Monday, October 20, 2014

The Nancy Drew Game Is Near Its Goal!

As I wrote a few days ago, Quincy MacShane has created a Nancy Drew game.  She has obtained the licensing rights and hopes to get the game funded through Kickstarter.

Nancy Drew Board Game on Kickstarter


She is now within $2,000 of the goal!  There are just five days left in the campaign.

Another article has been published about the game.

Kickstartable:  The Nancy Drew Board Game

A new funding level has been added, allowing a backer to get two games at $55.00. 


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Three Investigators Series Summary

I have always heard that the first 30 titles in the Three Investigators series are better than the last 13 titles.  As I began reading the books, I wondered if that was really true.  I knew there was something to it, but sometimes readers react negatively to change, particularly for the people who were reading the books when they were first published.

#29 was the first book published only in a softcover trade edition, so I wondered if that was part of the reason for readers not liking it as much.  #30 was the last book with Alfred Hitchcock.  I know of people who refuse to consider any book past #30 as part of the series since none of them have Alfred Hitchcock in them.  So I wondered if that could be it.

Those feelings don't affect me since I did not read the books when they were new.  Furthermore, I always look past the format at the actual content. I wondered if I would like the books better.  Surely I would like the books.  Surely the books didn't get worse automatically as soon as they switched to softcover only and as soon as Hitchcock disappeared.  Surely not.

I soon learned that they did indeed get worse, although not immediately, at least with respect to the softcover books.  I liked #29 just fine.  It's not the very best but is still a good Three Investigators book.  I found #30 to be boring for most of the book.  #31 caught my interest faster, but the book was very uneven.  It was alternatively good and bad, switching back and forth between good parts and bad parts for the entire book.

I loved #32.  #33 was convoluted and boring at times.  #34 was very boring and the first book that I completely disliked.  So, yes, the books went downhill fast.  They did get better, however, past #34, so the series is still good after #34, although not quite as good as the earlier books.

Here is how I rank the books according to how much I enjoyed reading them.

Very good or outstanding books:  #1-29, 32, 35-38, 40

Not quite as good:  #30, 31, 39, 41, 42, 43

Mediocre or bad:  #33, 34

I want to address the main series authors and how I feel about them.  The core group of Three Investigators collectors considers Robert Arthur the best writer of the series.  My impression is that he is considered the best author by far.  I am not part of the core group of collectors since I only read the books recently, and my opinion does not quite match up with theirs.

I like the books of Robert Arthur, William Arden, and M. V. Carey just about equally.  I think most of the books by all three writers are excellent.  I have to say, though, I like many of the books by Arden and Carey more than I do most of the ones by Arthur.  There, I said it.  That may make some longtime collectors cringe, but that's how I reacted to the books.

The Arthur books are great, and as I mentioned, I like them about as much as the ones by Arden and Carey.  However, once I had read past the Arthur books and had read at least one book by each of Arden and Carey, I always checked the title page to see which of the two had written the book.  That told me what to expect.  I noticed that I felt greater delight when I saw Carey's name, because I really enjoyed the spooky elements of her books.

This means that Carey gets the edge, so I like the Carey books the best by a narrow margin, followed by the Arden books and then the Arthur books.  It's very close between the three.  If I were to rank the authors' books on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give Carey a 10, Arden a 9.5, and Arthur a 9.  All three authors did great, except for those few higher-numbered books that missed the mark.  For those books, I blame the editors since the authors had been great up to that point.

Of course, Arthur created the series; for without him, Arden and Carey would not have written so many great stories for us.  We owe a lot to Robert Arthur.

A small number of books were written by Nick West and Marc Brandel.  I greatly enjoyed those books, but there are not enough of them for me to rank those two authors quite as high as the other three.

I mentioned awhile back that I like this series a lot.  At that time, I stated that this series would end up ranking between third and seventh on my list of favorite series.  Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden always must occupy the first two positions since those are the two that I read as a child.  Judy Bolton used to be third, but Beverly Gray took third place after I read those books.  Beverly Gray has been securely in third place for a decade.

But no longer.  By the time I read #41 in the Three Investigators series, I decided that it would rank third after Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, moving Beverly Gray down to fourth place.  That is significant.

It's amazing that I have ignored this series for 20 years, selling each one that came into my possession.  I never considered reading them.  I didn't think I would like them.  I'm not sure why, except that I tend not to like boys' series books very much.  I like the Hardy Boys books, but not a great deal, primarily because of all the horseplay and boys' type activities.  I enjoyed reading Ken Holt, but the books got on my nerves the further I read.  That's because Ken and Sandy were always getting captured, and their escape was always described in painstaking detail, which was torturous reading for me.  The Ken Holt books are lauded for their realism, but the realism was too much for me.

Since the Three Investigators is a boys' series, I had preconceived ideas that caused me to ignore the books.  After I found a nearly complete set of #1-28 locally in a single purchase, I read the first two books to make sure.  I liked them enough to decide to read the books at a later date.  Reading these books this summer was a special treat.

The Three Investigators series does not read like the typical boys' series.  Early in my reviews, I mentioned that the series is more like Trixie Belden than any other series I have read.  I stand by that opinion.  Trixie Belden is a girls' series, but the Bob-Whites' activities fit both genders.  The same is true of the Three Investigators.  All of their activities could just as easily have been performed by girls.  There are only rare exceptions to this, like when Pete rides his bicycle with both Bob and Jupe perched on the handlebars.  Most girls would not have the strength to carry three people on a bicycle.  Otherwise, the Three Investigators could just as easily have been Trixie, Honey, and Di.  All of their activities would still have been plausible.

These days I try not to assure people that they will like a certain series.  I have noticed that some books that I really like are disliked by others, while books I hate are loved by others.  I didn't find Ken Holt quite as good as everyone promised.  Oh, the books are very good, but they are not strictly to my taste.  So even the best boys' series ever is not one of my favorites.

If you tend to like the same books I do, like a variety of series, or like Trixie Belden, then please consider reading one or two of these books to see whether you would like them.  I can't guarantee you'll like them, but don't make the mistake I did in ignoring the Three Investigators series for 20 years. You never know... the Three Investigators could end up becoming one of your very favorite series, just like what happened to me.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Three Investigators #41 Creep-Show Crooks, #42 Wreckers' Rock, and #43 Cranky Collector

In the Three Investigators #41, The Mystery of the Creep-Show Crooks, the boys find a tote bag on the beach.  They learn that the bag belongs to a missing girl, Lucille Anderson.  Lucille is soon located, and she has recently been cast in a horror movie.  The Three Investigators soon suspect that the producers are shady and set out to find evidence against them.

I don't have much to say about this book other than that I enjoyed it.

In the Three Investigators #42, The Mystery of the Wreckers' Rock, the boys go fishing off the coast near Rocky Beach.  They take pictures of a family reunion where the participants are dressed up as Vikings and Indians.  Later, the boys are pursued by several people who are desperate to obtain the photographs taken of the event.  The Three Investigators try to figure out what is so important about the photos while they dodge the villains.

A big deal is made about the boys not being able to accept money.  I'm pretty sure that they did in earlier books.

I enjoyed this book.

In the Three Investigators #43, The Mystery of the Cranky Collector, old Jeremy Pilcher disappears.  Pilcher is a book collector and hoarder.  He is mean, and many people greatly dislike him.  The boys suspect foul play, but unfortunately, just about everyone has a possible motive.

This book describes book collecting in rather unfavorable terms.  Here is a passage from page 28.
"Gives you a new feeling about books," said Bob.  "Like collecting could be a compulsion, like gambling or biting your fingernails."

"It's a disease," said Marilyn Pilcher.  "Believe me, it's a disease."
While I dislike reading that kind of statement, I have to remember that in other passages, Pilcher's collection is described in such a way that he must be a hoarder.  He is not a typical book collector, but rather, someone with serious problem.  Unfortunately, he is called a book collector.

On page 159, the villains shout threats at the Three Investigators in Spanish.  "The boys could not understand it all, but they knew that he called them sons of dogs."  I laughed.  I bet he said something other than sons of dogs.

I enjoyed this book.

I have not mentioned Hector Sebastian's Vietnamese cook, Hoang Van Don, who appears in #31-43.  Don is depicted as the stereotypical foreigner who has come to the United States and is so wowed by the American way of life that he behaves in an idiotic fashion.

A running gag throughout all of the books features Don cooking undesirable food for Sebastian.  Don is easily influenced by infomercials and television shows and insists on cooking whatever he sees.  Sebastian typically hates all of the food and is forced to eat snacks that he keeps hidden.  I found this subplot to be rather obnoxious.  I cannot understand why someone would allow an employee to cook bad food and not hold him accountable.  The running gag is supposed to be amusing, but it fails miserably.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nancy Drew Game Kickstarter Campaign

Quincy MacShane is a Nancy Drew fan who has decided to share her love of Nancy Drew by designing a Nancy Drew game.  She has obtained the licensing rights from Simon and Schuster and is using Kickstarter to fund the game.

Nancy Drew Board Game on Kickstarter


The game will go into production if the Kickstarter campaign raises $20,000.  The campaign has 10 days to go and needs less than $7,000 to be funded.  I'd really like to see this campaign succeed, so I hope you'll consider becoming a backer.

The Boston Herald published an article about Quincy's campaign.

Concord teen using Kickstarter to fund Nancy Drew game


Monday, October 13, 2014

Parallel Trilogy by Christine Kersey

The Parallel Trilogy consists of the following books.

1.  Gone, 2013
2.  Imprisoned, 2013
3.  Hunted, 2014

In the Parallel Trilogy, Morgan Campbell is furious when her mother takes away her cell phone.  Morgan runs away from home and stays in a cabin in the woods overnight.  The next morning when Morgan returns home, she discovers that another family lives in her house.  Her family has vanished!  Soon Morgan realizes that she has somehow stepped into a parallel universe.

In this strange world, it is illegal for people to be overweight.  People are sent to Federally Assisted Thinning centers, known as F.A.T. centers, in order to force them to lose weight.  Some people are sent to the centers because someone turned them in.

Morgan quickly makes a few enemies and gets sent to a F.A.T. center.  The center is little more than a prison camp, where people are tortured.  Morgan must find a away to escape the F.A.T. center and get back to her own world.

In the beginning of the first book, many readers will have trouble liking Morgan.  She is very immature and makes horrible decisions.  In short, Morgan is the cause of all of her problems.  As the story continues, Morgan grows as a character, and she is not the same person at the end of the third book.  By the end of the trilogy, I had fallen in love with both Morgan and Billy.

A fourth book has also been written, After, published in 2014.  In this book, we get to see what happens to Morgan and Billy after the conclusion of the Parallel Trilogy.

I didn't refresh my memory before beginning After.  Around ten months had passed between when I finished the Parallel Trilogy and when I began reading After.  It was like no time had passed, and I was able to remember everything about Morgan and Billy quite clearly.  These stories are memorable, and I recommend them to people who enjoy young adult novels.

Another story is to be released in late 2014, The Other Morgan.  I look forward to meeting the Morgan from the parallel world who switched places with our Morgan.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Three Investigators #39 Trail of Terror and #40 Rogues' Reunion

In the Three Investigators #39, The Mystery of the Trail of Terror, Pete's Grandpa Peck plans to set off on a cross-country trip to New York to deliver his latest invention.  The Crenshaws fear that Grandpa will get into trouble, so the Three Investigators leave with Grandpa.  Soon after the boys and Grandpa depart, they realize that someone is following them.

I enjoyed most of the book, but I began to get bored towards the end.  A fairly large amount of the story occurs after the villain's motive is revealed, and I was bored with that part.  There was no mystery; we were waiting for the main villain to be nabbed.

In the Three Investigators #40, The Mystery of the Rogues' Reunion, Jupiter is forced to endure much teasing over his role as Baby Fatso when the Wee Rogues begins to air in syndication.  Even worse, Jupiter must participate in a quiz show reunion with the other members of the cast.  Jupiter quickly overcomes his aversion when he rises to the challenge of showing up the cast members.  Soon, Jupiter realizes that someone is out to eliminate him from the competition.

This book mentions Edmund Frank on page 91 and how Jupiter had briefly seen him during a museum robbery.  This is an accurate portrayal of an event from The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure and shows great continuity.  I was so pleased that one of the final books in the series mentioned an event from one of the earliest stories.

On page 144, Pete is angry because "he had never known Jupe to walk out on a case and let the crooks go free."  Actually, there was that time in The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon.  Apparently, Pete has forgotten. 

I greatly enjoyed learning about Jupiter's past with the television show.  This book is outstanding.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Quarantined and Survival Series by Tracey Ward

Tracey Ward has written two short young adult series that deal with a zombie apocalypse that began in the Pacific Northwest.  The first is Quarantined, which consists of two books, Until the End and In the End.  The opening pages of Until the End show the beginning of the zombie apocalypse in Portland, Oregon.  Two college students, Alissa and Jordan, escape together and try to get out of the quarantined area, which consists of much of Oregon.  Until the End is told from Alissa's point of view, and In the End continues the story but is told from Jordan's point of view.

Adding to the drama is the fact that Alissa suffers from a mental illness that causes hallucinations.  She needs medication, which becomes an immediate problem after the zombies attack.  Medication is not easy to acquire in the chaos.

The Survival Series is set in Seattle around eight to ten years later.  The Survival Series consists of three books, Writing on the Wall, Backs Against the Wall, and Tearing Down the Wall.  This series features Joss and Ryan as they try to stay alive in Seattle.  The threats are the zombies as well as different factions of colonists who have various agendas.  Alissa and Jordan make an appearance towards the end of the second book and in parts of the third book of the trilogy.

Both sets of the books are worth reading and are similar in feel to other young adult dystopian novels that feature zombies, such as The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  Overall, I enjoyed the Quarantined Series more than the Survival Series.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Three Investigators #37 Two-Toed Pigeon and #38 Smashing Glass

In the Three Investigators #37, The Mystery of the Two-Toed Pigeon, the Three Investigators meet a man named Blinky in a diner.  Blinky has a wrapped package that he leaves behind by mistake.  The boys take the package to headquarters for safekeeping and discover that it contains a pigeon with two toes on one foot.  The next day, the boys check on the bird and discover that it now has three toes on each foot.

The boys' investigation leads them to Miss Melody, who has a mystery of her own.  Her birds are being killed!  The boys suspect that Blinky, their pigeon, and Miss Melody's mystery are all connected.

The book is The Mystery of the Two-Toed Pigeon.  Why doesn't the cover show a two-toed pigeon?

The following passage is from pages 43-44.
"Great," Pete told him.  "So we find the murderer's footprints.  What do we do then?  Take a plaster cast of them and try to find out where he bought his shoes?"

Jupe sighed.
You tell him, Pete!  He has just pointed out how a plastic cast of a footprint is absurdly expected to provide the solution to a mystery.  I always want to roll my eyes when I read a Nancy Drew book, and Nancy notes a tire pattern or makes a plaster cast which always leads her directly to the villain.  After all, the villain is the only person in the world who wears those shoes or has that kind of tire, right?

In this book, Jupiter is worried about his weight.  At times, this distracted me from the story.  During Chapter 12, "Jupe Has a Plan," Jupiter reasons out the solution while he eats a sandwich.  He tears the sandwich in half so that he won't eat all of it.  As he talks through the solution with Pete and Bob, he absentmindedly tears off additional pieces and eats them.  The chapter ends with Jupe realizing with dismay that he ate the entire sandwich.  My attention was fixated upon the sandwich because I knew what was going to happen.  I was so distracted by the sandwich that I quit paying attention to the conversation.  After I finished the chapter, I had to read through a couple of pages again so that I could follow Jupiter's reasoning.

I enjoyed this book.

In the Three Investigators #38, The Mystery of the Smashing Glass, car windows all over town are breaking, and no one can figure out how or why.  The Three Investigators take the case when their new friend, Paul, is no longer allowed to drive his father's truck because the window keeps breaking.  Paul insists that he did not break the window.

As the boys work out possible solutions, they gradually realize that the culprit somehow knows their plans.  How is this possible?

On page 82, Bob explains that a satellite dish allows people to watch television shows without having to pay a cable company.  Pete remarks, "That sure sounds like Jarvis Temple."  Temple is a very disagreeable old man, so that remark comes across as critical towards satellite dishes.  It sounds like the author didn't agree with the idea of people avoiding cable companies!

I greatly enjoyed this book.