new from Amazon.

Problem solved.  I have not made the purchase yet, primarily because I am too cheap to purchase Amazon Prime or to pay for shipping from Amazon, so I group items together and always get free shipping.

I will order the last two Undercover Brothers with the Nancy Drew Diaries book that is set to be released on May 10 and with another Ted Wilford book that I need.  And of course Amazon will wait until around May 15 to ship the order to punish me for getting free shipping, but that's okay.  I don't need the books for a couple of months.

In case you didn't know, the Ted Wilford series is being reprinted.  So far, Wildside Press has released five of them, and all 15 will be reprinted.  The books are being reprinted with permission of the Norvin Pallas family.

I have also purchased two short series which I will probably read sometime between now and the end of June during my reading of the Hardy Boys Digest series.  If a series is short, it will not break my momentum of reading the Hardy Boys.

First, I purchased the entire Winn and Lonny series.

Second, I  purchased the Morgan Bay mystery series, which were published as school readers.

I have also begun purchasing the Sweet Dreams books as I find them.

Ah, the 1980s.  The complete set of Sweet Dreams set consists of over 200 books, so I don't have very many of them.

This is my plan on what I intend to read and in what order.

Hardy Boys Digest series along with Wynn and Lonny/Morgan Bay
Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers series
Nancy Drew Diaries #11 and #12
Hardy Boys Adventure series
Girls of Canby Hall series
The Sweet Dreams books (This one is not definite.)

As of right now I am not intending to read the Hardy Boys Casefiles set this year, although I do own the complete set.  I could always change my mind and decide to read them.

This will take me through September or October and a total of around 250 of the 300 books I intend to read this year.  I can do it.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Hardy Boys #74 Tic-Tac-Terror, #75 Trapped at Sea, and #76 Game Plan for Disaster

In Hardy Boys #74, Tic-Tac-Terror, Frank and Joe search for a missing man who disappeared on the way back from South America.  Soon, the boys learn that the man's disappearance is tied to a missing emerald and a dangerous spy organization that threatens national security.

I find it doubtful that the government would trust teen boys to help them crack a spy ring.  That's one of the reasons why I never enjoy stories dealing with the government and spies as much as I do others.  In every series, this kind of story always involves top government agents sharing classified information with teenage sleuths.  It's always hard to believe.

I did end up enjoying this book even though the subject is not the kind of book that I prefer.

In Hardy Boys #75, Trapped at Sea, Frank and Joe work undercover with Chet to discover who is stealing shipments of uranium.

The Hardys and Chet suffer from "Nancy Drew Syndrome" in this book.  "Nancy Drew Syndrome" is when a teenage sleuth already is an expert at whatever obscure activity is required of them in the current story.

In this case, all three boys are experts at driving large cargo trucks.  They need to get jobs as truck drivers for a company in order to further their investigation.  Naturally, they already know how to drive trucks even though they don't have licenses.  The boys go in the next day, take the written and driving tests, pass, and are shortly behind the wheels of the trucks.  How amazing!

I enjoyed this story.

In Hardy Boys #76, Game Plan for Disaster, Ace Harrington is set to play for the college football championship.  Frank and Joe are hired to protect Ace, who has suddenly become accident-prone.  It appears that someone is trying to injure him so that he cannot play in the upcoming game.

On page 17, Frank and Joe get settled in their dorm room.
It was comfortable, with two beds, a large window overlooking the campus, and walls lined with books.

"The fellow who lives here must be some reader," Joe said.  "Or do you think he's just showing off?" 
It's odd that Joe would think that the resident is just showing off.  How about the more obvious answer, which is that the resident reads and studies a lot?  While some people might try to impress others with how smart they are by possessing lots of books, I doubt a college student would fill a cramped dorm room with books just to impress others.

The boys see Ace Harrington get out of a vehicle that has gamblers in it.  It's rather obvious what the gamblers want, since I have read this same plot in multiple other series books.  The gamblers want Ace to lose the championship game.

This plot is another type story that is not the kind that I greatly enjoy.  I overall enjoyed this story, but I was glad to get it finished and hope to get to another story that will be more to my liking.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hardy Boys #71 Track of the Zombie, #72 Voodoo Plot, and #73 Billion Dollar Ransom

In Hardy Boys #71, Track of the Zombie, Frank and Joe look for an arsonist in Vermont.  The trouble is that the arsonist appears to be a zombie!

Part of the story is set at the circus.  The next paragraph contains a spoiler, so don't read the next paragraph if you don't want to know.

Spoiler coming... In series books, the ringmaster is always one of the villains, even when he seems innocent.  I expected the ringmaster to be one of the villains, and I was right!  This is always what happens. However, the ringmaster is not the only villain.

I greatly enjoyed this book.

In Hardy Boys #72, The Voodoo Plot, Peter Walker is worried about his grandfather, who has been threatened by a voodoo gang in New Orleans.  Meanwhile, Fenton Hardy works on a case involving a series of gallery robberies.  The clues lead to a crazy rattlesnake enthusiast in Georgia and later to New Orleans where the two cases converge.  Don't they always?

Frank and Joe are hired to prevent a gallery from being robbed.  The boys check to see that just one alley leads to the back of the store and assume that the thieves will use a vehicle.  Therefore, both boys stay in the front to watch and even spend their time studying.  I was not surprised when someone on foot robs the gallery.  How dumb for both boys to stay in the front!

This book is full of ominous handwritten messages.  One message is fake, and that one causes the boys to be stranded in the swamp all night.  Later, two different people friendly with the boys leave messages that are a bit strange and in my opinion seem fake.  I was shocked that in these cases that the messages are actually real! 

The criminals use strange methods to get information to each other.  One of them sings a song in a club and changes the words to give a specific location.  Why not send a handwritten message?  That's what everyone else does in this story.

I greatly enjoyed this book.

In Hardy Boys #73, The Billion Dollar Ransom, Fenton Hardy has a top-secret case that he keeps from the boys.  Meanwhile, the boys are hired to keep watch over a contest for magicians and over the Bayport Opera House, both of which are being sabotaged.  Naturally, all three cases are connected!

There were parts that I only mildly enjoyed because the story reads like a typical sabotage book set in a theater where one magician is sabotaging the contest.  I have read variations of that same story quite a few times in the Nancy Drew series.

The next paragraph contains a hint to a major spoiler, so skip it if you don't want to guess part of the plot.

Later in the story when the true plot is revealed, I found it hard to believe that the Secret Service would allow the possibility of a kidnapping to occur. 

While hard to believe, this is a very suspenseful book, and I enjoyed it.  I would have enjoyed the story more if I had found it easier to believe.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Hardy Boys #68 Submarine Caper, #69 Four-Headed Dragon, and #70 Infinity Clue

In Hardy Boys #68, The Submarine Caper, Frank and Joe briefly look into who has stolen the plans to Alfred Wagner's submarine, but then they spend nearly the entire book looking for missing paintings.  Since the book has little to do with a submarine, I suppose that's why the book's title was changed to Deadly Chase in the Minstrel edition.

This book has too many characters, so many that it ranks up there with The Greek Symbol Mystery.  If I had known how many characters were going to be in this book, I would have counted them.  This Hardy Boys book is just like the typical Nancy Drew Wanderer book with too convoluted of a plot. 

On page 118, Rita goes to fix dinner right after the police leave.  The police had been called because she had been found bound and gagged.  I couldn't believe that the Hardys let her fix them dinner right after she had been assaulted!  They should have gotten some take-out food and brought back dinner.

On page 102, Frank suggests that the gang who stole the paintings could also be involved in the submarine mystery.  Frank exclaims, "Don't ask me how come he features in both mysteries!"  Well, why not?  It's like this in every book.

The sad thing is that I don't know if the mysteries were actually connected.  I began skimming the book around 50 pages before the end, and then I quit.  I couldn't take it anymore.  The book has too many characters, and I couldn't keep up with all of them.  I was bored and didn't care.

I did not enjoy this book.

In Hardy Boys #69, The Four-Headed Dragon, Sam Radley is found in the woods in a daze.  He cannot communicate and is hospitalized.  Frank and Joe try to find who attacked Sam.  Meanwhile, Fenton Hardy is on the trail of a dangerous criminal who plans to blow up the entire Alaska pipeline.

Since the book opens with Sam Radley injured, the book immediately caught my attention.  The story held my attention all the way through.  While I greatly enjoyed the first half of the book, the second half is outstanding. 

The last half of the book features a hurricane, and the boys are trapped in a spooky mansion in the middle of the woods during the hurricane and at night.  The mansion is also said to be haunted.  You can't get better than that.

This is an excellent book, which more than makes up for the lackluster previous book.

In Hardy Boys #70, The Infinity Clue, Frank and Joe receive a mysterious message from their father, telling them to speak to someone in Washington, D.C.  Their attempt at following their father's orders causes them to be accused of stealing a valuable diamond from the Smithsonian.  As the boys work to prove their innocence, they uncover a plot to sabotage nuclear power plants.

A minor earthquake that has a magnitude of between 2 and 3 occurs at the beginning of the book.  The earthquake topples telephone poles and knocks out the electricity.  Cars crash when the drivers become startled by the shaking.

20 years ago, I might have believed all of this.  We now have earthquakes between magnitude 2 and 3 rather often in Oklahoma, and we barely notice them.  The local earthquakes of magnitude 4 have only caused a few cracks in walls.  Our power poles don't fall over, and people in cars don't crash.

On page 45, Chet is left in the museum overnight with no food.  That's cruel!

The story is good from the beginning, but I enjoyed it more and more the further I read.  I greatly enjoyed this book.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Hardy Boys #65 Stone Idol, #66 Vanishing Thieves, and #67 Outlaw's Silver

In Hardy Boys #65, The Stone Idol, Frank and Joe are hired to find a stone idol from Easter Island that disappeared during its journey to New York.  Fenton has the boys take a break from their case to help him in Antarctica, and then the boys continue working on their case.

In the beginning of the story, we learn that the boys' previous case was a New York embezzlement case.  It was not!

This case is similar to The Mummy Case in which a valuable artifact goes missing during shipment.  How original to immediately reuse a plot idea!  I guess at least it isn't sabotage. 

The story about the missing idol in Chile is okay but not very compelling.  Partway through the book, Fenton pulls the boys away from their case to help him in Antarctica.  At first I was annoyed, since I do not like a story switching from one case to an unrelated one halfway through.  The mysteries really are unrelated, which is bizarre for a Hardy Boys book.  However, I found that I greatly enjoyed the interlude in Antarctica.  It was thrilling and quite interesting and the best part of the entire book.  Unfortunately, the boys go back to Chile to continue their boring original case.

At times, this book has too much travelogue or explanatory information.

Except for the part in Antarctica, this book is tedious, and I did not enjoy the main mystery very much.  The short part in Antarctica is very good.

In Hardy Boys #66, The Vanishing Thieves, Chert's cousin Vern asks Frank and Joe to help him find a priceless coin that was stolen in California.  Meanwhile, Fenton asks the boys to help him with an auto theft ring that is operating around Bayport.

And of course, the auto thieves in Bayport also stole the coin in California.  How else would it happen?

On page 50, Frank decides to behave recklessly, which is a flaw in the continuity.  Usually Joe is the reckless one.

When Frank and Joe fly to California with Chet and Vern, it's very strange for the blonde woman, who is involved in the case, and another man unknown to her, who is also involved in the case, to both be on the same row in the plane as the four boys.  It's just too convenient.

This book is full of crazy coincidences. 

On page 120, three boys go for help while only one stays behind to watch their prisoners.  I'm sure you can guess what happens!  The prisoners get away!

At one point I got tired of the boys getting captured and then escaping over and over again.  It reminded me of the original text of The Disappearing Floor when the boys keep going back to the cave and getting caught or nearly caught. 

The ending is funny.  I greatly enjoyed this book.

In Hardy Boys #67, The Outlaw's Silver, Frank, Joe, and their friends search for a missing treasure in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey.

On page 44, a dealer in old maps displays maps from the 1700s in the front window of his store.  The boys reflect that the maps are probably moved frequently to prevent damage from the sun.  Any amount of time in the sun will damage the maps.  I just shake my head over this example of sheer idiocy.

I feel like the book has a few too many characters that are not memorable.  I found I had trouble remembering some of them from my previous reading whenever I resumed reading from where I left off.  Characters should be memorable enough not to be forgotten in just a few hours.

I enjoyed this book, but I would have enjoyed it more with fewer characters.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hardy Boys #62 Apeman's Secret, #63 Mummy Case, and #64 Smugglers Cove

In Hardy Boys #62, The Apeman's Secret, Frank and Joe help their father search for a missing girl who has joined a local cult.  Meanwhile, someone disguised as the Apeman is terrorizing local gatherings.

Apeman is a comic book character made into a hit television series.  By the description, it's obvious that the Apeman is the fictional equivalent of the Incredible Hulk.  The television network name in this book is FBS, and Hulk ran on CBS.  I tend not to like books quite as much when they copy reality but change the names.

On page 66, Frank receives a fake phone call while investigating at a gym.  I couldn't believe he fell for it.  As soon as Frank was called to the phone, I knew it was fake.  Nobody knew they were there!  The phone call had to have been faked by someone who was at the gym!

Even worse, on page 85, Joe declares that the phone call was not fake.  Joe thinks the phone call was real because Frank answered a phone that had an active line.  Frank has to explain to Joe that the person who faked the call could have had a friend call the gym. 

Chet's new hobby is drawing comic books.  He very quickly gets his comic purchased for publication.  I was incredulous until I decided that this was probably part of the mystery and that Chet was being used.  It fit along with something that had happened during the story.  At the end of the story, I realized that Chet's comic really is being published (!) when Chet becomes crestfallen that they are making the comic funny and not the way he intended.  It's not logical for a beginner to get published immediately.

While I enjoyed this story, I would rather have read a book about a different topic.

In Hardy Boys #63, The Mummy Case, Frank and Joe are hired to guard a mummy during its journey to Egypt via ship.

I enjoyed this book at the start, but I lost interest more and more the further I read.  I liked the museum part.  I partially liked the part where the boys stop the revolution, even though that was kind of random in the middle of the story.  The ship part was okay at first but not after the revolution interlude.  I did not like the part in Egypt and was bored.  I began skimming towards the end.

This book is below average.

In Hardy Boys #64, Mystery of Smugglers Cove, the Hardys are accused of stealing a valuable painting.  They must find the culprits and the painting in order to prove their innocence.  The case takes them to Florida, where they go undercover to flush out some smugglers—and hopefully, the stolen painting.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable mystery.  I was interested from the first page, and the book maintained my interest.  The book does not have too many characters.  It was easy to keep track of everyone.

I was kept in suspense wondering about the identity of the Chief.  I thought I knew, and I was eager to see if I was correct.  I was.

This is an excellent book.