Monday, April 24, 2017

Christopher Pike Last Act and Spellbound

In Last Act, Melanie Martin is new to Care High. She is soon befriended by Susan Trels, who encourages Melanie to try out for the school play. Melanie lands a good role in the play, and she now has friends.  During the play Melanie will fire a gun containing blanks at another person.  On opening night, the unthinkable happens when the other girl dies.  Somehow, the gun had real bullets in it.  Melanie is charged with murder and must find a way to clear herself.

This was the very first Pike book I ever read, and it was always a favorite.  I read it several times. As a result, I remembered the villain quite clearly as I began the book.

During this reading, the beginning part did not interest me.  I thought it was slow.  The play characters and real characters are too many and confusing.

Once the murder happens, the rest of the book is excellent.

Overall this book did not hold up well for me since I remembered the culprit too clearly. It didn't have the mystery that it had for me back in 1988.

In Spellbound, Cindy Jones' boyfriend has been accused of killing his old girlfriend, Karen Holly. Her body was found mutilated in the mountain stream.

On page 112, "The second lunch bell had rung already, and the bulk of the school was busy expanding their minds with knowledge they would probably forget before the day was over."  This is actually true.  Most people forget most of what they learned in school.

I did notice some things this time that never occurred to me when I read this book as a teen.  I guess the passage of years does bring a different perspective.  I never considered it strange that Joni and Alex don't find it odd that Cindy is in the woods with a blind parrot attached to her necklace.  To the other teens, Cindy's behavior should have been considered rather bizarre.  I also never found it strange that Ray had a will, but this time I had to wonder.  Why would a teenager have a will?

Even though I knew the ending, this book was still really suspenseful and held up well. This is still an excellent book.  This is one of those books that stays with you.  It is that creepy and unsettling.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Girls of Canby Hall #31 Here Comes the Bridesmaid, #32 Who's Got a Crush on Andy?, and #33 Six Roommates and a Baby

In Girls of Canby Hall #31, Here Comes the Bridesmaid, Jane, Andy, and Toby have been invited to Princess Allegra's wedding.  Andy will be a bridesmaid.  Unexpectedly, Andy falls in love with a prince, while Jane must keep the groom's brother, Armand, from causing trouble.

I partially enjoyed this book, but overall, I did not like it very much.

In Girls of Canby Hall #32, Who's Got a Crush on Andy?, Andy is depressed over her failed relationship with the prince.  She has decided not to allow herself time to fall in love again, so she is keeping herself busy.  Someone has a crush on Andy and is sending her notes.  Andy seems not to care, but Jane has decided to find out who likes Andy in case this person can make Andy feel better.

Jane and Toby think the notes are sweet, and by the end of the story, Andy feels the same way.  I think the notes are creepy.  The girls assume that the writer is a peer, but how do they know?  He could be a creepy older man chasing after young girls.  The notes make him sound like a stalker. It's not the 1980s, and I'm not a teenager, so I can't see anything good in the notes.

I did not find the first part of the story to be interesting.  Not only is Andy depressed, but Toby mopes around because she doesn't like the tone of her father's letters.  A variant of the subplot with Toby has already been used in a previous book.  Also, Andy was depressed just a few books ago.

I was bored with this story until around halfway through the book.  I enjoyed the last part of the book.

In Girls of Canby Hall #33, Six Roommates and a Baby, former housemother Alison is the proud mother of twin baby girls.  The old 407 girls and the new 407 girls are all godmothers.  After the christening, Alison is injured, and the girls stay to help Alison take care of the babies.  Jane and Shelley are rivals for the same boy, and the two groups of girls have trouble getting along.

Oh no, not again!  Do I have to suffer through another book with all six girls?  The first one was torture.  This is how they ended the series?

Fortunately, the book is much better than I expected.  The girls do get into a few fights, but the scenes are not childish like in Something Old, Something New.

I overall greatly enjoyed this book.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Christopher Pike Chain Letter, Chain Letter 2, and The Tachyon Web

Chain Letter is another early Christopher Pike novel from 1986.

In Chain Letter, Alison receives an anonymous letter signed "Your Caretaker."  The letter requires Alison to perform an unpleasant task.  Once Alison performs the task, she is to give the letter to the next person on the list.  All of the names are of friends who were present when a man was run over in the desert.  The friends buried his body and swore never to tell anyone what happened.  Now somebody knows, and that person is out for revenge.

This story is similar in premise to Lois Duncan's I Know What You Did Last Summer.  This is another book that I never liked as much as Pike's later books.  I had trouble enjoying it this time simply because I remembered the culprit, and that took away from my enjoyment.

The sequel to Chain Letter was not published until 1992, so it is not an early Pike novel. However, I have placed it here since it goes with the original Chain Letter.  The writing style and tone of Chain Letter 2 is different from the first book, since Pike had fully developed his style by 1992.

In Chain Letter 2, the letters begin coming again. But this time, the original Caretaker is dead.  The friends soon discover that the new Caretaker is not messing around.  When a task is not completed, the person is immediately killed.  The new Caretaker is brutal.

The original Chain Letter has no supernatural aspect to the plot.  In this book, the reader learns about the real Caretaker, who is a supernatural creature—a very evil creature.

I enjoyed this book.

The Tachyon Web is the last of what I consider to be Pike's early novels.  The Tachyon Web was originally published in 1986 and was reissued in 1996.  The pictured book is the 1996 edition.

In The Tachyon Web, the solar system is surrounded by the Tachyon Web, which is used to keep spaceships from traveling into deep space.  A group of teenagers uses a spaceship to exploit a weak spot in the Tachyon Web.  The ship makes a hyper jump to the Andromeda Sector.  After the hyper jump, the ship is too close to a supernova and is damaged.  The teens must fly the ship to an alien convoy so that they can obtain the necessary supplies to repair their ship.

This story was hard to get into because the science fiction descriptions in the opening chapters are excessively detailed.  The book also has too many characters who are introduced too quickly.  Once the hyper jump occurs, the story gets very interesting.

The italicized word in this description on page 189 really stands out.
The trimmings were sparse:  a couple of plants, a shelf packed with old-fashioned paper books, a family portrait hanging on one wall.
This book is set centuries in the future, but it was published in 1986.  Paper books were all we had at that time.  The emphasis on paper really struck me, since 31 years later, paper books are on the way out.  It isn't going to take centuries for paper books to disappear.

Even though The Tachyon Web is not that interesting at the start, it is overall an excellent book.  The last half of the book is quite exciting and thrilling.  This is the strongest of Pike's early books.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Girls of Canby Hall #29 A Roommate Returns and #30 Surprise!

In Girls of Canby Hall #29, A Roommate Returns, Shelley comes back to Canby Hall for a visit.  She has landed a role in a Boston play, and she is convinced that this is the beginning of her acting career.  The play flops, and Shelley is out of a job.  Shelley mopes around and acts like her life is over, annoying everyone including the reader.

I did not like this book.  I found everything to be boring.  Shelley is awful.  Everything about the book is awful.  I had to skim a lot of the book in order to get through it.  Series do indeed decline towards the end.

In Girls of Canby Hall #30, Surprise!, Beau shows up unexpectedly at Canby Hall.  Of course Jane hasn't told Cary that she met somebody in Texas, so Beau's appearance threatens Jane's relationship with Cary.  Even worse, Gigi decides to try to steal Cary away from Jane, mainly just to hurt her.

On page 50, we learn that the girls "would cluster around the big-screen TV to watch Sixty Minutes."  I laughed.  It sounds hilarious that the Canby Hall girls eagerly watch a news show.  I actually think they more likely would gather around to watch a sitcom or a soap opera.  I sometimes really wonder about the authors of these books.

On page 54, Toby's face gets very red while she is on the phone, and she reflects that she is "grateful that video phones never caught on." Oh Toby, you have no idea.

On both pages 65 and 101, a character "could care less."  What was wrong with the people who wrote this series?  What was wrong with the editors?  Probably the series did not have editors.

On page 76, Gigi and Yolanda are just like Lettie and Ina from the Dana Girls series.
"Oh, Gigi, that would be too funny."  Gigi looked into Yolanda's admiring face.  Sometimes she was a pain, but she was always loyal, and no matter what scheme Gigi thought up, Yolanda went along with it.  Gigi was pretty lucky to find someone like Yolanda in this school full of drips.
Gigi leaves the room and comes back on page 78.
Gigi came back into her room.  Yolanda was still sitting on Gigi's bed where Gigi had left her.  Just like a faithful puppy, Gigi thought.
Every series book villain needs a toady.

I enjoyed the first half of the book, but the last part dragged for me.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express Confusion

Several years back, the United States Postal Service rebranded Express Mail as Priority Mail Express.  The names are too similar, and inexperienced sellers can easily confuse the two services. Inexperienced sellers are the ones most likely to rely on post office supplies for mailing packages, and they are most likely to choose Priority Mail. Those pesky Priority Mail Express supplies are displayed right next to the Priority Mail supplies.  I actually wonder if the USPS wanted the confusion so that they could charge postage due on lots of Priority Mail packages sent accidentally with Priority Mail Express envelopes.

Priority Mail Express is a one-day service.  Postage cost is $25-$35 for the first pound, and the price depends upon whether a flat rate or non-flat rate envelope is used.  It is a very expensive service, and it is a very costly error to get caught accidentally using a Priority Mail Express envelope or box for another class of mail.  This is a Priority Mail Express envelope.


Priority Mail is a two- to three-day service and costs $6.65 and up, depending upon weight and whether a flat rate envelope is used.  This is a Priority Mail envelope.


I had to pick this package up at the post office since it arrived postage due.


The seller was inexperienced, and she probably had no idea that Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express are different services.  She paid $6.65 for a Priority Mail Flat Rate envelope.  She used a non-flat rate Priority Mail Express envelope.  For the envelope the seller used, the postage cost should have been $34.60.  I was charged $27.95, which is the difference between $6.65 and $34.90.

To say that this made me unhappy would be an understatement.

The book was not even quite worth what I originally paid, but it ended up costing $27.95 more on top of the original amount.  This is totally unacceptable.

I have mixed feelings in that I am upset both with the seller and with the postal service.

I did send the seller a message informing her of the problem.

"The package arrived with postage due of $27.95, so I had to pay $27.95 to pick up the package. A Priority Mail Express envelope was used to mail the book, and the postage paid was for regular Priority Mail. Since the Priority Mail Express envelope was used, the post office assessed the postage due at the much higher Priority Mail Express rate.

I attached a photo showing the package and the receipt for the $27.95 payment to the post office. I expect a refund of $27.95 on my order, since this was an unexpected extra charge. Thank you in advance, Jennifer"

The seller did not respond.  I waited two days.

Two days later, I sent this message.

"I sent you a message two days ago informing you that the package arrived postage due of $27.95 due to the misuse of a Priority Mail Express envelope. Please refer to the image sent in that message. Due to the error, I had to pay an additional $27.95.

I should have refused the package, causing it to be returned to you. I decided to pay the postage due since it would save you an additional loss. If I had refused the package, you would have had to pay the $27.95 postage due in order to take possession of the package. You would then have had to pay shipping again to send the package to me a second time.

I understand that this is a really bad situation, but on eBay, the seller is the one who must take responsibility when this type of mistake occurs.

Jennifer"

Finally, the seller responded.  "I m gonna take this to the post office and see why this happened and also contact eBay cuz this was purchased with their postage in very very sorry"

I knew from the response that she wasn't going to refund me.  I had already explained the problem, so having the seller put it on eBay and the post office told me all I needed to know.

Unfortunately, buyers have no recourse when packages arrive postage because eBay buyer protection only covers non-receipt of purchases and purchases that are significantly not as described.  Postage due is neither situation.  All a buyer can do is appeal to the seller and hope for the best.

I waited 10 days, just to give the seller a last chance.  I then left her the following neutral feedback.

"Paid postage due $27.95 due to misuse Express mail envelope; no refund given"

I didn't give a negative feedback simply because I feel that the seller made a mistake, albeit a very bad one.  The USPS is also partly to blame because of the confusing names of its services, and I do think they may have caused the confusion on purpose so that they could assess postage due on lots of packages. 

A neutral feedback is enough to get buyers' attention, so at least I have placed a warning in the seller's feedback.  The seller is selling Nancy Drew books on eBay, so make sure you check feedback before bidding or making a purchase.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Christopher Pike Cheerleaders #2 Getting Even, Slumber Party, and Weekend

I was a big fan of Christopher Pike from 1988 until 1995.  I didn't stop liking Pike in 1995; it's just that my active interests changed, so I quit purchasing his books.  I recently decided to read my Pike books again.  If the reading went well, then the plan was to purchase all of Pike's books and read all of them.  I did end up purchasing all of Pike's books, and I am currently reading all of them.

Christopher Pike is the pseudonym used by author Kevin Christopher McFadden. McFadden took the name Christopher Pike from a character in Star Trek.  I love Pike's sense of humor, and I love his absurd plots.

Pike's first books were published in 1985.  One of them was a title in Scholastic's Cheerleaders series.  I have read a few reviews by Pike fans who were disappointed in the book, because they expected the cheerleaders to kill each other.  They wanted blood!  This is not that kind of book.  You can tell by the cover and synopsis that this is a teen romance book, not horror!

In Cheerleaders #2, Getting Even, the school year has just started.  Mary Ellen has just made the cheer squad.  The story follows Mary Ellen and the other cheerleaders as they experience romance, jealousy, and backstabbing.

The book is unlike all of Pike's other books, since Pike had to follow the formula for the Cheerleaders series.  However, little bits of Pike come through at times.

On page 1, Mary Ellen worries about her speech.
"Hi, my name's Mary Ellen and these are my good friends:  Nancy, Angie, Olivia, Walt, and Pres!  We're here to share with you the excitement we have for our fantastic football team!"

In her mind's eye, she could see rows and rows of bored faces.
That sounds like something Pike would write.  He also describes a short girl as looking like a hobbit.

I enjoyed this book.

Slumber Party was Christopher Pike's first teen horror book.  In Slumber Party, a group of friends spends the weekend in a house near a resort. The same group of friends was present when a terrible event happened years before.  That event resulted in a girl's death.

I never cared for Slumber Party years ago, and I still do not like it.  Pike's first teen horror books are weaker than his later ones.  Slumber Party has too many characters who are introduced too quickly with inadequate descriptions.  It's hard to care about characters when one can't keep them straight.  Additionally, I find a lot of the dialogue to be silly and uninteresting.



Weekend was Christopher Pike's second teen horror book.  I also never cared for this book years ago.  I don't like it that much now, but it is a little better than Slumber Party.  Pike had already begun to improve as a writer.

In Weekend, a group of teens vacations in Mexico.  The premise of this story is actually quite similar to Slumber Party in that the teens who vacation together were all present when one of them was poisoned during a previous party.

The main problem with Weekend is that the book begins with an excessive amount of expository information.  It's not very interesting.  The book is boring until around two-thirds through the story. From that point until the end, the story is pretty interesting.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Girls of Canby Hall #27 The Roommate and the Cowboy and #28 Happy Birthday, Jane

In Girls of Canby Hall #27, The Roommate and the Cowboy, Jane and Andy visit Toby at her father's ranch.  Jane is immediately bored and cannot stand the heat.  Meanwhile, the girls accidentally break a lamp, so Andy decides to fix a special meal for Mr. Houston.  Everything seems to go wrong, causing one problem after another.  Meanwhile, Jane falls for Beau, a handsome cowboy.

I like that Jane actually feels guilty about falling for another boy when she has Cary back home. Dana never seemed to feel guilty, and that bothered me.

I greatly enjoyed this book.

In Girls of Canby Hall #28, Happy Birthday, Jane, Jane's parents give her a valuable heirloom pearl necklace for her birthday while Jane's friends plan a sailing trip for her birthday.  Jane decides to wear her necklace on the trip, and she loses it. How can Jane tell her parents what happened?

I knew from the synopsis that something really bad would happen and was able to guess that the pearls would fall off Jane's neck.  As I read the book, I watched for when that might happen. I correctly guessed the event and was not surprised at where the pearls were found at the end of the story.

I like these words of wisdom from the bottom of page 115.
"You remember the old saying, 'A coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave man but once?'  You will find as the years go by that you will suffer more from lack of courage than any other pain."
This is a pretty good book.  I enjoyed it.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Nancy Drew On Campus Series

In the Nancy Drew On Campus series, Nancy, Bess, and George are freshmen at Wilder University.  Nancy purposely decides to go to a different school than Ned, because she wants to experience college on her own terms.  Not surprisingly, Nancy and Ned break up shortly into the series.

Nancy, Bess, and George end up in different dorms, so they have little contact with each other. The girls all acquire their own friends plus a large entourage of other acquaintances, far too many for the reader to be able to remember.  The large cast of characters greatly detracts from the series.

Nancy becomes a reporter for the university newspaper.  In each book, she solves a mystery. The mystery is but a side note as most of the text is devoted to the many new acquaintances that each girl has.

The basic premise of the series is good.  Nancy working on a college newspaper and doing investigative reporting is a great idea.  Having more mature stories is good as well.  The problem is that the premise was poorly executed.  The series was written in the most boring fashion possible.  I found the first book to be bland but passable.   By the fourth book, I was thoroughly bored.  I struggled through the fifth and sixth books, and then started the seventh book.

In #7 False Friends, I came upon this passage on pages 12 and 13.
Just then Nancy's hand was grabbed, and she felt herself being whisked off the path and into the cavelike coolness under a giant weeping willow.

"One word from you, and I'll, I'll—"

"You'll do what, Jake Collins," Nancy replied dryly.

"I'll—"

Nancy felt a soft, still slightly unfamiliar mouth press against hers.

"Do that," Jake said.

"Ooh," Nancy replied, a sheepish grin tugging at the corners of her mouth.

She raised her ocean blue eyes and let them wander over Jake's boyishly handsome face, settling on his warm lips that seemed frozen in a wry, I-know-something-you-don't grin.

Nancy wanted to pinch herself.  Is this really me?  she wondered.
Huh?  Besides being nauseating, this scene didn't even make sense to me until I had typed it into this post and read it multiple times!  There is just so much wrong with this passage.  Jake's mouth is "slightly unfamiliar"?  I have never read anything that stupid in any young adult book ever.

Jake has a "wry, I-know-something-you-don't grin" in a scene that is supposed to be romantic?  Jake knows that Nancy has just gotten the reporting job she wants, and she doesn't know yet.  "Wry" means that Jake is mocking her.  How is this romantic?  And all the stuttering?  What is that?  Everything about this passage is awful and written totally wrong.  Nancy's heart should have pounded or something.  Come on!

This was where I finally quit reading the set.

If the authors of this series can't do romance and suspense better than that, then the books are not worth reading.  I would rather read the Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers series again, and that was painful.  At least the Undercover Brothers series was overall interesting, even though it was an overall bad experience.  The Nancy Drew On Campus series is dreadfully uninteresting.

I made a few notes about the first few books as I read them, because I thought I could get through this series and do reviews.  I just can't.  The first six books in this series are among the most boring books I have ever read.

I have a theory about this series.  Simon and Schuster wanted to create a Nancy Drew series for young adults where Nancy is a little older with more mature content.  They wanted Nancy and her friends in adult situations that would appeal to the young adult audience.  However, the publisher had to be careful with the Nancy Drew character. Nancy couldn't be put in compromising positions, since Nancy is expected to behave properly.  She shouldn't sleep with her boyfriend, do drugs, or drink alcohol.  In short, she couldn't do anything that would be expected in a more mature story.

Since Nancy couldn't experience adult situations herself, a large cast of characters was created so that they could do drugs, get drunk, and sleep with each other.  Nancy would be kept pure.  Nancy was kept so pure that her romance scenes were written in the most boring fashion possible.  Nancy gets more romance in Nancy Drew #51, The Mystery of the Glowing Eye, which was written in the 1970s for children.

What I think happened is that the authors, editors, or whoever was responsible for this debacle wimped out.  They didn't know how to do anything with Nancy, so they did nothing.  This is strange, since Nancy has some romance in the Nancy Drew Files series, which was in publication at the time of the Nancy Drew On Campus series.  All they had to do was write Nancy the way she was written in the Nancy Drew Files series.  Why didn't they do that?

The result is that the Nancy Drew On Campus series reads like a children's series with an attempt at adult situations with no description or emotions.  The result is terribly bland and boring.

I will be selling my set of books.  I need the shelf space.