Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

I recently read The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan.  The Lost Hero is the first volume in the Heroes of Olympus series, which is the sequel to the Percy Jackson series.

I am always suspicious of sequels, because they tend not to be as good as the original stories.  I loved the Percy Jackson books, and I was afraid that Riordan might do something annoying like place the sequel 20 to 30 years in the future with Percy Jackson as a middle-aged man.  The reviews for The Lost Hero are excellent, so I bought the book and hoped I would like it.

I was pleased that the dust jacket gives some information about the book without giving anything away.  So often, summaries on dust jackets give us too much information about the plot.  The summary gives us basic information from the beginning of the story.  Here is the information:
Jason has a problem.  He doesn't remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip.  Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper, and his best friend is a guy named Leo.  They're all students at the Wilderness School, a boarding school for "bad kids," as Leo puts it.  What did Jason do to end up here?  And where is here, exactly?  Jason doesn't know anything—except that everything seems very wrong.

Piper has a secret.  Her father, a famous actor, has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare about his being in trouble.  Piper doesn't understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn't recognize her.  When a freak storm hits during the school trip, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she's going to find out, whether she wants to or not.

Leo has a way with tools.  When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home.  But there's weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about, and some camper who's gone missing.  Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god.  Does this have anything to do with Jason's amnesia, or the fact that Leo keeps seeing ghosts?

Join new and old friends from Camp Half-Blood in this thrilling first book in the The Heroes of Olympus series.  Best-selling author Rick Riordan has pumped up the action, humor, suspense, and mystery in an epic adventure that will leave readers panting for the next installment.
I was able to get into the story very quickly.  I was relieved when I realized that this book begins just four months after the end of the final Percy Jackson book.  Yes!  Most of the primary characters from the Percy Jackson books do not appear in this book.  A few do appear, and their appearances are natural.  Others are just mentioned by name only.

Of course many of the book's events are contrived and similar to events in the Percy Jackson series.  The final battle near the end of the book is reminiscent of one from the Percy Jackson series.  This is to be expected of series books, and I was not bothered at all by the similarities.

The book adds a new twist to the Percy Jackson universe.  The Percy Jackson books focus on the Greek gods, and this book adds in their Roman counterparts, which are explained as something like an alternate personality.  It adds an intriguing twist.

Percy Jackson readers will recall a prophecy from near the end of the final book.  That prophecy mentions a new quest and struggle.  This new series tells the story of that new prophecy.  It all fits together nicely.

Much of the fun in reading is trying to guess what is really happening.  The biggest mystery is why Jason's memory has been wiped clean.  We learn why near the end of the story, and the revelation gives us insight into the epic story arc that will develop in the rest of the series.

I greatly enjoyed this book.  While I believe readers can enjoy it without having read the Percy Jackson books, they will gain more enjoyment if they are already familiar with the setting. 

The book has a lot of the humor of the Percy Jackson books.  The writing is on a slightly higher level than the first Percy Jackson book, which makes sense because these young people are a couple years older than Percy was during the first book.

Unfortunately, I'm going to have to wait nearly a year for the next installment in this series.  That's the only trouble with reading modern series books; I have to wait for each book to get published.

The next book will be titled The Son of Neptune, and the title has spawned much discussion on whom the Son of Neptune is. Readers who have finished The Lost Hero are certain they know whom he will be, and the story told should be very interesting.  Speculating during the time lapse between Harry Potter books was the best part, and we can do the same with these books.

Have any of you read any of the Percy Jackson books?  Did you like or dislike them?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Best Way to Promote

People give lots of advice on how to promote one's online store in order to gain buyers. Sellers are told to get on Facebook and Twitter, to list one's store on lots of random sites, and to start a blog. Taken at face value with no guidance on how specifically to proceed, this advice can be of little help.

Many sellers on Bonanza, Etsy, and other sites create Twitter and Facebook accounts and then ask all of the other sellers to follow them. The result is that all of the sellers are tweeting and promoting to each other. How is this bringing in buyers? I have Facebook and Twitter accounts, but I fail to see how promoting to a bunch of sellers who do not collect series books is going to get people to buy my series books.

This type of promotion may help people who sell a wide variety of items, but it is not going to work for me. My Facebook fan page has helped some, but only because I refused to go on Bonanza and beg for fans. I let people who read this blog decide on their own whether to follow me. While I have very few followers, they are people who are interested in series books.

In 2009, I tried to follow some of the advice offered such as creating a Zimbio account and using Squidoo. The thinking was that the more places a booth is listed, the more likely the seller will get sales.

I quickly decided that it was too much trouble and that I was not going to reach my target audience. It would be like parking myself in front of the nearest Walmart with a stack of my books priced at $5 and up and trying to sell them to the average Walmart shopper. Do you really think that would work?

I also did not believe that listing my booth on random sites was going to help me much in my Google search ranking. What I did last year did not help at all.

People recommend blogging, and blogging is the best approach. However, most people go about it the wrong way. One problem is that many of the blog writers use poor grammar, punctuation, and spelling. That is a big turn-off for people who notice the mistakes.

If a seller plans to blog and does not have a good command of the correct usage of the English language, then that person needs to get someone who does and have that person help. Even more importantly, avoid text-speak. "U need 2 c my stuff!" Um, no I don't.

If I see two books up for sale that are identical in every way including condition and price, I will buy from the person who writes well over the person who does not. Keep in mind, though, that I am turned off by excessively long descriptions that serve no real purpose. One can go too far.

People have attempted to promote their booths by writing randomly about themselves and what they are doing in their lives. While one might be able to gain a following that way if the content is interesting, it is not a very effective approach. Is someone really going to buy from a seller because the seller had a ham sandwich for lunch?

Most people want to read about what interests them. And that is the key.

You are selling to the people who want your items. You do not want to market to people who like you; rather, you should market to people who like your items. You need to enable those people to find your items. Google is the key, not Zimbio, Squidoo, or any other promotional tool. While those tools may gain some item views, they are not targeting the specific people who want your items.

Most buyers use Google's organic search. Therefore, it is vitally important to rank near the top in the Google results. This cannot be achieved by blogging about one's lunch, one's doctor appointment, or one's pets. Facebook is the place for those topics. I finally realized in November how best to utilize a blog in order to raise my Google ranking.

This blog has helped, and it gives me credibility.  But more than credibility is needed in order to conquer the Google problem. 

I had already created my Jennifer's Series Books blog, but I was not using it correctly. I finally realized that I needed to write a short description of each series, provide a list of titles, and link to whichever books I had available.

The blog itself is generating minimal traffic for my booth. More importantly, the blog is increasing the value of my items to Google, which is in turn causing my items to rank higher in Google. Because my blog posts are about what I sell, those posts are making my items shoot up towards the top in the Google results. I have found some of my books in the #1 position on the very first page.

Anybody can write up a description of what is for sale and link to it. Let's say that a seller sells pink bows that are made from cloth. That seller could write a blog post about pink bows and how they can be used as fashion accessories or as a finishing touch for a wrapped present. Somewhere in that blog post the seller should link to the pink bows that are up for sale.

A seller can create separate posts for each type of product that is sold. Google loves descriptive text. This is how sellers should utilize blogs.

A good example of a seller using descriptive text to increase one's Google ranking is the Book Safari. I have linked to one of the pages. Notice that each section listed has descriptive information and that the same information appears on the page for each subsection. The Book Safari has an excellent ranking in Google for this reason.

Many people who sell on eBay may perhaps be unaware that eBay now recommends that sellers do promoting outside of eBay. The traffic on eBay is not what it once was and Best Match has made it difficult for sellers to succeed. Even eBay sellers would be well advised to begin a blog and link to their products.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Changed Default for Comments

Thanks to a very helpful comment in my Jennifer's Series Books blog, I have changed the comment settings to this blog to "registered users - includes Open ID."  That is the comment setting for my other blog which enabled a comment from a Word Press user.  I did not know that I had that comment setting in that blog.  It must be the new default for Blogger.

The default used to be to allow anybody to post including anonymous users, but I was getting flamed by people who probably worked for eBay.  I then changed the settings to require people to have a Google account, but that also closed the door on people who were not going to flame me.

I am pretty sure that everyone who has a Google ID will still be able to comment.  After all, Blogger, which is owned by Google, would hardly prevent Google users from commenting.  However, I would feel better if someone who normally comments would test this for me.  If you could post a comment using "Google/Blogger," then I will be comfortable knowing that everyone can still post comments.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Comment Feed + Other Thoughts

I added a comment feed to the right column so that recent comments are visible, regardless of how old the post is to which the comment was made.  Sometimes I have people comment on posts from a year or two ago, and unless a reader subscribes to the comments (see the link at the right), then that reader is never aware of the recent comments.

I hope this feature does not discourage anyone from commenting.  Comments are valuable, and even more valuable when others are aware of them.  I have had people state that they don't want to comment too much in this blog, like there is something wrong with making lots of comments.

What you don't understand is that I highly crave comments, and I wish I had more comments!  I wish more people would comment, and I wish that the people who do comment would comment more often!

I really enjoy reading your points of view and discussing various topics with you.  I have been doing some reading about blogging this week, and one writer states that the most interesting part of many blogs is the comment area.  All bloggers want comments and the resulting discussions!

I have had quite a few posts that I thought were really interesting, and not even one person bothered to comment.  It made me wonder if I was the only person who thought that topic was interesting.  But, people are busy, and I realize that much of what I write will get little response even if people like it.  It takes time to write a comment.  Furthermore, Blogger can be really annoying at times.

I have also added the share links to the end of each post so that you can share posts via Twitter, Facebook, and other services.

I changed the template because I wanted a wider template.  I do not like the default colors, so eventually I will make a few changes.

My next post will likely be on December 26 or 27.  I have been keeping new posts to a minimum because most people are too consumed with the holidays.  I will be writing about the proper way to use a blog to market one's online store.

I created a new ID on eBay to test whether my auctions do any better.  They may not, but I have nothing to lose.  I have figured out that it no longer makes any difference on eBay whether a seller has feedback.

I had a frustrating experience last night on eBay.  I decided to ask the seller of the blank endpapers Lilac Inn that was listed last night to give me the information needed to determine whether the book is the first printing.  Lilac Inn is the only first printing book I need, so the response is rather important.  I asked my question around eight minutes after the seller listed the book.  I received this response:

"I'll try my best , but I won't be back until after the Holidays , I may not make it back in time. If I don't and you are not comfortable placing the bid , please hold off ,thanks and happy Holidays ."

The seller can't bother to answer questions right after the book is listed?  I can't begin to express how annoyed I am.  I can't bid very high since I don't know if the book is the first printing.  Sadly, this is why I tend not to ask questions.  I typically get responses that are not helpful at all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Grace Harlowe's First Two Years at Overton College

My first thought as I began Grace Harlowe's First Year at Overton College was, "How long will it take for nearly every girl at Overton College to love and admire Grace Harlowe?" I knew that without a doubt that Grace would be adored as much at Overton College as she was during her high school years, with the exception, of course, of a few mean jealous girls. And that is exactly how the book played out.

As the book opens, Grace Harlowe, Anne Pierson, and Miriam Nesbit travel by train to Overton. On the train, the girls meet J. Elfreda Briggs, and at first, greatly dislike the self-centered and socially inept girl. Miriam ends up rooming with Elfreda, and the girls grow to like her.

Elfreda is the victim of a prank by two sophomores, and Elfreda reports their behavior to the dean. Elfreda soon regrets her action, as she finds herself ostracized by many of the students. Grace is snubbed due to her association with Elfreda. Anne helps set the record straight, and soon, nearly all of the girls adore Grace.

In Grace Harlowe's Second Year at Overton College, Grace is accused of plagiarism. Grace misplaced her essay and had to write it again. Grace turned in her second essay, unaware that another girl had found her essay and turned it in as her own. The instructor refuses to believe Grace's story until a very well-respected girl backs up Grace's story.

Grace knows that a freshman girl is the culprit and concludes that the girl must room in the same building. Grace has no idea who could possibly be the culprit, never mind that only a couple of freshman girls room in the same building and one of them immediately begins acting strangely! Gosh, who could it possibly be?! I had to quit reading and thumb through the book until I found the confession of the culprit. Gee, I was so not surprised. My suspicion confirmed, I resumed reading the book.

Both of these books read much like the Grace Harlowe High School Series books. Grace is admired by most, yet hated by a few. Grace helps some unfortunate girls, and the author preaches about how to live one's life. Here is an example:

Grace Harlowe's First Year at Overton College ends with Anne making a long, long speech about "beginning a garden" during one's freshman year. She talks of seeds that flourish unexpectedly and others that are "terribly hard to make them live at all." She states that the garden "will keep on growing through the sophomore and junior years and bloom at the end of four years." She remarks, "In the sophomore year, the hardest task is keeping the weeds out, and during the junior and senior years the difficulty will be to keep the ground in the highest state of cultivation." She explains that it is "easier to neglect one's garden" in those years.

That's good to know.

Despite the excessive preaching, I enjoyed both books.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

System Tool 2011 Rogue Antivirus Program

I don't usually go off-topic here, but this is information worth sharing just in case any of you should encounter this misfortune. I found that the sites that shared information gave the wrong directions on what to do. Not only that, but they each had an agenda and tended to suggest buying a program that was not free.

A secondary computer got a virus called System Tool 2011 yesterday. It took me most of the day to get rid of it! This is only the second time I have ever had a computer taken over by a virus, but this one was far harder to remove. The program blocked access to the legitimate antivirus program, my internet browsers, and the task manager; additionally, the add/remove programs list did not work properly. This one was vicious. It disabled every single way that someone could get rid of it.

System Tool 2011 is a rogue program that looks like it is an antivirus program. It has a warning message that says that the computer is infected with 38 viruses. The point is to force people to click on a link and enter their credit card information. Then, the people who are responsible for the program can make a bunch of charges.

I knew that the program was not legit since the message was highly emotional and spelled "your" as "your're." Whenever words are misspelled, it is a scam.

I was only able to figure out what to do because I had another computer upon which I could run searches and get information about the virus. I went through several hours of following directions that did not work for me.

Some sites suggest removing it manually in safe mode. This does not work because the program does not run in safe mode. It has to be removed in regular Windows mode, and unfortunately, the rogue program disables everything right after Windows opens.

The only option is to restart windows and click CTRL + ALT + DEL as soon as Windows opens. The task manager will open before the program disables it. You only have a few seconds to act, and it is definitely like playing a timed game. You have to look for "oHaKo00902" to appear as a process, right click, and disable. I had to restart around five times before I disabled it before it closed the task manager. The only reason I finally succeeded is because I clicked on the sort at the top of the task manager to sort alphabetically so I could stare where the letter "O" would appear in the list.

I then had to download a new free antivirus because mine was not working due to the virus. With the new program, I was able to complete a scan of the computer and remove the files. When I restarted the computer, the virus was gone, and my regular antivirus was finally working again.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Scarcity of Nancy Drew Lilac Inn First Printing

The 1930A-1 printing of The Secret of the Old Clock in hardcover with dust jacket is considered to be the most difficult to acquire of all first printing Nancy Drew books. The value of this book and jacket is around $10,000. While the first printing of Old Clock in dust jacket is the most coveted and valuable Nancy Drew book, it is not necessarily the most elusive.

The first printing book for The Mystery at Lilac Inn is very elusive. It is the only first printing Nancy Drew book that I have not managed to acquire. Both the 1930A-1 and 1930B-2 printings of Lilac Inn have blank endpapers and no silhouette on the front cover. The very first post-text ad lists 9 Hardy Boys to Airport Mystery. The second post-text ad lists 20 Outdoor Girls books to Canoe Trip, and the third post-text ad lists 10 Blythe Girls to Margy's Mysterious Visitor. 

[Note to Sellers:  If your Lilac Inn book does not have the exact ads listed in the above paragraph in the exact order listed above, then it is not the first printing book.  Books that have the same binding style but different ads are not first printings and are worth $100 or less.]

Since two printings of the Lilac Inn book meet the points for the first printing, it should be easier to find than the 1930A-1 Nancy Drew Old Clock book, which only had one printing. For some inexplicable reason, the first printing book for Lilac Inn hardly ever comes up for sale, and when it does, it is usually in bad shape.

The first and second printing dust jackets for Lilac Inn both list to Lilac Inn on the front flap. The only difference between the first and second printing dust jackets is the list of titles on the reverse side of the dust jacket. For the 1930A-1 dust jacket, the reverse side lists Grosset and Dunlap adult fiction in alphabetical order. For the 1930B-2 dust jacket, the reverse side lists the usual Grosset and Dunlap series books as seen on other early Nancy Drew dust jackets.

Both the first and second printing Lilac Inn dust jackets are elusive, but not nearly as elusive as the first/second printing Lilac Inn book. The book should be easier to find than either individual dust jacket, since two printings match the points for the first printing book. For some reason, the book is extremely scarce.

In my experience, the first printing Lilac Inn book is much more scarce than the 1932A-1 Clue in the Diary book with blank endpapers that sellers are always trying to sell for $1,000 or more. This is a good example of when people buy into the hype and don't realize that the hyped book may not as difficult to find as other certain books and should not be valued nearly as high.

I have noticed an interesting pattern concerning early printings of Lilac Inn that could explain why the first/second printing dust jackets are not quite as elusive as the first/second printing book. In early 2010, I bought a 1930A-1 Lilac Inn dust jacket that was paired with a 1931D-7 book, detailed in this post.


It was disappointing and a bit odd that the first printing dust jacket was paired with a later book.

In October 2010, a 1930B-2 Lilac Inn dust jacket paired with a 1930C-3 Lilac Inn book was sold, detailed in this post.


This is a second example of a mismatched book and jacket.

In November 2010, I bought a 1930B-2 Lilac Inn dust jacket that was paired with a 1935B-22 book.


This matching is way off and really odd. The book and jacket are off by five years. They do have similar wear patterns, so they have been matched together for a very long time. Exactly why are the first and second printing dust jackets of Lilac Inn all showing up on later books? And exactly why are the first/second books so elusive?

Some Nancy Drew collectors have kept track of the early Nancy Drew books and jackets that have shown up on eBay. The three Lilac Inn dust jackets mentioned in this post may be the only ones we know of that list to Lilac Inn that have sold on eBay. All three Lilac Inn dust jackets were paired with the wrong book.

While we do not know exactly what the cause was, we can conclude that a number of the first and second printing Lilac Inn dust jackets were paired with later books, and most likely by the bindery. Perhaps only a small number of first/second printing Lilac Inn books were printed, but a higher number of dust jackets were printed. It is quite probable that the extra dust jackets were paired with later books as the later books were printed. This would explain why the first/second printing Lilac Inn book is so difficult to find.

I also think that both the first and second printing dust jackets for Lilac Inn are subsets of the same printing. Since Farah has designated the one that has fiction in alphabetical order on the reverse side as the first printing, it is the one that is worth more. How can we really be sure that it was first?

The 1930C-3 Old Clock jacket lists to Lilac Inn and has the adult fiction list in alphabetical order. The 1930C-3 Hidden Staircase jacket lists to Lilac Inn but has the series lists on the reverse side. The 1930B-2 Bungalow Mystery jacket lists to Lilac Inn and has the adult fiction list in alphabetical order. So which would it be for the first printing of Lilac Inn? It seems to me that it could go either way, since dust jackets out at about the same time have both types of lists on the reverse side.

I'm sure that Farah had a reason for placing the one with the adult fiction in alphabetical order as the first printing, but to me, either one might be the first printing. For that reason, I am keeping both dust jackets.

Edited on June 26, 2012 to add:  The first printing of Lilac Inn cannot be determined by outward appearance only.  You must look at the post-text ad information.  The four post-text ad pages are "This Isn't All!" followed by Hardy Boys to Great Airport Mystery, Outdoor Girls to Canoe Trip, and Blythe Girls to Margy's Mysterious Visitor, in that exact order.  The same ads in a different order means that the book is not the first printing.  Any other combination of ads means that the book is not the first printing.  Later printings are much easier to find and are worth much less than the first printing.

Please also read these related posts, which were written because of the many sellers who have read this post and completely misunderstood the content.

Seeking the First Printing of Nancy Drew Lilac Inn
1930A-1 Nancy Drew Lilac Inn First Printing Book
Continuing to Seek the First Printing of Lilac Inn

Nancy Drew First Format Lilac Inn Prices

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bonanza Update #2

My Google results for Jennifer's Series Books are finally showing improvement. I have noticed that in the last week, I have begun to get more traffic from Google.

As I have done for around the last month, I ran some searches without quotes and exactly as typed below. See what I found:

nancy drew hollow oak - 2 books on page 4
nancy drew missing map - 2 books on page 2
nancy drew bungalow mystery - 1 book on page 3
trixie belden uninvited guest - 1 book on page 1
nancy drew pine hill - 1 book page on 2
judy bolton unfinished house - 1 book on page 1
judy bolton ruined castle -1 book on page 2
judy bolton patchwork quilt - 1 book on page 1
trixie belden marshland mystery - 1 book on page 2
trixie belden mysterious code - 1 book on page 2

These are the types of searches I have been testing, and I been testing primarily common books which have a lot of competition on Google. I have been unable to find my items on the first four to five pages. I am now seeing items as high as page 1 in the results. These are not the only searches I ran, and I did fail to find my items in some of my searches. I found results in the vast majority of searches that I tested. This is much better than previously when I found none of my items in any of the tested searches.

If I keep at it, I should be able to get my traffic back to normal within a month.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bonanza Update

I reported previously that the name change from Bonanzle to Bonanza had a devastating effect on my sales and traffic for my booth, Jennifer's Series Books. I have observed that just about everyone who sells series books on Bonanza ranks better on Google than I do. Whenever I search for one of my books on Google and discover a Bonanza listing, it is for a book listed by someone else on Bonanza. For whatever reason, I have been affected the most profoundly in the search results.

My theory is that because I was the first person to list series books on Bonanzle, I am more associated with the old URL than anyone else, so I am having the most trouble leaving it behind. I had many links to my Bonanzle booth, and I have been trying to remove those links. Just a few days ago, I discovered that my Twitter page still linked to Bonanzle. That's not good. I have now changed it as well.

I am beginning to see some improvement, and this is what I have accomplished so far.
  1. I wrote a bunch of posts for my Jennifer's Series Books blog. If people search for "Jennifer's Series Books," they land on that blog and can go to my booth. I have linked to many individual items in my booth. A few items now have a better ranking in Google, while I am still waiting to see improvement on the rest. Some of the individual posts for the blog, such as one on Nancy Drew Applewood editions, are showing up extremely high on Google, so that provides a gateway to my booth.
  2. I linked to my Jennifer's Series Books blog from a number of pages on Series-books.com. The purpose is to improve the blog's page rank so that it will in turn improve my booth's page rank. While I wait for that to happen, I have already had the immediate result of getting traffic to the blog from Series-books.com, which provides another gateway to my booth.
  3. I noticed that one seller on Bonanza who has no attributes and has done no search optimization shows up rather high on Google. That seller uses a large font. I have gone through my items and increased the font size. I also made it bold and changed the color to make it stand out. It took hours to go through all of my listings, except the freebies, and change the font size.
  4. I have been working towards getting as many different books up as I can for each format of Nancy Drew. I have also been trying to get as wide of a variety up as I can for the other series. I have bought several larger lots lately on eBay solely for the purpose of adding to my variety of listings. If I can get a wider selection, I hope to be able to improve my showing in Google's results.
  5. As I get a wider variety of books listed, I plan to write additional blog posts for my Jennifer's Series Books blog and will use those posts to link to my books.
I had 34 transactions in August, 18 transactions in September, 12 transactions in October, and 20 transactions in November. November was definitely better than September and October.

In October, my traffic was running about 40% of what I had before the name change. In October, my sales were 35% of the previous level. My traffic is currently running at 60% of what it was before the name change. My November sales were nearly 60% of my previous level. The increase in sales matches the increase in traffic.

I have so far had one sale in December. I expect a dip in sales and traffic this month, although it could go either way. I am hoping that once the holiday season ends that my Bonanza traffic will be back up to around the same level that it was on Bonanzle.

I could use eBay to drive traffic to Bonanza, but I have mostly given up on eBay's 100 free listings per month. My books do not sell on eBay. I have a growing suspicion that my account may have a hidden black mark against it. Some of you are undoubtedly rolling your eyes and remarking, "Yeah, right." To those people, I say to read this particular AuctionBytes letter to the editor and then carefully read all the comments. Actually, just skim the letter to see that it is very anti-eBay and then read the comments carefully. Quite a saga unfolds in the comments.

The writer withheld her name and then was taunted in the comments section by a well-known pro-eBay person for not stating her name. The insinuation was that her comments had no validity unless she gave her name. She gave her name and then the very next day returned to state that her seller performance had just changed that day to "below standard," and she lost her power seller status. She called eBay, and customer service could find absolutely no reason why her status had changed, and it was reinstated to the previous position.

I was very critical of eBay in this blog in late 2008, and at that time, my seller performance standard oddly swung between "above standard" and "below standard" for no reason that I could see. It would not surprise me if I have been punished for my comments. If so, it caused me to try Bonanzle/Bonanza, and I am not turning back.

I would be very interested in reading your comments about your current level of success on both eBay and Bonanza, and any thoughts you have about selling series books and the current prices.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Grace Harlowe's Senior Year at High School

I enjoyed Grace Harlowe's Senior Year at High School more than I did the first three books. It had more interesting events than the previous volumes.

Soon into the story, the girls chance to meet Mabel Allison's mother and return Mabel to her. It's funny how lost parents are always found in a chance meeting in the same location where the lost child is. I am usually able to suspend belief in these cases, but I had trouble enjoying this particular reunion. I mean, really.

In fact, it makes me think of the blurb that appears in the back of the Altemus books. Keep in mind that Grace Harlowe was published by Altemus. The blurb reads, in part:
Really good and new stories for boys and girls are not plentiful. Many stories, too, are so highly improbable as to bring a grin of derision to the young reader's face before he has gone too far.
Sorry, Altemus, your books do that, too.

Eleanor Savell continues to be extremely hateful in this book, although she does get reformed towards the end. I would prefer it if the mean girls would get expelled and banished to a faraway place. That would be more fun. Something like that happened to a mean girl in Lavell's Girl Scouts series. I like it when the mean girls get punished.

Meanwhile, Marian Barber becomes very friendly with a 29-year-old man named Henry Hammond. He influences her to dress up in expensive gowns with low necklines. She shuns her friends, and they can do nothing to help her. It turns out that Hammond is a thief and uses Marian to get money.

The relationship is very scandalous to me, since I see it from a modern point of view. Nowadays, I think the 29-year-old man would be getting a lot more than money from Marian, if you know what I mean. I also think that even in real life 100 years ago that the man would be getting more than just money.

Marian Barber is not to be confused with Miriam Nesbit, who was Grace's rival in the first and second books. At first I thought that Miriam was the one who was interested in the older man, then I realized that I was misreading the name yet again. This has been a problem for me since the first book. The author had no business making two important characters have extremely similar names.

I also noticed a bunch of dropped quotation marks in this book. Altemus got sloppy with this book, kind of like what Burt did with Harriet Pyne Grove's books. The saving grace is that the writing is good, unlike with Grove's books.

Grace is still close to perfect in this book, but I was happy when she and Eleanor break into an abandoned house in order to retrieve stolen property. There may be hope for Grace. Way to go!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Combined Shipping Problem on Bonanza

Update: Support states that the problem is fixed, and it does appear to be fixed.

This is a warning for those of you who sell on Bonanza. We have a glitch that is giving buyers huge discounts on postage. I just disabled my combined item shipping discount in order to avoid getting hit again. Unfortunately, this probably means that all prospective buyers who want to buy more than one book will be scared off due to the high postage, but I can't stomach having this happen again.

I had an order that was supposed to be $32.94 plus $5.95 postage. The postage was supposed to calculate at $3.95 plus $0.40 for each additional book. There were five additional books, which made the additional postage $2.00. The total should have been $38.89.

The postage for the books with separate postage at $3.95 each would have totaled $23.70. Bonanza was supposed to subtract $17.75 from that total to get the $5.95 that should have been charged. Instead, Bonanza took what the total should have been, $38.89, and subtracted $17.75 from it. The buyer paid only $21.14 instead of $38.89.

I'm going to eat the loss since this is not the buyer's fault. I got really worried when I thought about what would happen if a buyer bought 30 books. Bonanza would end up subtracting over $100 from the order amount. There is no way I want that to happen. Whenever someone buys a bunch of books, it is always cheap books, so I can't let that happen.

I would not have mentioned this, but I think the rest of you need to know. I would suggest killing your combined shipping discounts until this gets fixed.

Edited to add: This is happening to everyone, and it has been reported in the forums. It is not an isolated issue. Some people have figured out a way to change the discount in order to allow for the error, but I'm going to have to leave mine disabled.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Grace Harlowe's Junior Year at High School

In Grace Harlowe's Junior Year at High School, Grace befriends a sophomore girl, who was the winner of the previous year's freshman prize for highest exam scores. The girl is Mabel Allison, and Grace learns that the girl is an orphan who lives with the mean, miserly Miss Brant. Miss Brant took Mabel home from the orphan asylum two years ago and plans to remove Mabel from school when she turns 16 so that she can work at the silk mill. Grace is horrified, especially after she learns that Miss Brant beats Mabel. Grace vows to do something to help Mabel.

A new girl at school, Eleanor Savell, is strong-willed, and at first takes a liking to Grace and her friends. Later, she labels Grace and her friends "goody-goodies" and begins to cause trouble for everyone. Grace is indignant when Eleanor calls her a goody-goody, but really, she is.

Grace is placed on such a pedestal among her schoolmates that, at times, it is a bit hard to take. I am reminded of how Trixie Belden fans feel about Nancy Drew. They dislike Nancy Drew because she is too perfect. Obviously, they have never read Grace Harlowe. Nancy Drew is far less perfect than Grace Harlowe and her friends.

On pages 123 and 124, Grace and Anne are concerned because Eleanor and her friends are giving the junior class a bad reputation among the teachers. Anne comments to Grace that Eleanor is "helping to destroy that spirit of earnestness that you have tried so hard to cultivate."

Grace replies in part, "The juniors will get the reputation among the teachers this year that the junior class had last, and it seems such a pity. I overheard Miss Chester tell Miss Kane the other day that her junior classes were the most trying of the day, because she had to work harder to maintain discipline than to teach her subject."

Nora then retorts, "That's a nice reputation to carry around, isn't it?" She then continues, "But all we can do is to try harder than ever to make things go smoothly."

Are these girls for real? I will admit that I never, ever did anything wrong in school. I was in some classes that had lots of misbehaving students, but I certainly didn't worry about what the teachers thought of the class as a whole. If I wasn't one of the people misbehaving, then why would I worry about what the teachers thought of the others? Please!

While I do enjoy reading stories about people who do the right thing and want what is best for others, Grace and her friends can be a bit much at times. Even though the moralizing made me want to roll my eyes at times, I enjoyed this story.

The Grace Harlowe books hearken back to a previous time which is extremely different from our world today and is even quite different from the setting of the series books of the 1930s. The stories are engaging but very old-fashioned. The illustrations make the girls look like grown women who are very prim and proper. It is astonishing to see the girls playing basketball in dresses, but that is how life was 100 years ago.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nancy Drew's Inner Circle Book Club

For the most part, I am not very interested in collecting old magazine advertisements for the Nancy Drew series. The advertisements tend to be plain black and white and fairly generic. I did recently make an exception.

I chanced to notice an advertisement for "Nancy Drew's Inner Circle for Girls" and the "Hardy Boys Inner Circle for Boys" book clubs in an eBay listing. It was a Buy It Now, and I liked what I saw, so I immediately purchased it.

The advertisement has staple holes in the center, so it must have been removed from a magazine, as is almost always the case with these old inserts. The seller wrote "August 1963" on the cardboard backing used for the ad, so I assume that the ad was removed from a magazine that was published in August of 1963. As always, click on the images to view larger versions.


I think it is a very attractive advertisement due to the use of the cover images in blue that mimic the blue multi endpapers. The spine symbols used also look nice.

The book club is for the Nancy Drew picture cover editions that have no number on the spine and have a blank back cover. #1-32 were issued in this book club.


The advertisement gives us some important information about the book club. The book club was called the "Nancy Drew Inner Circle for Girls." The book club offered four introductory volumes: #7 The Clue in the Diary, #8 Nancy's Mysterious Letter, #18 The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion, and #21 The Secret in the Old Attic. Additionally, each member had to commit to purchasing two additional books each month for four months before canceling the membership. This means that each person had to purchase a total of twelve books.

David Farah has speculated that the volumes were issued in four groups: #1-8, #9-16, #17-24, and #25-32. He drew this conclusion because the earlier volumes appear to be less scarce than the later volumes.

This advertisement indicates that the first four volumes issued were #7, 8, 18, and 21, which means that those four volumes should be the most abundant, in addition to whichever eight additional titles were required to be purchased by members. It would be nice to know which eight were next. It is possible that after the introductory volumes that the books were sent in order, which would account for the earlier volumes seeming to be less scarce than the later ones.

I decided to check eBay listings to see if I could draw any conclusions. I have listed the volume number followed by the number of listings of the book club edition picture cover that I found currently listed. The numbers are interesting, although flawed, because some books might sell more readily than others.

#1 - 2
#2 - 6
#3 - 5
#4 - 3
#5 - 1
#6 - 3
#7 - 7
#8 - 8
#9 - 3
#10 - none
#11 - 3
#12 - 3
#13 - 2
#14 - 1
#15 - 3
#16 - 1
#17 - 1
#18 - 3
#19 - 3
#20 - 2
#21 - 2
#22 - 1
#23 - 1
#24 and up - none

#7 and #8, which are two of the four introductory volumes, are definitely the most abundant. #2 and #3 are next, followed by #4, 6, 9, 11, 12, 15, 18, and 19. I notice that a few early volumes such as #5 plus some of the later ones like #10, 14, 16, 17, 22, and 23 seem to be equally scarce. It does not look like #1-8 are equally scarce, followed by #9-16 and #17-24, as indicated by Farah. The scarcity of #25-32 matches Farah's observations. It sounds like the early volumes were some of the ones mailed out first, but not all of them and that the later books were definitely mailed out last.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Finding Bonanza Items in Google

I mentioned in my last post that I was unable to find my items in Google unless I used quotation marks around all or part of the titles. Furthermore, when I finally found my items, the URL of those items was Bonanzle.com, the old URL.

I have been creating posts for my Jennifer's Series Books blog with lists of titles in the different series. I have linked to as many individual listings as I can for books that I have up for sale. I am already seeing some positive results from the posts I created several days ago.

I could not find my copy of Linda by Mildred Wirt using Google search, which is odd considering how scarce the book is. It is not like there are dozens of them for sale. On Tuesday, I searched for Linda and found it in the #3 position. On Wednesday, I searched for Linda and found it in the #1 position. I did not have to use quotation marks to find it in the #1 position.

I could not find my 1930A-1 Old Clock on Google unless I used quotation marks. Even though there are several of them up for sale at the moment, the book is scarce and should be easily found in a search. It was odd that Google was not showing it. Using only the search terms "Old Clock" and "1930A-1" with no quotation marks, my book is in the #1 position. The URL is Bonanzle.com, but that is of no concern to me so long as Google is bringing up my book high in the results.

By linking to individual books that I have up for sale, I can improve my position in the Google search results. I am making a point to write at least a few short comments in each post before I paste in the list of titles. I am trying to word what I write differently from how I have done it elsewhere so that Google will see it as new and fresh content. Google often penalizes sites that have content that is the same as another site, so it is important not to word my comments exactly the same.

I should have done this sooner, and this is something that any of us can do. So far, it seems to be helping in the search results. It is not yet helping my sales, which are very slow. However, I do expect my efforts to pay off in the coming months. Right now, I expect most people are saving their money for Black Friday and are not that concerned about buying vintage books at this point in time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bonanza Booth Traffic and the Name Change

In September, Bonanzle changed its name to Bonanza. I knew that the name change would affect traffic, but I miscalculated how much it would affect me. I thought that most of my traffic came from my widgets, and apparently, I was wrong. Not only that, but the name change affected my Google Analytics data as well, and I am not sure whether what I am seeing on it is correct. The sales source data that I get in my booth also appears to be flawed. In short, everything is a mess.

The name change had a devastating affect on my traffic and sales. Prior to the name change, I was getting around 1,100 booth views per week. This dropped to around 450 to 500 views per week and has rebounded slightly to around 600 views per week.

I had 34 transactions in August, 18 transactions in September, and 12 transactions in October. I paid $21.00 in fees for October, and the only months for which I paid lower fees were five of the first six months I was on Bonanzle in early 2009. This means that the name change made my traffic revert to what it was in early 2009 and erased all of the progress I had made since that time. That is why I call the effect of the name change "devastating."

While the data on Google Analytics has been thrown off by the name change and the effect of the site redirect, I believe that the total traffic to all pages in my booth is accurate. That data is shown in this graph.


The graph shows the total traffic to my booth from February 1, 2009 to November 13, 2010. The last two points at the far right indicate September and October, and my traffic dropped to around half of what it had been. The faint line that runs off the right edge of the graph is November 1-13, and based on the current trend, November's traffic should be around the same as October's.

Now look in the middle of the graph where it says "Oct 1 - Oct 31." The two dots immediately above that notation are for November and December of 2009. My traffic dropped in November and December of last year due to the holiday season. In general, people do not buy vintage series books as Christmas presents. For this reason, I do not expect my booth traffic to rebound until at least January.

My items show up fine in Google's product search, but I cannot find my items in Google's organic search. If I use quotation marks around the entire item title, then Google returns no results. If I use quotation marks around parts of the item title, then I can usually find the item, but even in those cases, the item does not appear high on the page. This means that nobody can find my items through Google's organic search.

When I do find my items in the organic search, the URL is Bonanzle.com. I am finding items from some other Bonanza sellers, and when I find those items, the URL is Bonanza.com. For some reason, my booth is stuck in Bonanzle as far as Google is concerned, and that appears to be my problem since the Bonanzle URL is now depreciated.

Even the items that I just listed for sale in the last week display in Google as being on Bonanzle.com. Those items were never listed on Bonanzle, yet Google thinks they are on Bonanzle. I can understand why my oldest items would display as being on Bonanzle, but my newest items were listed on Bonanza. I have a serious problem with my booth.

One reason that my booth seems to be stuck as Bonanzle in Google is because of how many old links I had that pointed to Bonanzle. I changed my widgets around a week ago. A couple days ago, I went to my Facebook fan page and deleted all of my old links to my Bonanzle booth. I went through the old posts in this blog and changed the links to my booth to Bonanza. I hope that changing the links will speed up the propagation of the new URL for my booth.

I also wrote several new posts for my Jennifer's Series Books blog. My purpose is to link to many individual items in my booth in hope of getting Google to index the new URLs.

The trouble is that I cannot force Google to change the indexed links to the new URL unless I do something extreme. I could solve the problem by putting my booth on vacation for a couple of months. That would kill the old links. Another alternative would be to open another booth and move my items to that booth. It is tempting, but I do not want to start over.

I hope that the problem will fix itself as more time passes. I checked Google's help forums, and it appears that it sometimes takes three to four months before the search results return to normal after a domain change. By the middle of January, this should get fixed.

For me personally, the name change probably happened at the best time of year since my sales tend to suffer towards November and December. I would hate for the name change to have occurred during one of my typically best months. Unfortunately, the name change happened at a bad time for people who depend upon the holiday season for an increase in sales.

What is weird is that many people who had low traffic and few sales before the name change have reported that the name change has caused their traffic and sales to increase significantly. Other people, like me, who had good traffic and sales before the name change have seen a significant decrease in traffic and sales.

While I do not like the present situation and am frustrated by it, I know that this will work out as more time passes and that my item views and sales at Jennifer's Series Books will eventually return to normal.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Grace Harlowe's Sophomore Year at High School

In Grace Harlowe's Sophomore Year at High School, the plot centers around the basketball rivalry between the sophomore and junior classes. Junior Julia Crosby is captain of the junior team, and Julia leads her class in some dirty tricks against the sophomores. Meanwhile, sophomore Miriam Nesbit is bitter that Grace is captain of the sophomore team and seems to be aligned with Julia against the other sophomores.

Shortly into the story, Grace gives Anne Pierson a list of the sophomore team's secret basketball signals so that she can learn them and follow along better during practice. Anne loses the signals and worries about what has happened to them.

During the first game against the juniors, the sophomores are defeated because the junior team knows their signals. Egged on by Miriam, the sophomores blame Anne, believing she has turned traitor to the sophomore class. Soon, Grace loses the respect of the other girls, aside of her four close friends, due to her support of Anne. Grace is heartbroken that the other girls no longer like her, all because she stands behind Anne.

Anyone who has ever read a series book with this type of plot already knows that the conflict gets successfully worked out with Grace regaining the respect of the other girls. Not only that, but both Julia Crosby and Miriam Nesbit get reformed in this book.

I found Julia's reformation to be convincing, but I thought that Miriam's reformation was a bit forced and too fast. We are told that Miriam has been out of sorts for a time before she is reformed, but during this time Miriam still seems very hateful and mean. The conversion just seemed a bit too fast. Did anyone else get that impression?

On page 178, the girls play several old-fashioned schoolyard games. The games are called "puss in the corner," "pom-pom-pull-away," and "prisoner's goal." I had never heard any of these names before, so I looked them up online.

"Puss in the corner" involves four players taking up positions in a square area with an extra player in the middle. The players attempt to exchange positions, and whoever does not gain a corner becomes the new Puss. This sounds a lot like "musical chairs."

"Pom-pom-pull-away" is similar to "tag." The players line up on one side of the field with the tagger in the middle. The players attempt to run past the tagger without getting tagged. Any player who gets tagged must join the tagger in the middle of the field.

"Prisoner's goal" was hard to find in a search. It seems to be more commonly called "prisoner's base." According to one site, this game has two opposing teams attempt to take players from the other team prisoner and hold them in an enclosed area. I found another description of the game that makes it sound identical to "pom-pom-pull-away," so I don't know for certain exactly what the game is.

I found this second Grace Harlowe book to be just as enjoyable as the first one.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Grace Harlowe's Plebe Year at High School


The first book in the Grace Harlowe High School Girls Series is Grace Harlowe's Plebe Year at High School. This book was published in 1910 by Altemus and was written by Josephine Chase under the pseudonym Jessie Graham Flower, A.M. The book was published 100 years ago, which is made obvious from the rather dated illustrations which show the girls in very old-fashioned attire.

Grace Harlowe is 16 years old and is described as having wavy, chesnut hair. Grace's best friends are Nora O'Malley and Jessica Bright. Miriam Nesbitt is Grace's rival, who causes Grace and her friends endless trouble. All schoolgirl stories must have a jealous rival who wreaks havoc on everyone.

Anne Pierson is the new girl, who is from a very poor family. As the story begins, Miriam Nesbit speaks cruelly about Anne in Anne's presence. Grace decides to bring Anne into her circle of friends, so Grace, Nora, and Jessica befriend Anne.

All four girls become very friendly with old Mrs. Gray, who is the freshman sponsor. Mrs. Gray offers a prize each year to the freshman girl with the highest examination scores. The prize is $25 for the highest scores, and $100 if the girl makes a perfect score on every exam. No one has ever made a perfect score on all exams. Knowing what we know about series books, we can conclude that somebody will make a perfect score this year.

The young people generally expect Miriam Nesbit to claim the prize, but Anne hopes that she might be victorious. Anne badly needs the money and spends all of her time studying.

The four girls become friends with Miriam's brother, David Nesbit, and two other boys, Reddy Brooks and Hippy Wingate. The seven young people are invited to spend a week at Mrs. Gray's home during the holidays, where they meet Tom Gray, Mrs. Gray's great-nephew.

The story follows the plot of the typical school story with the usual melodrama involving mean girls and a very mean teacher. Even though I have read many series books that follow this theme, I never tire of this type of story so long as it is written well. This is a very enjoyable book which is never boring at any point during the story.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Grace Harlowe Series

The Grace Harlowe series was originally published by Altemus and later was reprinted by Donahue and Saalfield. The Grace Harlowe series consists of four different sets of books which were written by two authors.

The High School Girls Series and the College Girls Series were written by Josephine Chase. The Grace Harlowe Overseas Series and the Grace Harlowe Overland Riders Series were written by Frank Gee (Glines) Patchin according to a post by James Keeline. Both authors wrote the books under the pseudonym Jessie Graham Flower, A. M.

The High School Girls Series


1. Grace Harlowe's Plebe Year at High School, 1910
2. Grace Harlowe's Sophomore Year at High School, 1911
3. Grace Harlowe's Junior Year at High School, 1911
4. Grace Harlowe's Senior Year at High School, 1911

The College Girls Series

1. Grace Harlowe's First Year at Overton College, 1914
2. Grace Harlowe's Second Year at Overton College, 1914
3. Grace Harlowe's Third Year at Overton College, 1914
4. Grace Harlowe's Fourth Year at Overton College, 1914
5. Grace Harlowe's Return to Overton Campus, 1915
6. Grace Harlowe's Problem, 1916
7. Grace Harlowe's Golden Summer, 1917

Grace Harlowe Overseas Series

1. Grace Harlowe Overseas, 1920
2. Grace Harlowe with the Red Cross in France, 1920
3. Grace Harlowe with the Marines at Chateau Thierry, 1920
4. Grace Harlowe with the U.S. Troops in the Argonne, 1920
5. Grace Harlowe with the Yankee Shock Boys at St. Quentin, 1920
6. Grace Harlowe with the American Army on the Rhine, 1920

Grace Harlowe Overland Riders Series

1. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders on the Old Apache Trail, 1921
2. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders on the Great American Desert, 1921
3. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders Among the Kentucky Mountaineers, 1921
4. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders in the Great North Woods, 1921
5. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders in the High Sierras, 1923
6. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders in the Yellowstone National Park, 1923
7. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders in the Black Hills, 1923
8. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders at Circle O Ranch, 1923
9. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders Among the Border Guerillas, 1924
10. Grace Harlowe's Overland Riders On the Lost River Trail, 1924

I set myself the goal of acquiring all of the books in the original Altemus editions with the earliest style dust jackets. The Altemus editions have a later style of dust jacket that I dislike, so I wanted the earlier style. I also wished to avoid the Saalfield editions at all cost since the paper is of poor quality.

This is a very difficult series to acquire in the original Altemus editions with dust jackets. The Altemus editions are even a bit hard to find without the dust jackets. I am just three books short of having all of the books in all four sets. My books are all Altemus editions, and only four of them are lacking the dust jackets.

I am close enough to having all of the books that I have decided to read the books. I am likely going to have to settle for Saalfield editions of the books I lack in order to be able to read the entire set in sequence.

I have read many good comments about Josephine Chase over the years, so I know the first two sets of books will be good. I have read some not-so-good comments about the final two sets, which were written by Frank Gee Patchin. All I can say is that Patchin's writing had better be higher quality than Harriet Pyne Grove's writing, or I am going to be scarred for life.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Helping Out a Seller

Some people feel that it is their duty to tell every seller of a first printing copy of Nancy Drew #1 The Secret of the Old Clock that the book is valued at $1,000—regardless of the condition of the book up for sale. I have never understood this practice and feel that it sets the seller up for bitter disappointment.

I seem to recall that a 1930A-1 Old Clock without a jacket sold in the summer of 2008 for around $1,000, but that was to the woman who was spending around $30,000 per month on series books that summer. She worked for a bank and had stolen $300,000 from her bank's vault. She later went to federal prison. That sale does not count because that buyer tended to pay around 10 times the actual value of books during that buying frenzy. People bid against her just to drive the prices up, and I know of at least one instance in which a seller shilled an auction in order to make her pay an extreme amount.

Every other time that I have seen the 1930A-1 bare Old Clock book up for sale, it has sold for anywhere from $5 to $500. I do know of one that sold for around $5 in an eBay auction that ran for seven days. Most examples sell for $50 to $250. The book is not worth anywhere near $1,000, regardless of what Farah's Guide states.

Nancy Drew The Secret of the Old Clock

This auction was for a 1930A-1 Old Clock book, and the above was the title of the listing.



As usual, someone helpfully told the seller, "This is a 1st edition valued at $1,000 in good cond. Thought you'd like to know! Good Luck!" Did that really help? The auction closed at $94.66. If I had been the seller, I would have been disappointed after being told of the supposed $1,000 value.

Even if an excellent condition example were worth $1,000, this book does not look to be in very good shape. Why tell the seller that it is worth $1,000?

I have a feeling I'm going to regret this, but...

It would be more helpful to inform the seller of the mistakes that have been made which will cause most people not to notice the listing. The seller could have been informed that stating that the book is the 1930A-1 printing in the title of the auction would draw more attention to it. If that suggestion had been made in this particular instance, the seller might have gotten around $200 to $250 for the book, which would have been much better than $94.66.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Hidden Treasure

Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Hidden Treasure is the second and final Penny Allen book. It was written by Jean McKetchnie and published in 1950. The first Penny Allen book tells the story of the Allen family and is a greatly condensed version of volumes 2 and 3 from the Adventurous Allens series by Harriet Pyne Grove. This second Penny Allen book tells the story of the fifth and final Adventurous Allens book, The Adventurous Allens' Treasure Hunt.

It is just as well that McKetchnie ignored The Adventurous Allens Marooned when she created these two Penny Allen books. The Adventurous Allens Marooned is a horribly boring book. Unfortunately, The Adventurous Allens' Treasure Hunt is even more awful.

While many details are the same and many quotes are intact, McKetchnie completely rewrote much of the text. Around two-thirds of the first Penny Allen book contains text written by Grove. Probably only around one-third of the text of the second Penny Allen book is text written by Grove. McKetchnie added many new details to the plot which make it interesting.

The Allens receive multiple warning messages telling them to leave the property immediately. False clues are planted around the property by the villains in hopes of distracting the Allens into digging fruitlessly for treasure so that the villains have time to make off with the real treasure. None of this is in Grove's book.

I was happy to see that the Allens had far fewer named guests. The Adventurous Allens' Treasure Hunt tossed names at the reader constantly, and I was never able to keep up with any of them. This book just has a few guests who are mentioned by name and an unknown number of other guests who are referred to only as "the guests." This made the Penny Allen book much less confusing and easier to read.

If I had not already been tortured by reading five books by Harriet Pyne Grove, I might have greatly enjoyed this book. Since I was still traumatized by my previous experience, I did not enjoy it as much as I could have. I do feel that the two Penny Allen books are worth reading and are pretty good books. In fact, the Penny Allen books are a great way to experience the better parts of the Adventurous Allens series without acquiring temporary dementia. Just make sure you avoid Harriet Pyne Grove.

I think I have now thoroughly killed any chance I had of selling the two Adventurous Allens books that are in my Bonanza booth. Darn.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Haunted House

The Penny Allen series is about the adventures of the Allen family: Philip, Penny, Jimmy, and Marjorie. Sound familiar? The Adventurous Allens are Philip, Nancy, Jimmy, and Marjorie Allen.

The Adventurous Allens Find Mystery
, which was written by Harriet Pyne Grove and published in 1932 begins as follows:
Almost too greatly surprised to believe in their good fortune, the four Adventurous Allens stood at the door of what had long been denominated by their uncle as his "Michigan Shack," while Philip, now the actual legal proprietor, tried to fit a key in the lock. It was well, perhaps, that none of them knew all which would attend their present adventure; but their anticipation was as keen as their surprise was pleasing.
Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Haunted House written (more like "edited") by Jean McKetchnie and published in 1950 begins like this:
It was almost unbelievable to the four Allens to be standing on the doorstep before Uncle John's "Michigan Shack." For, in spite of its name, the shack in the Michigan woods appeared to be quite a large house. It was built of logs, but it was such a cabin as money builds, with all the beauty that can be given to it, primitive only in the sense of unfinished timbers, a product of skill, artistic in its fitness to the surroundings. Large, strong, with a wide, hospitable porch in front, it welcomed them, a home for the adventurous Allens! Nineteen-year-old Philip, who had inherited the property from their uncle, stood fumbling to fit the key in the lock.
We have a clear case of plagiarism here, even though the wording has been changed. In this case, the plagiarism much improved upon the mess that Harriet Pyne Grove wrote. It is helpful that McKetchnie placed the proper explanatory information in the first paragraph. She then placed all of the information needed to understand the Allens' past history in next few pages of text.

Some of the explanatory information is copied from Grove's first Adventurous Allens book. Page 18 of The Adventurous Allens states:
Philip Allen was a well set up young collegian of nineteen years. Dark brown hair curved back in the latest college style from a good broad brow. This was equipped with very nearly straight black eyebrows, which separated at a proper distance from a very respectable nose, neither too large nor too small. That with clear, dark, blue-grey eyes and a pleasant mouth which could be quite firm when occasion demanded, gave character to Philip's young face. His height was above medium, probably five feet ten, and possibly he might yet reach the six feet he found desirable. He was brown from the summer's exposure and the usual hatless idiocy of fall days about college. At his uncle's, and about the little city, which numbered about fifty thousand inhabitants, he was accustomed to wear a hat. His face beneath it was rather long than round.
Pages 13 and 14 of Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Haunted House describe Philip as follows:
Philip Allen was a well set up young man. Dark brown hair curved back from a broad brow. This was equipped with very nearly straight black eyebrows, which separated at a proper distance from a rather respectable nose, neither too large nor too small. That, with clear, dark, blue-gray eyes and a pleasant mouth which could be quite firm when occasion demanded, gave character to Philip's young face. His height was above medium, probably five feet ten, and possibly he might yet reach the six feet he found desirable. He was brown from the summer's exposure. His face was rather long than round.
The content is remarkably similar. Even though the content is not original, it greatly improves upon the original form. I can understand the text without getting confused! When I wrote about The Adventurous Allens Find Mystery, I mentioned my confusion when the Allens decided to go for a ride in their uncle's boat. In this book, the conversation and events flowed nicely, and I knew exactly what was happening and when! It was so nice!

Some minor details are different, and the text has been greatly condensed. One detail that stands out is when Patrick Ryan has to leave unexpectedly. In Grove's original story, he leaves to look after a drunk relative who has gotten into trouble. In this revised story, Pat has to guide four men on a fishing expedition.

At around page 135, the story begins to deviate from Grove's original story, and the change matches up with around five pages before the end of the original story. The Allens plan to stay in Michigan for the winter, whereas in Grove's book, they decide to take a cruise. The final five pages of the original story concern getting ready for the cruise.

In the Penny Allen book, Philip gets a job, and Jimmy and Marjorie attend school. None of the young people attend school during the five Adventurous Allens books. Around page 147, the winter comes to a close, and the Allens decide to take a cruise on their boat during the summer to check out their Florida property. Once again the plot begins to converge with the original story, except the text appears to have been completely rewritten during this part.

At page 151, the Penny Allen book resumes copying Grove's narrative, this time from the beginning of The Adventurous Allens Afloat. The book diverges from the plot of the Grove book at page 183, and the mystery about Adra is solved through a slightly different means, although with the same result. After a few pages of different text, the book resumes copying the text of the Grove book.

Most of the last 150 pages of The Adventurous Allens Afloat is not used in the Penny Allen book. The book concludes with the Allens preparing to cruise the Caribbean in their boat.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nancy Drew Shadow at the Water's Edge

This post is spoiler-free. I know how important it is to Nancy Drew game enthusiasts that details about the games not be spoiled.

The Nancy Drew game which was released this summer, Trail of the Twister, disappointed me. I found it to be a bit bland. There was not much interesting dialogue with the characters, and about all that happened was that the characters kept giving Nancy chores to do.

The farmhouse setting was boring, and so was the general store. There was nowhere to explore, so the game was lacking.

I live in Oklahoma, and I found some of the characters' accents to be annoying They don't sound like people from around here, at least not in central Oklahoma. I detected what sounded like an accent from the Deep South. Most people in Oklahoma do not have that type of accent. A Texas accent would have been much more appropriate, especially since the game is set in western Oklahoma, rather than in eastern Oklahoma.

It also didn't help that I felt like the characters were portrayed as kind of stupid, so it seemed like another slam at my home state.
I rank Trail of the Twister and Haunted Carousel as my two least favorite Nancy Drew games.

That said, I had high hopes for the newest Nancy Drew game, Shadow at the Water's Edge, which was released this month. Shadow at the Water's Edge is set in Japan at a riokan, which is a traditional Japanese family inn. By the time I was around one-third of the way through the game, I already knew that this game would rank as one of my very favorite games.

The game is very spooky, and Nancy gets to do a lot of exploring. The recent games have lacked the exploring that Nancy does in the early games, and I have really missed that. Nancy gets to interact with four characters in person and with two characters by phone, in addition to Bess and George.

The character interactions are well-done and natural, and the dialogue exchange is extensive and possibly the most of any Nancy Drew game to date. I absolutely loved talking to the characters. This game truly told a story, and I was kept on edge wondering which character was the culprit. It is not obvious like it is in some of the games.

I read reviews of Trail of the Twister after I completed that game. The reviews were lukewarm at best, and people complained about the endless chores. I just read the early reviews of Shadow at the Water's Edge by people who have just finished the game, and quite a few people are referring to it as the very best Nancy Drew game.

Shadow at the Water's Edge is a good game to try if you have never played a Nancy Drew game and wish to try one out. You can always go to Her Interactive's website to get hints, and you can also find a walkthrough online to help you out.

One last note: The game has a glitch that may not affect everyone. Some of us have run into a problem with needing to delete EVP recordings, and the game does not allow the recording to be deleted, even though the player has listened to it. You need to take any available second chance. That was how I was able to overcome my problem and continue with the game. It caused me to have to do a few things over again, but it was better than the alternative of starting the entire game over.

November 4 Update: Her Interactive has now released a patch for the glitch with the EVP recordings. Go here to get the patch.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Adventurous Allens Final Thoughts

After I finished the fifth Adventurous Allens book, I felt traumatized and like I had dementia. It was agony forcing myself to read the final book. All five books are poorly written, but the first three are still pretty good stories in spite of that fact. The fourth and fifth books are very weak and difficult to get through. I skimmed parts of both books, especially the fifth book, since all I wanted by that point was to put an end to reading a series that I no longer enjoyed.

I searched the archives of the Girls' Series Group on Yahoo! Groups, and I was a bit horrified that years ago someone stated that Harriet Pyne Grove was a pseudonym of Mildred Wirt Benson. The writing of Harriet Pyne Grove is nowhere near the level of that of Mildred Wirt Benson. In fact, I suspect that Mildred Wirt Benson's practice writing from back when she was very young would have been much better than the books of Harriet Pyne Grove.

To make clear to anyone who is not aware of who wrote what in series fiction, Harriet Pyne Grove had no connection to Mildred Wirt Benson. All of the books written by Mildred Wirt Benson are listed on this page. Benson was one of the very best writers of juvenile series fiction, and all of her books are very good.

On a funny note, someone read one of Grove's books years ago (The S.P. Mystery, I believe) and thought it was so awful that he suggested an annual Harriet Pyne Grove Award for Mediocre Writing. Ha. That's actually a good idea. I nominate Roy J. Snell for the award since I have read just one of his books, Jane Withers and the Phantom Violin, which is an awful story.

I will probably never read another one of Harriet Pyne Grove's books after this experience. I have this idea that the Adventurous Allens series might be Grove's best work. The reason I think this is because someone took the Adventurous Allens series and edited the books into a two book series called Penny Allen, which I will review shortly. Wouldn't some of Grove's better books be chosen rather than some of her worst?

If the Adventurous Allens books are Grove's best, I cannot stomach the thought of reading her other books. Fortunately, I have held back from buying any other books by Grove due to a suspicion that the books might not be good. Some of the dust jackets are pretty, but I like to collect books that are good, not just books that have pretty artwork. As always, if anyone has read any of Grove's other books, I would love to read your opinion.

Does anyone wish to mention a series book that is so bad that it messes with your mind?

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Adventurous Allens' Treasure Hunt

The Adventurous Allens' Treasure Hunt begins with the Allens' return to their Michigan lodge after spending many months marooned on an uncharted island. The Allens plan to take in many guests this summer as a means for raising money so that they can keep the lodge, the ship, and many other possessions which they inherited from their uncle.

The Allens take out advertisements in newspapers to let people know about the lodge.
The reply to their advertisement had been surprising. "Exclusive, references, families, no young children, rates reasonable but not low, cruiser and boats," and some other catch-words had been prominent in the notice which they had sent to several papers on their way to New York from Miami.
The Allens advertise in multiple newspapers around the country, and they think the response is "surprising." What did they expect? Of course they are going to get people if they advertise everywhere!

Not only do the Allens get guests from their advertisements, they invite everybody they know. What I cannot figure out is whether all of their friends are also paying guests like the people who responded to the advertisements.

The Allens have so many people staying at their lodge that it is impossible to keep track of them. I have to wonder exactly how big this lodge is. Grove never describes the size other than stating that it has two stories. How large is it? Grove also never states how many people are at the lodge, but I gather that they have at least two dozen guests. The lodge must be some kind of mansion if the Allens can entertain so many guests comfortably.

Like the last book, this book was also excessively boring for large portions of the text. I did not find it that interesting to follow Nancy around as she performs mundane chores and makes plans for her guests.

Not too long into the story, a prowler is chased off soon after he begins digging a hole in the Allens' garage. The Allens wonder whether he might have been digging for something valuable. They park their vehicle over the hole so that the prowler cannot come back to dig. The Allens fail to think about the hole again and seem to have no curiosity about it. Hey, if someone were to come dig a hole in my yard in the middle of the night for no reason and then run off when spotted, I'd be a bit concerned about it. Wouldn't you?

The last 50 or so pages of the book was the most interesting part of the story. A treasure is finally found, but with no effort on the part of the Allens. It is kind of like the Allens' rescue from the island in the previous book. By no means can the content of this book be described as a "treasure hunt" as the title states. The title of this book should have been The Adventurous Allens' Vacation Resort.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Adventurous Allens Marooned

In The Adventurous Allens Marooned, the Allens travel around in the ocean in the vicinity of Florida. During one of their jaunts, a storm blows up unexpectedly. The Allens are pushed ahead of the storm, and the Nancy Allen is at the storm's mercy.

After the storm, the yacht comes to rest near an uncharted island. The ship is not damaged, but is nearly out of gas. The Allens have no choice but to anchor and explore the island.

The Allens soon discover that the island was once the site of a plantation. The plantation house has burned down, and there appears to be no sign of human life on the island, at least at first. The Allens have a couple of narrow escapes from snakes and mongooses as they explore the island.

I greatly enjoyed the first half of the book, but in the middle of the book, it began to lose me. The Allens explore the island on several excursions, and they cut through the brush, look through the sugar house, see a few snakes, see some of the old crops, explore again, look through the sugar house, see a few snakes, see some of the old crops, repeat, repeat. Boring!

We even get an entire chapter where Marjorie writes a long entry in her diary telling of their adventures up to that point in a rambling fashion. Meaning, Marjorie tells the story of the book over again in a chapter but in a rambling disjointed conversational fashion. I confess that I began skimming the book at that point. Boring!

We then get another chapter later where Marjorie tells of one day's events in her journal in the same fashion as above, then the next chapter gives the events from the perspective of the other characters. The trouble is that none of it is that interesting. I skimmed a lot of that part of the book as well.

The book was true to life as far as how events would actually transpire if one were to land on an island in the ocean and then explore it. Except this is a book, and the events need to be a little more exciting than in real life. Cutting through the brush over and over again did not do much for me.

Ah, but the book had so much potential. There was mention of cannibals, but nothing came of that. The Allens were never in any real danger, aside from the snakes.

I was annoyed that it takes months for the Allens to get around to making sails out of sheets so they can sail back to Florida. Seriously... the Allens are stranded for months, and all they do is cut through the brush over and over again and explore the sugar house, and so on and so forth. So little happens that it feels like no more than a week or so, but it is actually supposed to be months. (!)

The next paragraph spoils how the Allens get rescued from the island, so skip it if you don't want to know. I hardly think it matters, since the frontispiece and the title of a chapter give it away.

And then, in the end, the Allens do not need to make sails because an airplane crashes into the ocean right by the Allens' boat. The Allens rescue the pilot, tie his plane to the boat, and transfer his fuel to their boat. They then take off for Florida. I expected for the Allens to have to work to be rescued. It is not acceptable for them to miraculously obtain fuel without any effort. Lame!

I got confused during some of the excursions because the events were poorly described. There is an earthquake, and then Pat tells the others, "We can look for the sea, folks. We'll have to risk the hills!" I did not realize at first what the statement meant. After reading a bit further, I finally realized that that they were going to higher ground in case of a tsunami as a result of the earthquake. It was awful trying to interpret the poor writing at times. I'd quote a bunch of it so you can see, but it is not worth my time. Ugh.

I really enjoyed the first three Adventurous Allens books, but this one was a bit mediocre. This is why I'm afraid to buy any additional books by Harriet Pyne Grove.