Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wallace Boys #15 Monks of Montafon and #16 South from the Seychelles

In Wallace Boys #15, The Monks of Montafon, Bruce and Nigel learn that Archduke Prince Karl-Franz of Ruritania is missing!  Karl-Franz has been writing a biography of his grandfather, and Karl-Franz's research led him to the Montafon Monastery.  Bruce and Nigel learn that the monks are hiding a terrible secret and that Karl-Franz is in danger.

Bruce's prize possession is a Casio Moon Graph watch, which figures out latitude and longitude as well as when the moon and sun rise and fall.  I had never heard of this watch, so I had to check into it.  I am pleased to report that Casio does still sell a similar watch, so at least Bruce isn't using archaic technology.

I enjoyed this book.

In Wallace Boys #16, South from the Seychelles, Barry Jones gets in touch with Bruce and Nigel.  Barry wants the boys to help him with a trip to the South Indian Ocean.  Some Germans wish to visit a remote island in a dangerous part of the ocean, just because the trip sounds like something they want to do.

Not surprisingly, the Germans have a sinister motive, since they would be daft to visit a remote island for no apparent reason.  Bruce and Nigel are shocked to discover that the Germans are some of their enemies.

Interestingly, most of Bruce and Nigel's friends from past adventures appear in this book.  The same scenario occurs in one Biff Brewster book, Mystery of the Ambush in India.

The first part of this book is boring.  Once the boys set sail, the book is very good.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The Spotlight Club and the Lookouts Mystery Series

I have been trying a bunch of books that I have needed to read for a long time.  These are books that I will not be keeping.

The Spotlight Club series was written by Florence Parry Heide and Roxanne Heide. These books were written for pretty young readers.  I first read The Mystery of the Missing Suitcase.  This book has short, repetitious sentences.  Words are repeated often, and the book is similar to a reader.  The mystery is almost nothing.

Next, I tried the Spotlight Club book, Mystery at Keyhole Carnival.  This book is rather similar to many series books that are set at carnivals.  The carnival is plagued by accidents, and the children must figure out who is responsible.  This book was written on a slightly higher level than The Mystery of the Missing Suitcase.  I liked it better, but it was not very compelling.

I also tried Mystery at the Weird Ruins, which is a title in the Lookouts Mystery series by Christine Nobel Govan and Emmy West.  The children go to government property upon which they see circles of rocks, supposedly placed there hundreds of years before.  The children dig around, moving the rocks.  I had trouble accepting that the authors seemed to think it fine for the children to tamper with an archaeological site on government property.

The children speak in dialect, and I always struggle when books are partially written in dialect.  Most of it was fine, but there were a couple of dialect words that I could not decipher.  That always bothers me.

I did not enjoy Mystery at the Weird Ruins very much.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wallace Boys #13 Nemesis of the Nefud and #14 Terrorists of Tibesti

In Wallace Boys #13, Nemesis of the Nefud, Nigel, Bruce, and Hanafi stay in the Saudi Arabian desert to learn more about the terrorists.  The terrorists are holed up in a narrow canyon.  Nigel infiltrates the camp while Bruce and Hanafi wait above the canyon for word from Nigel.  Bruce grows impatient and jumps into action prematurely, endangering all three boys.

The terrorists use sheets of camouflage secured by tent pegs to cover their railway tracks so that satellites and aircraft will not spot the railway.  In modern times where everything can be seen from above via satellite, the criminals have to think creatively to cover their tracks.

It was as I read this book that I suddenly realized that to this point in the series, females play no role in the books.  Some females have been mentioned, but they do speak or do anything important.  These are boys' books through and through.  A few females do have minor roles in later books.

I enjoyed this book, but I had to skim many of the lengthy descriptions.

In Wallace Boys #14, The Terrorists of Tibesti, Nigel spots one of the men responsible for the temple massacre while dining in a restaurant in Egypt.  The boys follow the man and later turn him over to the police.  Prior to that, the boys take a shoebox from the man's room.  The shoebox contains a map of the Tibesti Mountains in Chad, so the boys plan a trip to that location via lightweight aircraft.  The trip ends disastrously with the boys once again imprisoned by terrorists.

In this book, the wife of the cab driver, Mahmoot, helps the boys with the stakeout.  She never speaks, which is typical of how this series keeps women in the background until the last few titles in the set.

I also had to skim a lot of this book due to lengthy descriptions that were not interesting to me.  Aside from that, I enjoyed the book.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Christopher Pike Secret of Ka and Strange Girl

In The Secret of Ka, Sara is on vacation in Istanbul.  The goal is to spend the summer with her father, who works in Turkey, except Sara's father is too busy to spend time with her.  Sara meets Amesh, and while in his company, she discovers a magical carpet.

The carpet communicates with Sara by spelling out words when Sara asks it questions.  Even better, the carpet can fly! Sara and Amesh are taken to a mysterious island where temples surround a body of water.  Inside one of the temples, Amesh awakens a djinn and makes a wish.  Sara has learned about the djinn from the carpet, and she warns Amesh of the danger of making additional wishes, as he will become beholden to the djinn.  Thus begins a dangerous adventure in which Sara must find a way to destroy Amesh's djinn before it is too late.

This book has some false information about Turkey and Istanbul which I did not notice, simply because I haven't thought about Turkey and its history in many years.  The false information is quite glaring to those who are knowledgeable about Turkey.  When this book was published, an Amazon reviewer pointed out the problems, and several accounts defended Pike rather strongly.  Those responses have been deleted by Amazon, but apparently those accounts were either Pike or someone very close to him. Pike probably learned from that experience that it is best just to ignore criticism.

Even though the book has those inconsistencies, it is still a very good book.  Both Sara and Amesh have some very annoying personal qualities, but the story is good.  I love the idea of going on a flying carpet to a mysterious island.

In Strange Girl, Fred meets the new girl in town, Aja, who seems detached somehow, and refers to herself as "this body."  Aja can get a rowdy crowd to calm down without saying a word, and she has the ability to heal people.  Aja's healing abilities are shown in a YouTube video that goes viral, and soon, Aja is the center of unwanted attention.

Before I read this book, I could tell by the synopsis that this story is like another version of Pike's adult novel, Sati.  I was not surprised at how Strange Girl ends, since Sati ends in the same fashion.

I don't care for Sati and do not find it very interesting.  This book is like an improved version of Sati.  This book is overall good to very good.  It's still not one of my favorites, but I like it better than Sati.

I have now finished reading every book ever written by Christopher Pike.  Pike's strongest books are his vintage teen books from the late 1980s and early 1990s. Pike's more recent work is also good, but I feel like his vintage books are the best.  Nostalgia may also be a factor, since I read most of those books when I was young.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Wallace Boys #11 Traitors in the Tyrol and #12 Rebels across the Red Sea

In Wallace Boys #11, Traitors in the Tyrol, after resolving the problems of the Ruritanian monarchy, Nigel, Bruce, and Karl-Franz head into the mountains on a hiking trip.  The boys witness a  helicopter make an emergency landing, but when they reach the helicopter to render aid, the occupants have vanished!

Searching the helicopter, the boys discover a ring that belongs to Rupert, who was the leader of the failed coup.  Somehow, Rupert has broken out of jail, so the boys head into the mountains to find him.

This book also bored me.  I don't find the affairs of Ruritania to be remotely interesting.  I skimmed much of this story.

In Wallace Boys #12, Rebels across the Red Sea, Bruce and Nigel are present during a terrorist massacre at Queen Hatshepsut's Temple.  Bruce is on a hillside behind the temple during the massacre and watches it unfold in horror.  Nigel is inside the temple, and Bruce believes that Nigel has been killed.

Later, Bruce learns that the terrorists abducted Nigel by mistake, believing him to be a Saudi prince, Hanafi.  Bruce joins forces with Hanafi in a desperate search for Nigel.

Bruce has sage words of wisdom.
Bruce had learned long ago in his travels that when dealing with petty officialdom—customs officers, the police and the like—you treat them with more respect than perhaps they deserve.  Time and again, he had seen individuals being held up needlessly by a bloody-minded customs official, whereas he and Nigel, with a friendly smile and a polite greeting, would sail through.  Bruce found that the more backward a country, the more the officials had to be shown respect.
Bruce's observation is likely true.

This is a pretty exciting book, and I enjoyed it.  As with the other books, there are some slow parts that require some skimming.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Christopher Pike Witch World: Red Queen and Black Knight

Witch World was first published in 2012.  The title was later changed to Red Queen and labeled as Witch World #1.  Witch World #2, Black Knight, was published in 2014.

In Red Queen, Jessie Ralle spends the weekend in Las Vegas with her high school class.  While there, Jessie is abducted and killed.  She wakes up in the morgue, but her body is dead, at least temporarily.  Later, Jessie wakes up in Witch World, where she learns that she is a witch.  Jessie was put through the death experience in Real World so that her witch powers would awaken. Jessie lives each in Real World and then lives each day again in Witch World.  Or something like that.  The entire premise is very confusing.

I did not enjoy Red Queen.  There are some good parts, but the plot is horribly confusing.  I managed to read the first 220 pages, then I skimmed the remaining 300 pages.

In Black Knight, Jessie and five others wake up in a boxlike room.  They don't know where they are or why.  They leave the room to find themselves in the middle of the jungle on what turns out to be an island.  They find a plaque that tells them that six teams of six will fight and that only one will survive.

This story was obviously inspired by The Hunger Games.  The story is better than Red Queen, but the premise is still rather confusing.  Since Jessie lives a day in Real World and the same day again in Witch World, I kept confusing the two worlds.

Regarding the ending, I thought that if a person were to die in Real World that they would still be alive in Witch World.  That's what I learned from the first book.  Someone dies in Real World in this book, but they are also dead in Witch World.  It's supposed to make sense, so perhaps the explanation is in one of the parts I skimmed.

Black Knight is better than Red Queen, but I did not like it very much.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Wallace Boys #9 Hostage in the Highlands and #10 Assignment in the Alps

In Wallace Boys #9, Hostage in the Highlands, Nigel and Bruce arrive in Scotland to pick up the Silver Spray, the boat that they are to refurbish and deliver to their uncle.  Richard Hannay helps the boys work on the boat.

Richard tells Bruce and Nigel about the nearby island castle on Eilean Donan. Anthrax was dropped on the island during World War II in order to test the effects of anthrax, and the island has been quarantined since that time.  Bruce accidentally lands on Eilean Donan while lost in fog, and he discovers suspicious activity on the island.

The first part of this story is quite slow and boring, but the later part of the book is overall good.  Even the later part of the story drags at times.

In Wallace Boys #10, Assignment in the Alps, Nigel and Bruce have been asked by the British to help the faltering monarchy of Ruritania. Upon meeting the Archduke Karl-Franz, the boys learn that a hidden treasure, if found, will save the kingdom.  Nigel, Bruce, and Karl-Franz head into the mountains in search of the treasure.

The entire book bored me.  I had no reason to care.  I have always had a low tolerance for stories that feature fictitious monarchies.

I did not like this book.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Last Vampire/Thirst Series by Christopher Pike

The original Last Vampire books were published from 1994 through 1996.

1.  The Last Vampire, 1994
2.  The Last Vampire 2: Black Blood, 1994
3.  The Last Vampire 3: Red Dice, 1995
4.  The Last Vampire 4: Phantom, 1996
5.  The Last Vampire 5: Evil Thirst, 1996
6.  The Last Vampire 6: Creatures of Forever, 1996

After this, it gets confusing.  The Last Vampire series was renamed Thirst by the publisher.  Last Vampire #1, 2, and 3 were reprinted in the omnibus edition, Thirst #1.  Last Vampire #4, 5, and 6 were reprinted in the omnibus edition, Thirst #2.

Pike then wrote more Last Vampire stories under the Thirst name.
Thirst #3: The Eternal Dawn, 2010
Thirst #4: The Shadow of Death, 2011
Thirst #5: The Sacred Veil, 2013

I cannot write up reviews of the individual books in the set.  I did not take good notes while reading the books, due to a lack of motivation. The stories are too convoluted, contradictory, and confusing for me to make sense of much of it.  The best I can do is give my overall thoughts of the books as well as I can remember.

The Last Vampire/Thirst books tell the story of Sita, who is a 5,000-year-old vampire.  Sita goes by the name Alisa Perne and is extremely wealthy.  Since she has been around for thousands of years, she has amassed a large amount of wealth.  As the first book opens, Sita believes that she is the Last Vampire, but she soon learns that she is mistaken.  There are others, and they want to kill her.

Sita learns that Yaksha is still alive.  Yaksha was the first vampire, and he is the one who turned Sita into a vampire.

I enjoyed the first book, The Last Vampire, just fine.  The second book, The Last Vampire 2: Black Blood, is a bit boring.

I don't recall specifically what I thought of Last Vampire #3, 4, and 5, except that all three books have some really good parts and really boring parts.  They are all mixed.

I really like Sita, and I overall like her story. However, the books contain lengthy passages with mysticism and also contain what I consider to be very boring flashbacks to Sita's early life.  It should be noted that some readers love the flashbacks.

I did make note of one funny quote from The Last Vampire 3: Red Dice.  A security guard witnesses Sita's supernatural abilities.  He remarks, "I watched you jumping from building to building. How do you do that?"  Sita gives a simple answer: "Steroids."  He believes her.

The Last Vampire 6: Creatures of Forever is not a good book.  I had to skim most of it.  Sita goes back in time to the Middle Ages.  A really big deal is made about how Sita went through a terribly traumatic experience during that time, and she must revisit it to fix history.  It didn't seem like anything that traumatic to me, but then, I did skim most all of it.

I am now going to spoil the ending of the sixth and what was originally the final book.  Spoiling the end does not matter since Pike completely negated it for the continuation of the series as Thirst.

At the very end of the sixth book, Sita decides to go back in time to the birth of Yaksha.  Sita knew before Yaksha was born that he was going to be evil, but she opted not to kill his mother.  When Sita goes back in time, she does kill Yaksha's mother.  This means that Sita prevents Yaksha's birth, so Yaksha never would turn Sita into a vampire.  As a result, none of Sita's adventures of the six books ever happened.  I hate endings like that.

But never fear, Pike decided to write more books about Sita.  In order for that to happen, he turned the ending of the sixth book into a dream of Seymour's.  What, I didn't mention Seymour?

Seymour is a good friend of Sita's.  She confided in him during the original six books.  They even traveled together.  In Thirst, we learn that Sita and Seymour never met.  Seymour didn't know that Sita was real, but he dreamed about her all the time, because she connected with him telepathically.  Seymour published Sita's adventures in a series of books, not knowing that Sita was real.  Seymour got some of the details wrong, like the ending of the sixth book, which turned out to be his own dream.

Whew!  This means that Sita never went back in time to kill Yaksha's mother.  So Sita still exists and is 5,000-years-old, and we get to read even more adventures as people try to kill Sita.

In Thirst #3: The Eternal Dawn, Sita is obsessed with a college student named Teri, who is a descendant of Sita's.  Sita befriends Teri and Teri's boyfriend, Matt.  People try to kill Sita, and Teri and Matt get sucked into it. This book is good but nothing spectacular.

On page 394 of Thirst #3, Sita has recently learned that a certain person is a descendant of Yaksha's.  She had no idea, and she is a bit chagrined, as well she should be since she is supposed to have supernatural powers and be very intuitive.  Anyway, Sita tells this person, "Actually, I think the main reason I'm taunting you is because you faked me out for so long. I feel embarrassed.  I'm not used to having someone put something so big over on me."

Um... Sita, dear, this exact situation happened to you three different times during the original six Last Vampire books.  Three different people were around you for quite some time before you figured out that they were each from your distant past.  You are quite used to it.  Do you have a memory problem or something?

Thirst #4: The Shadow of Death
is an outstanding book and is easily the best book in the series.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that Thirst #4: The Shadow of Death is one of the very best books Pike has ever written.  The book is suspenseful all the way through.  The story has more than one plot twist with some very unexpected surprises. This story has the same tone and quality of the very best vintage Pike books of the late 1980s and early 1990s.  It is excellent.

And then comes Thirst #5: The Sacred Veil, which is very similar to The Last Vampire 6: Creatures of Forever, which means that I found it as uninteresting as Last Vampire 6. Sita has an extended flashback yet again, and it makes me want to scream.  Once again, Sita acts like the most horrible thing happened to her in that time, and I don't see the big deal.  As with Last Vampire 6, maybe my problem is that I skimmed too much of the story.  I couldn't help it, since that part of the story was not interesting to me!

Thirst #5 is okay during the first half of the story.  By the second half, Sita has her extended flashback, and the reader has to read (in my case, skim) lengthy scenes with the Master and with Krishna.

Some people have hypothesized that Pike has a ghostwriter, and they think someone else wrote some of the Thirst books.  No, I'm quite sure that every bit of this is Pike himself. Thirst #3 has quite a different style, but I have read Pike's adult novels.  The book matches Pike's adult novels.

Regarding Thirst #5, all the scenes with the Master and Krishna are enough to convince me that the person who wrote them is the same person who wrote the Remember Me trilogy, and that would be Pike himself.

The Thirst series will contain at least three more books.  Pike gave an update in May, stating that he finally wrote the conclusion to the story and now has to rewrite Thirst 6 and 7 to match the ending.

While parts of the Last Vampire/Thirst series were hard for me get through, I did overall greatly enjoy Sita's story.  I will be reading the additional volumes once they are published.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Wallace Boys #7 Crash in the Caprivi and #8 Mischief in 'The Mousetrap'

In Wallace Boys #7, Crash in the Caprivi, Bruce, Nigel, and Muyunda are on a plane that is hijacked.  The hijacker forces the plane to land in a remote area where the hijacker meets up with Isaacs and Lambert, who are in the midst of their latest plot.  The plane takes off again with Isaacs and Lambert on board, and Isaacs forces the pilot to fly straight into a storm, with disastrous consequences.

I found it fascinating to learn about the Kalahari Bushmen and how their way of life has been threatened during the last 50 years.

This book is excellent.

In Wallace Boys #8, Mischief in 'The Mousetrap', Nigel and Bruce are on their way to Scotland to pick up a yacht that they will refurbish for their uncle.  The boys stop in London for some sightseeing and attend a performance of The Mousetrap.  The boys stumble upon Timothy, who is in trouble on the streets of London as he searches for his missing brother.  Nigel and Bruce vow to help Timothy, and their search leads them into grave danger.

This book includes descriptions of a bookstore, Bygone Books, which is organized well, and another bookstore, Bunting's, which sounds like a nightmare.
Excited and hopeful that his quest to find his brother might be over, Timothy entered Bunting's which was a very differently run establishment compared with Bygone Books.  It didn't take Timothy long to see that no attempt had been made to arrange the books on the shelves; fiction was mixed with reference and hopelessly out of any sort of order.  There was also a horrible smell and Timothy wrinkled his nose in distaste. It was the smell of cigarette smoke, but not what he'd ever smelled before, and he didn't think it was a very good idea to smoke in a place like this in the first place.
We learn that the clerk was high from the cigarette, so we can conclude that he was smoking marijuana, even though marijuana is not mentioned by name.

The boys discover that the bookstore is part of a crime ring, and the criminals use hollowed-out books to carry contraband from place to place.

This book has an excellent mystery.  Even though the reader can pretty much guess the villain from the beginning, the crime is not immediately obvious, so the mystery is quite interesting.

This is an outstanding book.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Falling and the Blind Mirror by Christopher Pike

In Falling, Matt Connor decides to fake his own death by jumping out of an airplane as it flies over the ocean.  Matt wants to get revenge on his old girlfriend, and he must appear to be dead before he can put his revenge plan in motion. Meanwhile, Kelly Fienman is an FBI agent who is investigating a serial killer, and later, an abduction.  Kelly's investigations gradually cause her path to cross with Matt's with an interesting twist.  

Pike had already used the idea of a character getting revenge by faking their own death in two books, Gimme a Kiss and Fall Into Darkness.  It's a fun plot, so why not do it again?  I'm impressed that Pike was able to reuse the same basic plot idea to create something entirely different.

This story has a lot of background information about both Matt and Kelly, but unlike Pike's other adult novels, the information is quite important to the plot.  The plot is fascinating as Matt and Kelly's separate stories begin to converge.

This is an excellent book.

In The Blind Mirror, David is walking along the beach when he discovers a body partially buried in the sand.  Later, David is shocked to discover that the body belongs to his old girlfriend, Sienna. Even more shocking is when Sienna calls David on the phone.  Nobody will believe him that Sienna is alive, and David learns too late that he is a victim of a conspiracy.

This story is really suspenseful and reads like a mystery.  This is a very good book.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Wallace Boys #5 Killers against Kariba and #6 Kidnapped in the Kafue

In Wallace Boys #5, Killers against Kariba, Bruce, Nigel, and Muyunda depart on a camping trip on Lake Kariba, which is between Zambia and Zimbabwe.  The boys unwittingly stumble open Isaacs' latest plot, which is to to blow up the Kariba dam. Blowing up the dam will throw the region into chaos, so that the leadership of Zimbabwe can be overthrown.  The boys hope to thwart Isaacs' plan, but first, they must escape from their captors.

The first part of this story is much slower than I would have liked.  The story is overall good, but the historical content was a bit tedious for me and not very interesting.

In Wallace Boys #6, Kidnapped in the Kafue, Bruce and Nigel travel with Muyunda to visit his uncle, Kamwi, who is a game warden in the Kafue National Park.  Kamwi is angry when the boys arrive, even though he invited Muyunda.  Kamwi is not himself and seems not to care about the constant poaching. Muyunda does not understand what has happened to his uncle.

The boys investigate the poachers on their own and discover that the poachers are funding a rebel army.  Even more interesting, the boys' foes Isaacs and Lambert are involved in the plot!

Nigel makes the following observation.
Nigel leant back in his seat relieving tense muscles. "Do you know," he announced, "we've been instrumental in destroying three helicopters in the last couple of years?  I wonder who can claim that distinction."
This book starts out quite well and is interesting from the very beginning.  The story is excellent from beginning to end and is quite engaging.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Alosha Trilogy by Christopher Pike

In Alosha, Ali Warner learns about the elementals, creatures from a parallel Earth, who plan to take over our Earth.  Ali's task is to prevent the elementals from invading.  In order to do so, Ali must learn how to awaken her powers.

Ali is 13 years old.  These books are labeled as young adult, but they read like the very bottom edge of young adult.  In particular, this first book is more like a lengthy children's book and is also not very interesting.  Ali awakens her magical powers every easily and with little effort.  There is just something missing.

Pike has stated that this trilogy was supposed to be one long book, but that the publisher broke it apart.  That could be part of the reason why the first book is lacking.

In The Shaktra, Ali enters the elemental world accompanied by a leprechaun,  a troll, and Ra, an African teen she meets in a cavern.  Ali must search for her mother, who is missing, while she seeks answers about the Shaktra, Ali's dangerous enemy.

I like this passage from page 193.
Ra's words returned to haunt her.

"A lot of times being a leader means knowing when not to do something."

"But he's wrong, if I do nothing, they'll suffer more," she told herself.

The truth was... she did not know if that was true.  To leave a dozen fairies in the wild with a mass of broken limbs was an intolerable idea.  To allow them to be changed into scaliis was equally unbearable.  The paradox hit Ali hard, as she imagined it must hit all leaders at one time or another.  She could not do the right thing because the situation was too horrible for any choice to be right.
The second book is much better than the first book.

In The Yanti, the battle for control of the world intensifies.  Ali has regained most of her magical powers, and her elemental counterpart has once again become active.  Ali has possession of the Yanti, a powerful talisman, but when Ali uses it, the talisman nearly destroys her.

The third book is also very good.  The story is left on a cliffhanger, and it is doubtful that the fourth book will ever be published.  This is the publisher's fault.  According to this reviewer and a Facebook post by Pike himself, Pike has written the fourth book, but Tor will not publish it unless the movie adaptation of Alosha is successful.  The movie adaptation has never been made, so there we go. The last book in the trilogy was published in 2006, so the prospect of seeing the fourth book is not good.  Perhaps Pike can regain the rights to the series someday and publish the next book.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Wallace Boys #3 Trouble in Tristan and #4 Legacy of Lobengula

In Wallace Boys #3, Trouble in Tristan, Bruce, Nigel, and Jimmy help Barry prepare the St Valery for its journey to Cape Town.  A man named Gustav asks to hitch a ride with them, and Barry agrees.  After the voyage is underway, Gustav hijacks the ship and forces Barry and the boys to sail the ship to a remote island in the South Atlantic, right into the eye of a terrible storm!

This book is very exciting and is excellent all the way through.

In Wallace Boys #4, The Legacy of Lobengula, Bruce and Nigel have returned to their parents' farm in Zimbabwe with their friend Muyunda from the university.  Muyunda has worn a pendant around his neck ever since he was a boy.

When Muyunda discovers that someone has tampered with his pendant, he tells Bruce and Nigel about how he came into possession of the pendant and how it is supposed to lead to the treasure of Lobengula.  The boys set out in search of the treasure, but they find that their old foes Isaacs and Lambert are also after the treasure.

This book is slow to get started.  The background information takes up the first one-third of the book, and then a large portion of text is devoted to the preparation for the trip up until about halfway through the story.  The second half is better but not as interesting as previous books

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Christopher Pike The Grave and Tales of Terror

In The Grave, Keri meets Oscar and goes out with him.  After Keri has known Oscar for a time, he injects her with a mysterious substance and locks her in a freezer.  Keri freezes to death and then comes back to life.  She learns about a doctor's experiments to find a way to cheat death and how some of the people he turned have become evil.  Keri, Oscar, and their allies must fight against the others who seek to kill them.

I expected not to like this book since many of the reviews are rather negative.  However, I really enjoyed it.  The story does have some gross scenes and things that don't make sense, as usual.  As long as Pike creates an interesting story, I don't need for it to be logical.  As I read this story, I kept thinking of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series due to some plot similarities.

Christopher Pike's Tales of Terror #1 and #2 contain short stories by Christopher Pike. Between them, the two books contain a total of 11 stories.

Each book contains a short story starring Marvin Summer, also known as Mack Slate, the protagonist of Pike's Master of Murder.  Fans of Master of Murder will enjoy reading these two Marvin Summer stories.  Marvin continues to make horrible, crazy decisions, just like he did in Master of Murder.  The poor guy will never learn.

During the Marvin Summer story in Tales of Terror #1, Lassy tells Marvin that Stephen King's "latter books ramble too much."  Later, Lassy tells Marvin that her book must be "at least seven hundred pages long.  I read in Publishers Weekly that big fat books are in."  In response, Marvin mutters, "That's why King rambles."

And you know what?  Pike rambles, too, in his adult novels and in most all his books that have been published since 2000.  That's because "big fat books are in."  Pike's books since 2000 have been around 400 to 500 pages each.

Each story in the Tales of Terror books has an introduction by Christopher Pike.  These introductions contain some interesting information and also some very funny comments. On page 158 of volume 1, Pike concludes one introduction with "This story has no redeeming social value.  Usually I prefer them that way." That's what we love about Pike.

I greatly enjoyed reading both volumes of Christopher Pike's Tales of Terror.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Middle of the Year Reading Progress 2017

2017 is halfway over, and this is an update of my reading progress.

In 2016, I set a goal to read 300 books by the end of the year.  I reached that goal in November and then abruptly slackened off.  It became clear that I was driven by my goal.  I then set a new goal of 350 books by the end of 2016 and was able to finish the year at 355 books read.  If I hadn't slackened off, I might have managed to read one book per day in 2016.  Oh, what might have been!

The idea of reading one book per day appeals to me, even though it is a daunting task. I set myself a goal of reading 365 books by the end of 2017.  I have some significant doubt as to whether the goal is reachable, and it depends upon the length of the books I read.  Indeed, I have set the goal at 365 to force myself to keep reading as many books as I can as quickly as I can.

I have approximately 500 books on my "to read" list.  These are books that I truly want to read very soon, but even at one book per day, I will need around 1 1/2 years to get to all of them.  It's a bit overwhelming and even a little depressing.  By having a goal of one book per day this year, I will make good progress on my reading list.

The books I read in 2016 were generally books with no more than 150 pages.  That's why finishing the year at 355 books was not quite as impressive as one might suppose. I find that many of my 2017 books are longer than 150 pages.  Christopher Pike's adult and more recent teen books are each 400 to 500 pages long.  While I love to read, there is a limit as to how much I can tolerate reading in one day.  For that reason, I can't read one of Pike's 400 to 500 page books in one day.  Those books slowed me down significantly in my 2017 reading progress.  In fact, by the end of May, I started to let go of my goal of 365 books thinking that I could not possibly maintain one book per day since I was falling too far behind.

By the end of May, I had finally finished with Christopher Pike's books.  In June, I was able to increase my speed and close the gap.  However, during later June, I slowed down somewhat once again due to some vintage series books that are over 300 pages long.

In June, I set myself another goal; rather, I issued myself a directive.  I have too many random books that have been on my shelves for many years.  Those books take up too much space, and I do not like wasting shelf space on books that I might not necessarily like.  I need to figure out whether I do like those books.  I have kept putting off the task of reading them, so I made myself get started.  I have made significant progress towards this goal.  The following picture shows the books that I have read recently in order to determine whether I like them.

I feel a great sense of accomplishment in having read the above books.

As of July 1, 2016, I had read 181 books, which was almost right on track to finish the year at one book per day.  Even so, I fell short at 355 books by the end of 2016.

As of today, I have read 178 books so far this year.  I am behind my 2016 pace, but I am not very far off, at least not by raw numbers.  At the same time, the task of catching up is much harder than it sounds, especially since most of my current books are more than 150 pages long.  Not only do I have to maintain an average of one book read each day, I also have to read above that amount to catch up.  For instance, if I were to read 1 1/3 books per day, it would take me nine days to catch up and match my pace from last year.

It's going to come down to how many 300 to 500 page books I end up reading, since those have impacted my speed greatly.  I have definitely set myself a difficult goal to attain, but I will keep working towards my goal even if I don't quite make it.  I have the satisfaction of knowing that I am decreasing the size of my "to read" list as rapidly as I can.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Wallace Boys #1 Skulduggery in the South Atlantic and #2 Sands of the Skeleton Coast

In Wallace Boys #1, Skulduggery in the South Atlantic, Bruce and Nigel Wallace voyage to St. Helena Island to visit their uncle, William Wallace, who is the governor.  Late at night, Bruce spots Stedson Benjamin skulking about near a lifeboat.  Bruce listens and realizes that Benjamin is taking supplies to two stowaways.

Bruce and Nigel learn that the captain is aware of the stowaways, and that officials are hoping to discover what their business is. Upon their arrival on St. Helena Island, the boys keep track of Benjamin and his accomplices.  Later, the boys learn of a plot to take over control of the island, and they hope to thwart it.

This book starts off a bit slow for my taste, but I still found it interesting.  The book becomes more interesting during the later part of the story.

I enjoyed this book.

In Wallace Boys #2, The Sands of the Skeleton Coast, Bruce, Nigel, and their friend, Jimmy, agree to join Barry Jones on a voyage to the Skeleton Coast of Africa.  Barry wants to get a glimpse of the shipwreck of the Dundee Star, a ship that wrecked during World War II with his father on board.

The boys like Barry and agree to join him. During the voyage, the boys begin to suspect that Barry has not told them the real reason for their destination.  Soon, the boys are dismayed to discover that Barry is involved in a scheme with their old enemies, Vronski, Isaacs, and Lambert.

I like that during the voyages in this series, the characters tend not to use electronic devices for navigation.  In the following passage, Barry explains his preference for navigating by using charts and a chronometer.
"Surely you can do all this by computer these days?" asked Nigel.

“Yes, you can.  And I could.  It’s a lot easier but I prefer to find my own way.  In fact, I could use radio direction finding equipment, and by taking readings from various geo-stationary satellites in space I could pin-point my position to within half a hair!  But I feel that these modern ways are all very well and good, but computers and electrical equipment can break down.  And I’ve got no one to mend the stuff out in the middle of the ocean.  So I don’t have any fancy equipment, except for radio, radar and echo sounder; I want to feel that I have done the job; not a lot of electronics!”
This is a very good book.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Christopher Pike The Listeners and The Cold One

In The Listeners, FBI agent David Conner has been asked to investigate the Listeners, a channeling group that has knowledge of highly classified information.  David quickly falls in love with Lucy, who is a member of the group along with her twin sister.  Too late, David learns that the group has tapped into an ancient evil that is growing in power.

The entire first half of the book consists almost entirely of an excessive amount of background information.  The reader doesn't need to know about David's entire life history in extreme detail. The second half of the story finally gets to the point and should have been expanded into the entire book.

Parts of the second half of the story are easy to guess by anyone who has read Pike's young adult book, Spellbound.  There are some obvious parallels to that story.

The first half of the book is boring, and the second half is good but rather unsatisfying.

In The Cold One, journalist Peter Jacobs receives an anonymous phone call from someone who knows inside information about a series of grisly murders.  Peter suddenly finds himself in the middle of the case.

This is a pretty good book and does not have as much filler as Pike's other adult novels.  It was supposed to have a sequel, but that book was never written.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Christopher Pike Hollow Skull and Magic Fire

In The Hollow Skull, some scientists recently visited the abandoned mine near the town of Madison.  The scientists got the mine's elevators working again and forgot to get them turned off. Cass, Fred, and a couple of friends decide to explore the old mine at night.  After the teens leave the mine, one of them starts acting strangely, and his illness seems to be catching. Soon, the residents of Madison roam the streets at night, and Cass fears for her life.

Basically, this story is similar to an alien takeover of the world.  The book is grimly scary from the very beginning.  When the teens first go down in the mine, the reader knows that someone very awful will happen.

This book is excellent and reads in a fashion similar to modern teen dystopian fiction.

In Magic Fire, Mark Charm loves to start fires.  He especially enjoys burning down abandoned buildings.  One night, Mark uses a stolen gasoline truck to hose down miles of brush and start a fire that is fueled by the Santa Ana winds.

Goodbye, Pacific Palisades!

After torching that entire city, Mark learns that his life is not what he thought. He then meets some aliens and goes to another part of the universe. Mark then travels into the future and even more really crazy stuff happens.

The story starts out fairly ordinary for a Pike book with a pyromaniac and then gets really bizarre with the aliens, space travel, and time travel.  After that another plot twist occurs where the reader learns what is really going on. After the final plot twist, the book does make sense.

I enjoyed this book.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Christopher Pike Sati and Season of Passage

In Sati, Michael Winters picks up a female hitchhiker in the middle of the desert.  The hitchhiker's name is Sati, and Sati believes she is God.  Sati ends up staying with Michael, and she immediately captivates everyone who comes in contact with her.  Sati holds meetings, and soon she has a large number of followers.  But is Sati really God?

I did not enjoy this book very much when I read it around 25 years ago.  I don't care for it any more now than I did then.  The story is okay but not that great.  The problem is that the book is not horror but instead has a large amount of spiritual mumbo-jumbo.  Pike tends to lose me when he goes into his lengthy spiritual discussions.

In The Season of Passage, Lauren Wagner leaves on a mission for Mars.  The purpose of the mission is to discover what happened to the Russian mission that disappeared on Mars two years before.

When I read this book in 1995, I didn't notice anything off, but now, the story is dated.  The book is set in 2004, and the failed Russian mission was in 2002.  Everything mentioned in this book seemed logical by 1995 standards when I read the book in 1995.  Some events that occurred between 1995 and 2004 cause parts of this book to be impossible to take seriously.

For instance, the mission takes off in the space shuttle Columbia.  In 1995, one would have thought that Columbia would have still been in use in 2004, but as we know now, Columbia disintegrated during re-entry on February 1, 2003.  In retrospect, it would have been better for Pike to have used a fictional name, but who could have predicted that disaster?

The Mars part of the story is very creepy, suspenseful, and horrifying.  This is a true horror story.

I feel like one aspect of the ending was not wrapped up.  A character named Kathy has a sister who apparently came in contact with someone who has the Mars infection.  I guess she didn't get infected, but it's a gaping plot hole.

Another aspect that is tied in with Kathy's sister is also glossed over.  The infected person was said to be not interested in spreading the virus, so they didn't worry about finding and killing that person.  Um, okay...

This book has way too much expository information in the opening chapters.  That part of the book should have been shorter, and the ending part of the story should have been less rushed.  It's not logical to go after one infected person with great fervor and then just to assume that the other person will quietly go off and die without infecting anyone.  They shouldn't be unconcerned about the other person.

I figure that the entire human race becomes extinct shortly after the "happily ever after" conclusion of the story, since that other infected person is running amok somewhere.

This is an overall excellent story, but it is way too long.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Christopher Pike The Star Group and Execution of Innocence

In The Star Group, Daniel has always liked Gale, and he finally asks her out just before graduation. Gale also likes Daniel, and the two get along well.  Later, Daniel uses a string with a magnet tied to the end to contact a spiritual being known as Mentor.  Mentor tells Daniel to get his friends together and meet in a certain location so that they can achieve their greater purpose.

Sounds like a good idea to obey a strange spirit voice!  Of course, the plan does not go well at all, and people end up dying.

This book reminds me somewhat of Christopher Pike's Final Friends trilogy.

There are some things that come out towards the end of the book that are absolutely hilarious.

I enjoyed this book.

In Execution of Innocence, Mary and her boyfriend, Charlie, get into a fight because Mary went to a dance with another boy, Dick.  When Dick gets killed, both Mary and Charlie are suspects.  The only problem is that Charlie is missing.  The police question Mary and her friend, Hannah, and can tell that the girls are holding something back.

This book is set up the same way as Gimme a Kiss with the police interrogation alternating with past events leading up to the murder.  My knowledge of Gimme a Kiss also helped me very quickly guess the identity of the culprit.

This book has nothing supernatural in it and is like an early Pike book.

I enjoyed this book.

Interestingly, Pike does not like either of these books.  He wrote in a comment on Facebook, "With Star Group I could have done so much more with the idea if I'd had time.  It was my fault I did not start on the book until a month before the due date.  With Execution of Innocence, I feel I could have developed it more, been more clever.   A week after it was put into galleys I remember I came up with an idea that could have made it so much better. But that idea is long gone. Now, I am onto other things as they say..."

Certainly neither book is perfect and neither is Pike's best work, but I did enjoy both of them.  When I read Christopher Pike books, I want to enjoy a fun, crazy horror story. Both of these books deliver just that.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Wallace Boys Series

The Wallace Boys series was written by Duncan Watt.  This is a series that is practically unknown in the United States, and it's not surprising why.  Only some books in this series have been published in print editions, and the rest of the books are only available in electronic editions.  The few print editions are quite scarce, and it's highly unlikely that anyone in the United States would ever run across one of these books.

This series was recommended by another collector as a series that is similar to Rick Brant.  Since I enjoyed the Rick Brant books, I decided to give these books a try.

 1.  Skulduggery in the South Atlantic, 1995
 2.  The Sands of the Skeleton Coast, 1993
 3.  Trouble in Tristan, 1991
 4.  The Legacy of Lobengula, 1996
 5.  Killers against Kariba, 1992
 6.  Kidnapped in the Kafue, 1991
 7.  Crash in the Caprivi, 1993
 8.  Mischief in 'The Mousetrap', 2010
 9.  Hostage in the Highlands, 1995
10.  Assignment in the Alps, 2010
11.  Traitors in the Tyrol, 2010
12.  The Monks of Montafon, 2010
13.  Rebels across the Red Sea, 2000
14.  Rebels across the Red Sea II: Nemesis of the Nefud, 2000
15.  Rebels across the Red Sea II: The Terrorists of Tibesti, 2001
16.  South from the Seychelles, 2010
17.  The Treasure of the Tiger, 1994
18.  The Sultan of the Sulu Sea, 1997
19.  Missing in the Mekong, 2000
20.  The Pagodas of Pahang, 1996

The copyrights are all over the place because the author wrote books later that fit into the original chronology.  This list is the correct order in which to read the books.

All 20 books can be found in inexpensive electronic editions on various sites.  I was able to purchase 19 of the 20 books in the Kindle format on Amazon.  I had to go to another site to purchase the remaining book.

The books contain a large amount of historical information about the areas in which the books are set.  This information is sometimes very interesting, and at other times, it is way too lengthy.

This series is very similar to the Biff Brewster, Sandy Steele, and Brad Forrest series. If you are a fan of any of those series or are a fan of Rick Brant, then you need to give this series a try.

Since I found it hard at first to find information about this series when I began reading the books, I decided to create a page on the Wallace Boys series for my website.  I created the page since most people in the United States have never heard of it. Even though some of the books drag at times, the series is overall too good to be ignored.

The Wallace Boys Series

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Spooksville #22 The Creepy Creature, #23 Phone Fear, and #24 The Witch's Gift

In Spooksville #22, The Creepy Creature, Cindy and Bryce are hiking in the woods when a big blob attacks Bryce, and then eats him. The blob then disappears.  Cindy tells the others that Bryce is dead, but later, Bryce reappears.

Bryce is acting very strange, but the others cannot figure out what is wrong.  The children's quest to find out what is wrong with Bryce takes them to another world where they learn of a battle between two enemy forces. The children return home, thinking that all is well, but they soon learn that an unwelcome presence has returned with them.

This is another very creative story.

This is a very good book.

In Spooksville #23, Phone Fear, the residents of Spooksville are receiving creepy phone calls from someone with a mechanical voice.  The caller, known as Neernitt, makes demands, and if the recipient does not comply, they are attacked immediately.

Later, the children realize what Neernitt really is, and that he is truly everywhere all at once. The children end up held hostage in Watch's house, forced to follow Neernitt's orders. Can they escape?

This book ties in with the previous title in the series and also has a highly creative plot. This is an excellent story.

In Spooksville #24, The Witch's Gift, Ann Templeton is leaving Spooksville forever. Before she leaves, she allows each child to make a wish, which will be granted the next morning.  The only stipulation is that each child cannot reveal their wish to any of the others. By the events that occur, children are able to guess each other's wishes, even though none of them have been actually revealed.  The wishes don't make them as happy as they expect, and the wishes have unforeseen consequences.

This is the final book in the series.  Pike made Bum the mayor again at the end of the story, so he had to have known that this would be the last title.  My only regret is that we never learned why Watch doesn't have a last name and why he lives alone.

Spooksville is a good series, and I enjoyed it.