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?

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