Friday, January 5, 2007

The Lost City of the Aztecs by J. A. Lath

I just finished reading The Lost City of the Aztecs by J. A. Lath. I purchased this book solely because I thought that the dust jacket was pretty. I really didn't know if I would like the book.

I do not tend to like boys' series books as much as girls' series books, because many of the ones that I have read tend to have too many fistfights and other things that don't interest me much. This book turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. Within the first few pages, I knew I was in for a treat. This is the best book that I have read in quite some time. It is highly suspenseful, and I could hardly put the book down until I finished it.

In this book, a boy named Ralph finds a cipher and a message hidden in the binding of a book about the Aztecs of Mexico. Ralph's friend, Dick, decodes the cipher, which gives directions to a lost Aztec city that is located in the crater of a dormant volcano somewhere near the Arizona border with Mexico. The boys decide to try to find the lost city and are accompanied by two friends. I would love to mention something about what happens when the boys reach their destination, which is only halfway through the book, but I feel like this would spoil too much. All that I will say is that what they find is fantastic, and the second half of the book is extremely suspenseful reading.

I highly recommend this book. It is a scarce book, but copies of it can be found reasonably at

I am now going to read the one other book that J. A. Lath wrote, The Cortez Emerald Mystery. It features the same characters, and I am eagerly anticipating what it might contain.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

More on the Riddle Club Series

I finished the Riddle Club section yesterday, proofread it again today, and placed it on the site a short while ago. I try to place a humorous or somehow important quote at the top of each new section. I particularly like the one I have used for the Riddle Club section:

"I read in a book that people with sense always watch things. When they are taking a walk, they see the trees and the plants. When they are out driving they notice the landmarks. I like advertisements—I always watch them. And when our car tipped to let the other go by, I looked right at that advertisement for orange marmalade and I remembered it. So when Polly said she dropped her pin I knew she must have dropped it there."

"My goodness, you read a lot of books, don't you, Artie?" Jess said, with manifest respect.

" 'Improving' ones," Artie said modestly.

"Huh, what about the story books you keep under your bed?" Fred suggested. "Nothing very 'improving' about Indians and pirates, that I ever heard of."

"That's because you don't read 'em," announced Artie. "Ward and I have an invention most made now—a new kind of arrow. Any book is 'improving' that teaches you something."

The quote is from The Riddle Club at Sunrise Beach. The reason I like this quote so much is that Fred comments that the storybooks that Artie reads are not very "improving." The type of books that Fred refers to are books like the Riddle Club books and all of the other Stratemeyer Syndicate books. Artie has a good answer when he states that "any book is 'improving' that teaches you something."

I feel like this statement takes aim at all of the people during the early 1900s who blasted the Stratemeyer Syndicate books as poorly-written, sensational books that would dumb down children. It is certainly true that even formula-driven series books can teach children new things, and even I as an adult have learned new things from these vintage books. I learned lots of new riddles while reading the Riddle Club books!

Monday, January 1, 2007

The Riddle Club Series

I will be adding the Riddle Club section to my site soon, either tomorrow or later this week. I have just begun to read the last book in the series.

While I thought that the Riddle Club books might be worth collecting, I have to say that they have been a pleasant surprise and better than I expected. I first noticed the series a couple years ago as I tried to find the true 1st printing of Nancy Drew #6, The Secret of Red Gate Farm. The Riddle Club series is the series listed on the 2nd page of post-text ads in the very first printing of Red Gate Farm. This fact drew my attention to the series. The ad states:

Here is an ingenious a series of books for little folks as ever appeared since "Alice in Wonderland." The idea of the Riddle Books is this, three girls and three boys decide to form a riddle club. Each book is full of the adventures of these youngsters, but as an added attraction each book is filled with a lot of the best riddles you ever heard.

The idea of club members telling each other riddles is intriguing. There are many, many riddles in each book. Some of them were easy for me, while others were difficult. A child could have a lot of fun reading these books and trying to solve the riddles before the answers are given. Each time a riddle is asked, the club members take turns guessing and almost always get into discussions, sometimes heated, about what the answer could be.

I had trouble getting into the first book, for several reasons. Part of it was just me and that I was very busy at work and wasn't sure which series I wanted to read next (see my first post in this blog). The other reason is that I had trouble keeping all six characters straight. I gave up on that issue and forged my way through the book. By the second book, I began to see several of the characters as different from the others. I do believe that the author did a better job of exploring the characters' personalities as the series progressed. By the fifth book, Polly, Artie, Ward, Fred, and Margy were all distinctly different characters in my mind. Jess was the only one that didn't stand out. As I begin volume 6, Jess still doesn't stand out, but that's okay.

The series has a lot of humor in it, more than many other series do. I feel that humor is an important part of any series book. I find that the ones that I enjoy more do have more humor in them than the ones that I enjoy less. Book 5 is hilarious. I laughed out loud quite a few times. At one point I laughed uncontrollably. I won't try to describe the scene, but the antics of Ward (the obligatory fat friend) and of Artie (the bookworm who continually recites everything he has learned from books) are priceless.

So look for the Riddle Club section shortly . . .