Monday, July 22, 2019

Wildfire #73 The Boy Barrier and #74 The Yes Girl

73. The Boy Barrier, Jesse DuKore, 1985

"Love" means zero in tennis.  That's a score that Stacey King, the Number One player on the girls' tennis team, never earns on the court.  Off the court, it's another story.  There her love life scores a big fat zero!  Stacey was always too busy playing tennis to learn how to talk to boys.  Now she'd like the chance to change all that—especially since she's met Keith Flowers, the Number One player on the boys' team.  But the boy barrier is harder to break than Stacey had realized.  It gets even harder when the coach of the boys' team asks Stacey to join. If she accepts, will she become "just one of the boys"?  Can Stacey be Number One in Keith's heart if she takes his place as Number One on the team?

Stacey's best friend is Sally, and the similar names kept confusing me.  Also, too many people are introduced all at once in the same scene at the beginning of the story, which made my confusion even worse.  I cannot remember characters when they are thrown at me all at once.

I was confused on page 70.  The reader is told that Stacey's mother never went to college because it was the time of the Great Depression.  The Great Depression lasted from 1929 to 1939.  Either this book is set way back in the past, or else Stacey's mother is much old than would be expected.  The book was published in 1985, so Stacey's mother would have been at least 65 years old.  This is possible, but it is not how these books are usually set up.

On page 44, the story starts getting interesting when Stacey joins the boy's team.  However, the story then falls flat.  I only read part of the book.  The book has too much content about tennis, and the characters are boring.  I did not care about the story. 

74. The Yes Girl, Kathryn Makris, 1985

Gwen’s favorite word is yes.  She says yes to Susan who asks for free math tutoring, yes to any friend who needs help... even a yes to nice but boring Mitch who asks her for dates.  Gwen doesn't have a minute to herself.  

Unfortunately, she hardly has any time for Phil, either.  Phil is funny, handsome, and definitely not boring.  And Gwen likes him a lot.  When he asks her out, Gwen says yes... with delight.  But she is still saying yes to Mitch, too. 

Phil soon becomes tired of being Gwen's second choice, and tells her so angrily.  Now Gwen is torn.  If she starts saying no, she may lose her friends. If she can't stop saying yes, she'll lose Phil.

I do not find it enjoyable to read about a girl who is letting everyone take advantage of her so that she doesn't have any fun.  Going out with boys she doesn't like is appalling.

I read a little of the book, skimmed some, then I read the ending.  The only part of the book that interested me was the last couple of chapters.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Tom Swift Inventors' Academy #1 Drone Pursuit and #2 Sonic Breach

I have never paid any attention to Tom Swift, since the premise does not interest me.  I have tried to read a sample book or two from the original Tom Swift series and the Tom Swift, Jr. series.  They do not appeal to me at all.  I cannot get past the first few pages.  Since I do love the Rick Brant books, in theory I ought to be able to enjoy the Tom Swift books.  Unfortunately, it's just not going to happen.

I heard of a new Tom Swift series to be published by Simon and Schuster, but I didn't care.  Why would I, right?  I saw a recent post on Facebook that had a photograph of the books, which are hardcover with dust jacket just like the Nancy Drew Diaries and Hardy Boys Adventures books that I own.  Now wait just a moment...

I read the publisher's summaries.  The summaries for both books appear below.

#1 The Drone Pursuit

When your dad funds the Swift Academy of Science and Technology, you’re bound to have a bunch of tech at your disposal.  So no one bats an eye when Tom and his best friend, Noah, test their new virtual reality drone before class.  At the academy, once class starts and the drone is parked, their brainiac friends then launch into farfetched discussions about the curriculum.  And when they watch a documentary about the FBI’s most wanted hackers from the eighties, they quickly start speculating that the academy custodian is one of them.

At first, Tom dismisses the idea as another one of his friends’ conspiracy theories.  But using their new drone, he spies the custodian acting suspiciously around school.  As Tom and his friends search for evidence that the custodian is the missing hacker, the signs become impossible to ignore when Tom gets threatening messages that warn him away from investigating.  And when someone releases a virus in the school servers, all bets are off as the adjoining servers at tech giant Swift Enterprises come under fire.  Can Tom and his friends uncover the true culprit before it’s too late?

#2 The Sonic Breach

Tom gets to take all sorts of cool classes at the Swift Academy of Science and Technology, but robotics may be the one he is most excited for. Their teacher is holding a battling robot tournament, and Tom has to build a machine that will come out on top.

With the final battle coming up, Tom and his friends need as much time as possible to refine their masterpiece. But the rest of their teachers have been giving so many pop quizzes that they can barely focus in class, never mind concentrate on the tournament. Naturally, everyone is frustrated with the trend…until a mysterious new phone app appears. If students get pop quizzes during first period, they can warn everyone else about it by getting their phones to emit a high-pitched sound—a mosquito alarm—that adults can’t hear.

Tom is unsure about the whole thing, but it technically isn’t cheating, right? But when someone changes the app to break all the rules, the ethics aren’t debatable anymore. The longer the perpetrator remains unknown, the more harshly teachers treat all the students, and the pressure won’t stop until Tom and his friends track down the person behind the app takeover.

The plots sounded interesting to me.  I also realized that I could read these books and see if they are executed better than the Nancy Drew Diaries.  Imagine the light bulb going off in my head!  I had a suspicion that the Tom Swift books would be better than the Nancy Drew Diaries books.  I could not pass up this great opportunity to read some books that might cause me to go off on another rant about the Nancy Drew Diaries series.  I actually enjoy writing my rants.  For those not familiar with my past posts on the subject, these two posts will catch you up.

Comparing the Nancy Drew Diaries to the Hardy Boys Adventures
Gender Inequality in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Books

I purchased both Tom Swift books and have read them.  The books read very much like the Hardy Boys Adventures series, and I feel confident that the books would appeal to fans of the Hardy Boys Adventures.  As I read the books, I was sure that one of the Hardy Boys Adventures writers was involved.  I have now verified that the ghostwriter for the Tom Swift books also has written four of the Hardy Boys Adventures books.  

The students at Swift Academy are ages 12 and 13, but honestly, they are no less mature than the older and highly-conflicted Nancy Drew of the Diaries series.  In fact, the students in these books are much more more well adjusted and capable than Nancy Drew is in some of the Diaries books (*cough* Heliotrope Lane).

Tom Swift does not shake in fear, and he doesn't have to try to motivate himself.  He has his cool gadgets, and he has a mystery to solve in each book.  He is on target all the time.  He understands technology (duh).  He also doesn't visit the bathroom a single time, unlike the strange bathroom obsession in the Nancy Drew Diaries series.

Oh yeah, and these books are not sabotage.  We have a winner!

I enjoyed both of these books as much as the best Hardy Boys Adventures books.  That also means that I enjoyed them more than the majority of the Nancy Drew Diaries books.  Simon and Schuster is doing great with the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift.  The most recent two Nancy Drew Diaries books have been a big improvement over previous titles.  I do have some hope for Nancy Drew currently, and that is what keeps me from going off on a rant right now.  Nevertheless, I remain skeptical about Nancy Drew since the Nancy Drew Diaries series has been quite uneven in quality.  

I will purchase future Tom Swift Inventors' Academy books and am excited that the upcoming third and fourth books were also written by the same ghostwriter.  I see all of the current Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Tom Swift books as parts of the same universe, and they compliment each other quite well.  It would be really cool if the Dana Girls could join that universe and be written for modern readers.  I'd love to see it happen.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Information Needed: Nancy Drew Matte Picture Cover Books with the Yellow Band

Nancy Drew fans keep asking about the matte picture cover books with the yellow band at the top edge.  I think most of us who were collecting in the past were not at all concerned with the books with the yellow band at the top edge.  Most of us don't even like them.

Seen below are all of the Nancy Drew matte picture cover books with the yellow band at the top edge.

People who are currently collecting the picture cover books seem to be quite confused about them and are focusing a lot of attention on them.  They view the books with the yellow bands almost like they are a different cover art variation.  I have finally concluded that the books with the yellow bands need to be added to my cover art gallery since collectors are so hyper-focused on them.

This is the cover art gallery:  Nancy Drew #1-56 Picture Cover Gallery.

I thought I just needed to scan the books with the yellow bands and insert them in.  I did it for Lilac Inn, then I realized that I have a big problem.  I don't know the date ranges.  I began editing the page in an offline file, and you can see a screen capture below, indicating the trouble spot.  By the way, I also plan to remove the "-present" from all of the books and change the year to 1985, since the flashlight editions began in 1986.

The books with the yellow bands are not covered in Farah's Guide.  I know they are from the middle to late 1970s and continued into the early 1980s, but I do not wish to put vague information on my page.  I need the exact years.  More precisely, I need the beginning year for each volume.  I can figure out the rest.

I need your help.

I spent a lot of time today looking at the back cover lists of every single matte picture cover with the yellow band that I currently have in my possession.  I have a lot of extras.  I then went to eBay and viewed every listing for the books with yellow bands, both current listings and sold listings.

I have noted the earliest time that any book was printed with the yellow band based on books I have seen so far.  What I do not know is if all of them changed to the yellow band at the same time.  Sometimes changes were staggered, such as when the Stratemeyer Syndicate revised the books down from 25 chapters to 20 chapters.  The below list shows the volume numbers, the year, and the earliest back cover list that I was able to find for each book with the yellow band present on the front cover.

#4 1974 Glowing Eye followed by Cookbook
#6 1975 Forgotten City
#7 1975 Forgotten City
#10 1975 Forgotten City
#17 1975 Forgotten City
#24 1975 Forgotten City
#25 1974 Glowing Eye followed by Cookbook
#28 1976 Sky Phantom followed by Cookbook
#29 1976 Sky Phantom followed by Cookbook
#35 1974 Glowing Eye followed by Cookbook
#36 1974 Glowing Eye followed by Cookbook
#37 1974 Glowing Eye followed by Cookbook
#38 1974 Glowing Eye followed by Cookbook
#39 1975 Forgotten City
#40 1974 Glowing Eye followed by Cookbook
#42 1975 Forgotten City
#45 1974 Glowing Eye followed by Cookbook

I need collectors to look at any matte picture cover books with the yellow band for #6, 7, 10, 17, 24, 28, 29, 39, and 42 and see if you have one that lists Nancy Drew to Glowing Eye followed by the Nancy Drew Cookbook.  For #28 and 29, I would also be interested in knowing if anyone has one that lists to Forgotten City.

I hope you can help so that I can fix the cover art gallery.  By fixing the cover art gallery, I hope to make it easier to answer all of the questions.

Update:  Information I have received indicates that most of the yellow band books were issued in 1974.  The only books where I have not yet received verification are #10, 28, and 42.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Wildfire #71 Kisses for Sale and #72 Crazy Crush

Wildfire #71 Kisses For Sale, Judith Enderle, 1985

Even though Lindsay is through with Ross, she still misses him, still longs to hear his voice, still is pained when she sees him in school with a new girlfriend.  But she doesn't miss his bossiness.  It's time for her to be independent!  

Her best friend Blaine says being independent doesn't mean spending all of her time alone.  Why not help organize the Spring Carnival?  At least it will keep her mind off Ross and who knows who she will meet?  But Lindsay isn't prepared for handsome Bill Stark—or for falling in love.

This book might be okay to other readers, but it did not interest me.  I read just some of the book and then quit.

It is at this point that I begin to hate the cover art for the remaining books in the series.  I look at this cover and want to run away.

Wildfire #72 Crazy Crush, Stephanie Gordon Tessler, 1985

Joey Jacobs is just crazy about Link Zinc, lead singer in the town’s hottest rock band.  But he doesn't even know she's alive!  Determined to win him, she plans to audition as the band's new drummer.  Then Link will be sure to notice her!  

There's just one small catch—Joey can't read music, let alone play the drums.  Handsome Todd Perlman, a musician in the school orchestra, volunteers to help her learn, and Joey's well on her way to fulfilling her dream.  So how come everything feels wrong?

Because it is wrong.  A girl who has no clue how to read music or play the drums somehow expects to learn to drum well enough to be chosen as a band's new drummer.  That is just stupid. 

I also cannot stand books which feature fake rock groups that I, as the reader, somehow am supposed to appreciate and admire.  Why should I care about a fake rock group?  And Link Zinc... gag.

I read some of the book, skimmed a bit, and then quit.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

2019 Mid-Year Reading Update

Halfway through the year is a good time to reflect on how the year is going and how it compares to the previous year.

In April, I wrote about motivation struggles.
I have had a particularly stressful school year due to a textbook adoption that didn't go well.  The stress has really caught up with me, so I am running on fumes for these last six weeks of school.

I mention this so that you know why I lose motivation.  I am still motivated just enough to keep writing reviews, but that motivation has decreased substantially...

...I do know that at least several dozen people greatly appreciate my reviews.  I just wish that my reviews resulted in more interaction than just one or two people making short comments.  Quite often, the reviews receive no comments.

After the next two or three years, I likely will not continue to write reviews.  I figure by then that I will run out of new series books to read.  Once I begin revisiting books that I have already reviewed, I will not bother to write anything.  For now, I'll keep going, but I am getting tired of it.
When I wrote that passage, I had no idea how bad it would get.  I came down with an awful virus on May 10 which caused complete voice loss.  I was unable to talk during the last two weeks of school.  School ended on May 23, but my torture continued.  I could not talk until around June 10.  My hoarseness finally went away around June 20.  That was a horrible experience.  Even now, my voice is a little weaker than it should be and cracks at times, although most people would not notice anything.

With everything that has happened in recent months, my interest in publishing reviews continues to be rather low and does appear to be further diminishing.  I can also see by my reading progress to this point in the year that I am reading at a slower pace than in each of the previous five years.

2014:  262 books
2015:  231 books
2016:  355 books
2017:  403 books
2018:  315 books

So far in 2019, I have read 114 books.  If I keep that pace, I will read 228 books by the end of the year.  Yes, that is still a fabulous number of books to read in one year, but it does show that my pace is dropping off.

It should be noted that my reading pace has not dropped off quite as much as it appears.  I struggled with many of the Wildfire and Sweet Dreams books that I read before I broke off reading those books.  I began reading the Dana Girls series and that went well up until #17 which bored me completely.  I abandoned that book and switched to modern teen dystopian books.  I found some really good ones, but I also also struggled with others.  I am having problems with lots of books.

All told, I have partially read 25 to 30 books that do not count in my list of 114 books read so far this year.  I read from 30 to 40 pages up to around half of each of those 25 to 30 books.  What I read from those books is equivalent to at least a dozen books.  I cannot count partial books as books read.

Currently, I am trying to get back into the Dana Girls series.  I struggled with #18 because it is too implausible and bored me.  I have barely started #19, but it seems to be written in a fashion that appeals to me much more than either #17 or #18 did.

I have to wonder who exactly really wrote the Dana Girls books from #17 and up.  I am aware that Harriet Adams supposedly wrote those stories, but I have doubts.  Some books credited to Harriet Adams were likely written by other people.  The books vary in tone.  I suspect that the books that aren't as good are the ones more likely written by Harriet.

That sounds bad, and I want to point out that I am a strong supporter of Harriet Adams' contributions to series books and the Stratemeyer Syndicate, more so than most people.  I feel that she doesn't get enough credit for what she did.  However, that doesn't change the fact that she wrote some pretty bad books.

Hopefully, I can continue with the Dana Girls series.  If so, then reviews might get posted regularly.  I am slowing down the posting of reviews again because I didn't get far with Sweet Dreams and the Dana Girls reading is in doubt as well.  I don't want to publish the Sweet Dreams and Dana Girls reviews that I have written until I figure out whether I will be able to do the rest.  Keep your fingers crossed that The Winking Ruby Mystery goes well.  If so, I might be able to continue with the Dana Girls.  After that, I will try to motivate myself into continuing with the Sweet Dreams series.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Wildfire #69 My Summer Love and #70 Once Upon a Kiss

69. My Summer Love, Elisabeth Ogilvie, 1985

Diana may have flunked all her classes but she had fun doing it.  And now she’s got an exciting summer planned.  

But Diana's mother has plans of her own.  She ships Diana off to a broken-down farm to be tutored by an old friend.  Diana is prepared for the most boring summer of her life.  How will she survive it? 

But as soon as Diana arrives, sparks start flying.  Mac and Josh Thornton, two great-looking cousins, are in the middle of a fight over the farm, and Diana has to choose sides.  The most boring summer of Diana's life turns into the most exciting, but now she's still wondering how she will survive it.

This is another example of Scholastic providing a summary that does not really tell about the story.  This book is about how the Thornton heirs plan to sell the property that Mac, his mother, and his brother live on.  The heirs want to raze the property and build a resort.  At first, Diane doesn't care, but she gradually realizes that the property must be saved.

I had fun trying to figure out how the house and property would be saved.  I kept searching for clues as the story progressed.

This is an excellent book.

70. Once Upon a Kiss, Susan Mendonca, 1985

Paula can hardly believe it's happening.  She goes to a costume ball dressed as Cinderella... she shares a special kiss with Kevin, who's dressed as Prince Charming... she even loses her shoe at midnight!  It sounds just like the fairy tale, but Paula knows fairy tales don't come true.  She's not Cinderella, and Kevin isn't Prince Charming.  He's too much like the boy who broke her heart.  Kevin is trying to discover who the masked Cinderella really is.  But Paula's not sure she wants to be discovered.

The story is okay at the start.  I liked the idea of Paula running away from the party, which set up what should have been a romantic story.  Instead, Paula vehemently denies that she is the girl even after it is painfully apparent that Kevin must know.  It's so annoying and stupid.

I did not read most of the book.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Wildfire #67 Loving That O'Connor Boy and #68 Love Signs

67. Loving That O'Connor Boy, Diane Hoh, 1985

Pam Morrison has never gone against her parents' wishes.  Until now.  She's dating "that O'Connor boy," as her disapproving father calls the dashing but difficult Bud O'Connor.  He does have a well-deserved reputation as a troublemaker.  But only Pam knows the real Bud, a wonderful boy who longs for attention since he's had so little at home.

Gossip and past mistakes seem to haunt their relationship.  But if Pam really loves Bud, does it matter what other people think?

This book is excellent from start to finish.  I read it in one day.

68. Love Signs, M. L. Kennedy, 1985

The strangest things are  happening to Tracy.  And strangest of all is that she always knows they're going to—her horoscope tells her.  She's been right about so many things, it's eerie.  The stars predict she'll meet a handsome stranger, and Jeff shows up.  Tracy and Jeff have so much in common, everything seems wonderful at first.  But the stars also warn Tracy not to mistake friendship for love.  Beside, Pisces and Libra are an impossible combination.

Then Steve, star quarterback for the football team, asks Tracy for a date, and this time it's a perfect match, according to the stars.  But Tracy can't get Jeff out of her mind.  And she can't help thinking that maybe the stars are wrong.

On page eight, Tracey's brother speaks about the new computer at work.  It has 512K of memory!  Ooh, such fantastic technology from the 1980s!

I enjoyed this book at first, but Tracey's decision not to date a boy just because of her horoscope is too stupid.  She ignores her own feelings just because of the prediction.  I skimmed most of the book.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Wildfire #65 Out of Bounds and #66 Senior Dreams Can Come True

65. Out of Bounds, Eileen Hehl, 1985

Only an airhead would go for a guy nicknamed "Killer."  But Tobie Tanner is no airhead.  A serious, intelligent student, Tobie has most of her life planned, up to the moment she finishes her first novel.  But once she interviews Lou "Killer" Keller for the school newspaper, Tobie is lost, and wonderfully in love.  Off the field, Lou is bright and sweet, but Tobie can't forget that football is a violent game.  Can a peace-loving writer find happiness with a guy who has to leave his gentle ways in the locker room?

I enjoyed this book, although portions of it are a bit slow.

66. Senior Dreams Can Come True, Jane Claypool Miner, 1985

After a tough school year, it's finally the summer before Ellynne's senior year.  Her mother wants her to find a job, but Ellynne looks forward to spending long, lazy days relaxing on the beach.  It's time for some fun!

She really misses her steady, Kip, who's away working.  He's afraid she'll find someone new—and she does.  Blond, easygoing Kenny is different from any boys she's ever known.  He's free from responsibilities for the summer and just wants to have a good time.  Ellynne's sure that all work and no play makes a dull girl.  But what about all play?

The first book about Ellynne is Wildfire #9, Dreams Can Come True.

This book is boring, and I read very little of it.