Saturday, December 3, 2016

Twilight Darkness #25 Deadly Rhyme and #26 Scavenger's Hunt

In the final two books of the Twilight Where Darkness Begins set, the series changes from horror to mystery with no supernatural events.  When a series strays from its premise, it is clearly on the decline and needs to end.  The series should have ended after #24.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #25, A Deadly Rhyme, Angela is a new student at an exclusive prep school, Glencora.  Strange accidents befall several students and teachers, and Angela is nervous.

There is mention of a spirit at the beginning of the story.  However, I never expected the spirit to appear, and it never did.  This is not a ghost story.  It is a mild mystery where a living and breathing person decides to cause trouble out of vengeance.  This story is not horror or anything similar to it, and the story is only slightly interesting.

The book has too many characters.  I kept having to flip back towards the beginning of the story to try to recall each one.  I kept getting confused.  The author also randomly switches between referring to teachers by their first and last names.  In one instance, a teacher is called by her first name for quite a few chapters, then the text abruptly switches to her last name with no explanation.  I had no idea who was meant and was very confused.

Information is revealed in a fashion that is confusing, and it happens several times.

This book was not written well.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #26, Scavenger's Hunt, Kyle Scavenger visits her family's ancestral home with her aunt.  Aunt Ruth is hosting a scavenger hunt on the property.  And it's not worth the effort to explain further.

Like the previous book, this book has no supernatural events.  This is a murder mystery and nothing else.  I did not enjoy it very much.

Nancy Drew is mentioned three times during the story.  On page 7, we learn that Kyle read the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books as a child. Later, Kyle is called "Nancy Drew" twice by her boyfriend.

I overall greatly enjoyed reading the Twilight Where Darkness Begins series.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Strange Buyer Questions

Potential buyers who ask strange questions, especially ones that are unnecessary, are always concerning to sellers.  Fortunately, most of these buyers do not make a purchase.  For some reason, they like to contact sellers and ask questions that are already answered in the item description.  It's like they aren't really interested in the item, but they need for the seller to answer a question before they can let it go.

I recently had a prospective buyer ask me two questions.  The first question was whether the price written inside was in ink or in pencil.  The second question was for me to "be more specific as to the 'light wear' " that I described.

It's really hard for me to answer the second question without being snarky.  I am also always quite concerned when I receive these kinds of questions.  I immediately checked the buyer's feedback where I determined that this buyer has an above average number of problems with sellers.  This buyer leaves negative and neutral feedback on a somewhat regular basis.  While the buyer might have genuinely had more difficult sellers than the average buyer, it is always concerning to see a buyer with an above average number of problems.

When I answer these kinds of questions, I word my response in such a way as to hopefully dissuade the buyer from purchasing the book.  I told the buyer, "The price inside is written in pencil. However, I believe part of it is heavy enough that it will not erase. The penciled price is on top of another erased price that did not erase completely. So it won't be possible to completely remove all traces of the prices."  That was how I attempted to dissuade the buyer.

In regard to the buyer's first question, I tried not to be snarky.  I wanted to write, " 'Light wear' is wear that is light."  I also wanted to write, "Look at the pictures."  I refrained, but what I wrote wasn't much different.  I replied, "Light wear is wear that is minor rather than major. You can see the light wear in the picture. Hover your cursor on the photos to view them large. You can see a small amount of white showing through at the very ends of the spine and corners. That's the light wear."

The buyer did not purchase the book, which was fine with me.

Some buyers ask for me to take additional pictures of the book or jacket.  Most of the time, I understand why.  One buyer wanted a photo of a certain illustration inside a Three Investigators book.  I assume that the buyer was seeking a variant.  That makes sense.  Other buyers want photos of the front and back flaps of the dust jacket.  I understand this request as well.  The best way to make sure a price code is either black or red is to ask for a picture.  Sometimes it is also easier just to request a photo than to make certain that a seller gives the correct last title in the series list.

Then there are the other picture requests.  One buyer asked for me to take "random pictures" of several pages from different parts of the book with no explanation as to the purpose of the request.  I was given no information about which pages I should select for the "random pictures."  I assumed that the buyer probably wanted to know about the paper quality or wanted to check for water damage, but I would have appreciated the buyer giving me an idea as to the purpose of the request.  I photographed some random pages, and as expected, the buyer did not purchase the book.

I have had several prospective Hardy Boys buyers ask me to take pictures of the pre-text list, title page, and/or copyright page, telling me that they are seeking a certain printing.  I am not nearly as knowledgeable about the Hardy Boys series as I am about Nancy Drew, so in each case I looked in Hardy and Hardy Investigations to see what I didn't know that I should have mentioned.

Strangely, I could find nothing special about those pages in the books about which the buyers inquired.  I don't know what the pictures were going to reveal about the books. Perhaps some additional information has come to light about some books, and since I am not active in Hardy Boys groups, I don't have that information.  In any case, I am left perplexed and wondering whether some of the picture requests are just to see if I'll take the pictures.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Twilight Darkness #22 Haunted Dollhouse, #23 The Warning, and #24 Amulet of Doom

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #22, The Haunted Dollhouse, Jessica and her mother have moved into an old house.  An old dollhouse is discovered in the attic and is brought downstairs.  Soon, Jessica notices that the dolls in the dollhouse change position on their own and that the furniture also moves.  After something happens in the dollhouse, it then happens in the original house.  Jessica wants to get rid of the dollhouse, but her mother refuses.

The prologue is quite effective in setting up a spooky atmosphere for the story.

One scene almost caused me to have a panic attack.  It was similar to something very bad that happened in my life last year, and I began to get upset anticipating and fearing the same result. Fortunately, the scene in the book has a happier conclusion, so I was able to calm down and enjoy the rest of the book.

This is an excellent book.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #23, The Warning, Lois loves her boyfriend, Ronnie, and life is good.  Her best friend keeps warning her about her boyfriend, which is annoying.  Lois has no worries until her fingers begin typing hateful messages during typing class. Somebody hates her and wants bad things to happen to her.

Ronnie is an obvious abusive boyfriend.  He is manipulative and calls Lois "honeybunch." Yuck.  He gets angry when Lois does not do what he wants, but Lois is oblivious to his faults. I hate reading books where the protagonist is so clueless.  However, the story does accurately depict how someone like Lois would act while in an abusive relationship.

The boyfriend situation is tied to the warnings that Lois types during her typing class.  The mystery behind who is possessing Lois's hands is quite surprising.  The culprit cannot possibly be guessed until the reveal.

This is a very good book.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #24, The Amulet of Doom, Marilyn's aunt, Zenobia, dies of a heart attack.  After Zenobia's death, her spirit comes to Marilyn, telling her to retrieve Zenobia's amulet from her body and to guard it.  Once the amulet is in Marilyn's possession, she realizes that the amulet contains a dangerous spirit.

While this is a good story, I did not care for it. This set features two books written by Bruce Coville, this book and Spirits and Spells, and both books are centered around magic and fantasy with characters who appear from another world or via time travel.  They don't fit the premise of the rest of the set, and I did not like them very much. They don't mesh well with the other stories, and that's my issue.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Building a Set of Hardcover Nancy Drew Digest Books

I have been working on building a complete set of the Nancy Drew digest books, #57-175, in hardcover since 2001.  It's been 15 years, and the set is still not complete.

I began building the set because at that time I did not like softcover books at all.  I first decided to build a set of the Wanderer books with dust jackets, #57-78, and quickly expanded to library bindings of all of #57 -175.

As the years have passed, the frequency with which I find hardcover digests that I need has decreased significantly.  Hardcover versions of #130 and up are extremely scarce. They exist, but most of them are still in the hands of the original owners.

Earlier this year I tallied what I needed and was shocked that I only needed 29 of the digests in hardcover.  I spent some time during the summer searching for the 29 books I needed in hardcover.  I was able to locate three of them, bringing the number I needed down to 26 books.

I have never felt that I would ever complete the set, but that kind of difficult goal is fun to work towards as a collector.  Finishing the set would still be quite improbable, but I was thrilled to see that I was beginning to get closer.

After a recent unexpected acquisition, I now see completion of the set as distinctively more possible, although still quite difficult.

I saw a near-complete set of Nancy Drew digests for sale for $300 and realized that some of the high-numbered books were hardcover editions.  I wasn't sure how many, and the seller's price was too high for me to purchase without knowing for sure what the lot contained.  Also, the listing had some contradictory information that concerned me.  The seller's picture is seen below.  The Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books at the end of the second shelf were not part of the lot, which I knew.  Remember that you can click on any image to see a larger version.

A few Aladdin books on the top shelf are missing the Aladdin icon at the top spine, which reveals them to be rebound hardcover books.  The variance in heights for the books on the second shelf shows that some are rebound hardcover books.  But I couldn't tell how many for sure.  I inquired about which books were hardcover and learned that the lot contained 27 hardcover books including at least 10 of my needed 26 books.

I purchased the lot, even though the price was still too high for me.  15 years ago, I never paid more than $5 per hardcover digest book.  In recent years, I have paid $5 to $10.  When I realized that I needed only 29 hardcover digest books, I decided that I would be willing to pay $10 to $20 each for the remaining books if in very good condition.  That's why I decided to purchase this expensive lot.

I was nervous waiting for the books to arrive, since I knew from past experience that bulk lots are almost always stacked in a box and mailed with no protection.  That was certainly the case with these books, but fortunately, nothing was damaged since the books were not able to shift much inside the box.

I was happy when I removed the books from the box and discovered a total of 32 hardcover books in the lot, which was five more than I was told.

These are the hardcover books that I received.

I was thrilled to discover that nearly all of the hardcover books are not library discards. While building a set of hardcover Nancy Drew digests is very difficult, acquiring those hardcover books in copies that are not from libraries is nearly impossible.

Only six of the books are library discards, and I quickly recognized those six books.  I knew the scuff on the spine of #89, and I recognized the way "discard" was written inside the books.  #89, 90, 92, 96, 120, and 143 used to be my books, and #89 with the scuffed spine is the book scanned years ago for my website.  I upgraded them and sold them, and now I have them back again.  I am a little dismayed that I have them back again while at the same time I am amused.  This is not the first time books have come back to me.

I am keeping all 26 of the books that are not library discards, and I will sell the six books that came back to me.  I will also sell the large number of softcover books that came in the lot.  This purchase was well worth the cost considering what I added to my collection.  Of the 26 books, five books are upgrades of copies in my collection.  Nine books are variants of books already in my collection, and I will keep both versions.  The remaining 12 books are new additions to my hardcover digest set.  Here are the books that I will keep.

This purchase brings the number of hardcover digest books that I need down from 26 to just 14 more books.  The following books are the only books that I still need in hardcover.

109. The Mystery of the Masked Rider, 1992
114. The Search for the Silver Persian, 1993
115. The Suspect in the Smoke, 1993
122. The Message in the Haunted Mansion, 1994
123. The Clue on the Silver Screen, 1995
130. The Sign of the Falcon, 1996
145. The Missing Horse Mystery, 1998
148. On the Trail of Trouble, 1999
158. The Curse of the Black Cat, 2001
160. The Clue on the Crystal Dove, 2001
168. The Bike Tour Mystery, 2002
169. The Mistletoe Mystery, 2002
170. No Strings Attached, 2003
175. Werewolf in a Winter Wonderland, 2003

It's interesting that I still need a few that are not particularly high-numbered.  However, some of the mid-range titles are harder to find even in softcover, such as #114 and #122, which is why I have not yet found them in hardcover.  Since all titles from #130 and up are quite hard to find in hardcover, I am actually surprised that I now have as many of those titles as I do.

Here are all of my books together on the shelf.  The back shelf starts with #57 on the left and goes through #84. The front shelf begins with #85 on the left and ends with Ghost Stories on the right.

I was asked earlier this year how to find the Nancy Drew digest books in hardcover.  I have some methods that have helped me locate them, but I am not willing to divulge everything I know until I complete my set.  The primary method, however, is obvious and can be inferred from this post:  Be observant.

Keeping in mind that this recent transaction is an anomaly, my present acquisition rate of just one or two per year means that I cannot expect my set to be complete for at least another seven years.  I am not sure that I will complete the set, but I am ever hopeful and enjoy the process.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Twilight Darkness #19 Dance of Death, #20 Family Crypt, and #21 Evil on the Bayou

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #19, Dance of Death, Regan comes to live with her aunt and uncle at Ferncrest Manor.  Regan senses an evil presence in the house, and she is mystified about how nobody else notices.  Regan begins having vivid dreams about the previous owners of the house.  Two twin brothers once lived there, and the brothers were rivals for the affection of a young woman.  Now long dead, both brothers haunt the house.

On page 72, Regan refects, "Reading was as necessary as eating or sleeping for her."  I would have to agree with that.  On page 73, we learn that Regan would "even read cereal boxes and matchbook covers when nothing else was available."  I have done that as well.

This is an excellent story.  There is a mystery between the twin brothers.  As I read, I began to get an idea of what the secret might be.  The mystery is very intriguing.  Even though the book has ghosts, the ghosts did not scare me.  This is a mystery from the past that one brother wants Regan to solve, while the other brother works to thwart Regan's efforts.

This is an outstanding book.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #20, Family Crypt, Janet skips school to go on a cruise on the lake.  The ship gets stalled near an island, and Janet spends the night on the island.  Janet discovers an old cemetery and rides on a horse that nobody can find the next day.  Unfortunately for Janet, her presence on the island allowed for an evil spirit to escape, putting Janet and her friends in serious danger.

The beginning of the book is not interesting at all.  The historical information given is rather confusing and lengthy.  Otherwise, the book is excellent and very suspenseful.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #21, Evil on the Bayou, Meg goes to stay with Aunt Belle, who is bedridden and quite elderly.  Meg notices that the photographs on the stairway seem alive as she walks up the stairs.  Meg sits with Aunt Belle, and each visit leaves her drained. Meanwhile, Aunt Belle starts looking younger and healthier.  In horror, Meg realizes what is happening.

The plot of this book reminds me of the movie Alison's Birthday, which I saw on television several times at around the time this book was published.  Alison's Birthday was released in 1981, and this book was published in 1984.  In the movie, Alison's grandmother plans to switch bodies with her granddaughter.  That is not quite the same premise as this book, but it is close enough.  The movie is very creepy and so is this book.

This book is excellent.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Gender Inequality in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Books

While reading the Hardy Boys Digest series, I realized that the modern Nancy Drew is constrained by her gender.  The Hardy Boys are allowed much more interesting adventures, since they are boys.  The Hardy Boys get to be truck drivers, volunteer firefighters, and tightrope walkers.  In one book, they even get to use machine guns and drive a tank.

Nancy Drew gets to investigate museum sabotage, fundraiser sabotage, zucchini smashing, any other lame sabotage that Simon and Schuster can create, and the occasional disappearance.  The Hardy Boys get lots of sabotage as well, but they also get all the more interesting types of sabotage stories.

This means that the modern Hardy Boys books have more varied adventures than the modern Nancy Drew books.  This is baffling, considering the trend in society towards gender equality. For some inexplicable reason, Simon and Schuster is taking Nancy Drew in the opposite direction, choosing to keep Nancy Drew in a strict gender-defined role that limits her ability to sleuth while allowing the Hardy Boys to have exciting adventures.

In the early 1930s, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys received equal treatment.  In the early books, both series have the same kind of adventures.  The young people explore spooky places, are abducted, help those less fortunate than themselves, and bring criminals to justice.  The adventures are of the type that could be experienced by either gender.  The only difference is that the Hardy Boys's adventures are more physical, with them playing a few pranks and getting into some fights.  Otherwise, the early Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series are the same.

It's been said that Mildred Wirt Benson, author of the early Nancy Drew books, believed that the girls' series books published before the time of Nancy Drew were "namby-pamby." She wanted Nancy Drew to be better than that.  This resulted in Nancy Drew's adventures being almost just like the boys' series adventures of the time, which had previously not been the case with many girls' series books.  Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys had gender equality, or pretty close to it, during the 1930s.

Once the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series were sold to Simon and Schuster during the 1980s, the premise of Nancy Drew began to shift, gradually becoming more tame. In the Nancy Drew Digest series, Nancy is no longer allowed to have as interesting of adventures as the Hardy Boys.  That trend has continued all the way into 2016, and it has worsened.

The trend with Nancy Drew has been the exact reverse of society.  The modern Nancy Drew is no Katniss Everdeen or Tris Prior.  In 2016, Nancy Drew is instead "namby-pamby," which is exactly what Mildred Wirt Benson said of the girls' books from before the creation of Nancy Drew.

In the Nancy Drew Diaries books, Nancy and her friends speak of Nancy's interest in solving cases like it's a joke.  Nancy is forgetful and doesn't understand the Internet. Her friends think she needs a chaperone to keep her out of trouble.  Most importantly, Nancy spends her time waiting for things to happen and remarking about how she needs to get serious about solving the case.  The old Nancy Drew was never like that.

Why has Simon and Schuster done this to Nancy Drew?

Many Nancy Drew fans were quite upset about the premise of Nancy Drew Girl Detective.  Simon and Schuster must have received a large number of complaints. Collectors of the baby boomer generation have extremely strong opinions about what Nancy Drew should be.  Those people strongly denounced the Girl Detective series. They couldn't believe how Nancy Drew had been made forgetful and how her first case involved smashed zucchinis.  They insisted that Nancy Drew needed to be exactly like the original Nancy Drew of 1930.

I wonder if Simon and Schuster misunderstood.  Is it possible that the folks at Simon and Schuster have never read an original text Nancy Drew book and have no idea what the stories are like?  Could they possibly think that Nancy Drew of the 1930s has lame adventures like the lame early series books that Mildred Wirt Benson hated?  Did they think that Nancy Drew was held back by her gender in the 1930s?

Simon and Schuster might have tried to make Nancy Drew more like old times, not realizing what a strong character she has always been.  They have turned Nancy Drew into an insipid character with boring, unimaginative stories that have an undercurrent of silliness that was never present in the original series or in the Nancy Drew Digest series.

As I previously wrote, the Hardy Boys Adventures contain imaginative stories, and strangely, the Hardy Boys Adventures have little physical action, which means that a few name changes could have easily turned any of the stories into excellent Nancy Drew books.  Oddly, Simon and Schuster is giving all the creative plots to the Hardy Boys, and I can't figure out why, unless they want to destroy Nancy Drew.  Surely they don't, because that wouldn't make sense.

For whatever reason, Simon and Schuster is treating the two series in a sexist fashion and is slighting Nancy Drew as a result.  One striking example came to me as I began reading the latest Hardy Boys Adventures book that features hazing.  The Hardy Boys had already investigated at least two previous hazing cases in the Digest and Undercover Brothers series, and I wondered why Nancy Drew has never investigated hazing.  I thought sarcastically, girls never haze each other.  Or at least, the people at Simon and Schuster must not think girls ever haze each other or must think it would be wrong to depict girls hazing each other.

I then had a hunch as I continued reading the Hardy Boys book, since the text was scattered with clues.  I was gleeful about the irony of my previous thoughts about girls and hazing when one of the hazing culprits turns out to be a girl.  Oh!  So then why does Nancy Drew not investigate hazing when girls are capable of hazing in the Hardy Boys series?

None of this makes sense to me.  Why is Simon and Schuster doing this to Nancy Drew?

While I have many complaints about the Nancy Drew Diaries series, only two truly matter.  First, the stories are bland, and almost all of them feature boring sabotage plots.  Second, Nancy Drew herself is bland, and she struggles to find a way to motivate herself into solving each mystery.  Correct these two problems, and the series will improve greatly.

Nancy Drew has lost her way.  Can she be saved?  I am losing hope.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Twilight Darkness #16 Drawing the Dead, #17 Storm Child, and #18 Watery Grave

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #16, Drawing the Dead, Cynthia returns to Chapel Valley, her childhood home.  Upon Cynthia's arrival, she begins drawing deeply disturbing pictures.  It's as though something is controlling her pencil. Cynthia soon notices that her drawings foretell the future.  Her emotions have become volatile, changing from love to hate suddenly.  Cynthia becomes fearful, knowing that an evil spirit is controlling her.

The climax of the story where Cynthia does what she can to get rid of the evil spirit does not make sense.  Of course this type of story never makes sense, but I don't understand why what Cynthia does should solve the problem.

Additionally, I did not like this story very much.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #17, Storm Child, Cindy has taken a job as a nanny for a rich family.  Her charge is Ian, a troubled young boy who behaves violently.  His behavior worsens each time a storm hits the area.  Accidents begin occurring, and Cindy must confront the fact that Ian is causing them.  Cindy must find a way to calm Ian before someone gets killed.

I enjoyed this book, although it took several chapters to get into it.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #18, Watery Grave, Julie sees the name Lavinia in her Spanish book, then it disappears.  A sea captain keeps appearing in the mist, calling out Lavinia, as though Julie is Lavinia.  Julie learns of the sunken ship Lavinia and of the ship's missing captain, who is now a spirit that haunts the area.

The spirit is mentioned in a legend about a sea creature that forces a woman to join him forever as his love.  Almost too late Julie learns that she is the object of the kelpie's desire.

This book is not written well.  The story idea is good, but it is poorly executed.  The story drags at times.  Too many words are used to describe certain situations.  Some startling scenes are described in a roundabout way that takes away from the emotional impact.  I don't want to read every detail about every piece of furniture in the room when I want to know why somebody screamed!  I don't care about the furniture!

The first part of the book is rough, but the later part of the story is excellent in spite of the flaws.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hardy Boys Adventures #13 Bound for Danger

In Hardy Boys Adventures #13, Bound for Danger, Principal Gerther tells Frank and Joe that they must join the basketball team because they need more extracurricular activities.  Both boys are puzzled, because they are terrible at basketball.  The players on the basketball team are quite unhappy, since Frank and Joe are not good enough to be on a team that hopes to play for the championship.  Later, Frank and Joe realize that they are supposed to be investigating hazing by team players.

The beginning of this story is much more interesting than the beginning of Nancy Drew Diaries #13, The Ghost of Grey Fox Inn.  I was intrigued from the first page.

This book has lots of great humor.  I laughed out loud a number of times throughout the book.  I did not laugh at all during the Nancy Drew Diaries book.  I was just bored and annoyed during that book.

One chapter is titled "Hack Attack."  This caught my attention, since one Hardy Boys Digest book features a game titled "Hack Attack."  Furthermore, this story reminds me a lot of several Hardy Boys Digest books which have plots centered at Bayport High School.  I tend to like those books.  For these reasons, I suspect that this book was written by one of the Hardy Boys Digest authors.

On page 89, Joe compares the situation to a "totally dystopian society."  Some parts of this series are like a dystopian society.

The following passage is narrated by Frank on page 97.
"And the people who made it through the hazing," I added, "have convinced themselves it was worth the struggle.  It's a psychological phenomenon called 'cognitive dissonance.'"

A brief shadow passed across Principal Gerther's face, like he had just remembered I was annoying.
That's how Frank is in this series, and I find it very funny.

The boys use Facebook to contact another boy in an attempt to gain information. Technology is used well in this series, and Frank and Joe often use the Internet to help them solve cases.  That's how it should be in a modern book set in 2016.

The promotional material for the Nancy Drew Diaries series indicates that Nancy Drew solves her cases without technology.  That sounds okay, except that Nancy doesn't understand the Internet in the second book, and... never mind.  I'll control myself. Nothing is wrong with using technology in modern books so long as it is used correctly and not in a fashion that makes the primary character look inept.  The Hardy Boys Adventures series uses modern technology effectively in a suspenseful setting.

This is an excellent book from beginning to end.