Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Fablehaven Series Part 2

After finishing the first two books, I read the final three volumes in the Fablehaven series rapidly. Volume 3, Grip of the Shadow Plague, is a great book. Fablehaven is plagued by the spread of darkness, which turns the good creatures into evil creatures. The plot is harrowing, and this is the best book in the series.

In volume 4, Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary, one of the major characters betrays the rest. These books were not crafted as well as series such as Harry Potter and Nicholas Flamel, so the author gives few clues to the betrayal. For that reason, the betrayal is intensely shocking, to the point that I thought it was a joke at first. I paused in utter disbelief, and then continued. The entire passage has an unreal feeling which leaves the reader not feeling as much loss as should be felt.

Also in volume 4, a character is believed to be dead during part of the book, and the way the death and following events are handled are quite lacking.

In volume 5, Keys to the Demon Prison, the bad guys are getting close to opening up the demon prison and taking control of the world. As in the previous volume, Kendra, Seth, and their companions go after an artifact in order to keep it out of the hands of their adversaries. We get a character or two killed in the process, but the reader feels no loss.

This is because the evil characters are described much better than the good characters. Most of the good characters are given a name with little physical description and no information other than the fact that they are supposedly a trusted ally. Some of them end up not trustworthy or dead, but neither is a big deal to the reader since they all blend together.

These books tend to ignore characterization in favor of lots of nonstop action. I would have preferred far less action with a good bit more characterization.

In volume five, the good side attempts to prevent the opening of the demon prison. They come up with a plan, which I could see right off was flawed. I was not surprised when trouble arose from where I expected. Furthermore, Seth made an extremely stupid decision which made me want to quit reading. An adult character also made a stupid decision, and the adults are supposedly very experienced. I can understand Seth being stupid, but not the adults who have been fighting evil for decades.

The stupid decisions were simply the manner the author chose in order to set up the circumstances for the great final battle. The story was not bad after the stupid decisions had been made, thus giving the bad guys the upper hand. It could have been accomplished better.

I can hardly separate the events of books four and five in my mind, since both books are crammed full of nonstop action. In several parts of the fifth book, my mind began to wander, as I read the words. That is not a good sign. Both books consist of endless monsters, demons, and dragons attacking. As soon as one was defeated, two or three more would arrive. I grew weary of it.

The writing generally improved through the five books, but in the fifth book, the author took a step backwards at times. I have two examples, but I cannot give the exact pages since the Kindle version does not display the exact pages. In the chapter entitled "Vasilis," the faces on the totem pole are described as follows.
Some looked friendly, others furious, others wise, others ridiculous, others crafty, others ill, others smug, others frightened, others serene.
The following passage appears in the chapter "Knights of the Dawn."
Some walked on two legs, some on four, some on six. Others slithered. Others jumped. Others rolled. Others had wings.
I have now mastered the word "others" and can understand two-word sentences. To be fair, most passages are not written like the above examples. These two are the ones that stand out the most. The books do have complex sentences.

The series would have been stronger if books four and five had been condensed into one book with many of the battles removed. The characters deserved better descriptions. In spite of those flaws, I did enjoy the series. I loved the setting at the Fablehaven preserve and found the magical creatures to be very interesting. Most importantly, the series helped me quench my desire for the final Nicholas Flamel book. I can now wait nearly a year for it, and shortly, I will return to my usual vintage series books.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

An Explanation and My New Blog Policy

After the unfortunate events of last week, I am still a bit upset. I was far more upset initially than what I confessed to any of you. I was more upset than I have ever been over any negative comments that have ever been made in this blog. What caused me to be extremely upset is that someone whom I thought was friendly to me turned on me.

Since I am still left with a lingering unpleasant feeling that an unknown number of people now regard me with disdain, I feel that I must explain about the interpersonal disputes of which many of you who are fairly new to collecting are unaware. I have stayed out of these disputes, but with the comments of last week, I find that I am slowly getting sucked into them. It must stop now.

These disputes go back at least around 20 years. I first came online in late 1996 and came into contact with other collectors in around early 1997. We had two primary places in which we discussed series books: the Nancy Drew message board hosted by Applewood books and the alt.books.nancy-drew newsgroup. When I first visited both of these locations, they were great places to discuss books. That soon changed.

We had a group of two or three collectors who did not like each other. I believe that the conflict began in some form as far back as the early 1990s or possibly even as far back as the 1980s over a simple difference of opinion. The difference of opinion turned into vicious mudslinging and defamation of character.

The actions of a few ruined both the Nancy Drew message board and newsgroup. In order for collectors to have a place free from controversy to discuss books, Gayle Kaye and Jennifer Fisher created the Nancy Drew Sleuths group. That group became a safe haven from the war which still raged.

That war still rages today, which is why I get anonymous comments in this blog that slander others. At this point in time, it little matters who started it. I believe that the cause was a simple difference of opinion which escalated into something far worse. It is not my position to judge.

In fact, what happened 20 years ago is like what happened last week. Person #1, who is one of the major players in the interpersonal disputes, decided that I was bashing Farah's Guide. He chose to refer to my comments as "rude." Person #2 (me), responded in anger explaining my point of view. Person #3 decided that I was to blame since I showed anger and did not see anything wrong with the first comment.

The end result is that I became the person who looked like the cause of the trouble. This is what has happened over and over across the years in the interpersonal disputes between series book collectors. Often, the person who starts the trouble is not the person who gets blamed. The person who responds takes the blame, even though they did not start it.

Therefore, from now on, whenever someone posts a comment which adds nothing to the discussion and is interpreted by me to be rude, I will delete it. I will use the selection in the delete feature so that people will not see the deleted comment but will see a statement indicating that a blog administrator deleted a comment. I will then make a short nonemotional comment that those types of comments are inappropriate. That way, I don't look bad, and those people don't take over this blog.

What kind of comments are considered rude? Any comment which uses rude words including the word "rude" or is worded in such a fashion as to appear to attack another person's opinion. Here is one example. Someone responded to a comment with "Let's see. ON that Hidden Clue auction. The buyer was happy, the seller was happy. The only unhappy person was you. So what? You had nothing to do with the auction. Deal with it." That person could have made the same point in a far more constructive fashion.

In the future, such comments will be deleted with no response. And of course there are the comments I have always deleted immediately, such as the one where someone called someone else a "crybaby." Really not appropriate.

Last, I ask that people who know about the interpersonal disputes refrain from posting any names or information concerning that situation. If any such comments appear, I will be forced to delete them.

Edit from 8/12/2011: I have decided that some hateful comments will not be deleted. A few collectors post negative comments and use their real names. It seems best to leave those comments so that other collectors know what those people are like. If a collector wishes to dig himself into a deeper and deeper hole, I do not wish to intervene.

The Fablehaven Series Part 1

I read all five books in the Nicholas Flamel series a second time after I finished with the fifth book, The Warlock. Since I was facing an 11 month wait for the final book in the series, I was feeling at a loss as to what to read. I craved something similar.

I managed to find a place where someone asked for series similar to Harry Potter and Nicholas Flamel. The Fablehaven series was recommended. The series consists of five volumes and was written by Brandon Mull.

I checked out the reviews on Amazon and decided that spending $7.59 for the Kindle book would be worthwhile just to see what the book is like.

While not perfect, I enjoyed the first book, entitled Fablehaven. The book is not spectacular and mainly sets up the premise for the series. It is good enough that I wanted to read the next book.

Kendra and Seth visit their grandparents, who are the current caretakers of a secret preserve in which magical creatures are kept.  Soon, the children find themselves in the middle of a battle between good and evil, which is pretty much what happens in all of the series books from this genre.

This series uses some different magical creatures, such as fairies, which seemed stupid at first.  Once I got into the second half of the first book, I no longer thought that the fairies were stupid.

The first book has two scenes that are really stupid and annoy me as an adult reader. This happens sometimes with children's books. Children probably loved those scenes, but I could have done without them.

Near the beginning of the first book, the children, Kendra and Seth, are warned not to go into the woods because of ticks and Lyme disease. The tick excuse is false, since the woods are part of a preserve in which magical creatures run loose.

I greatly dislike it when people give false reasons for following a rule, although Seth is so stupid that he would have entered the woods even if he had been told the truth. Seth is very immature and obnoxious during the first book.  We get to see Seth gradually mature as the books progress.

The second book, Rise of the Evening Star, is better than the first book, since the action begins right off.  We don't spend half the book setting up the premise.

This passage from the second book summarizes the general idea nicely.
He placed a single finger beside his temple. "One last thought. Though secret, and in many ways quiet, the struggle between the Society of the Evening Star and those who manage the preserves is of desperate importance to the whole world. Whatever the rhetoric on both sides, the problem boils down to a simple disagreement. While the Conservators' Alliance wants to preserve magical creatures without endangering humanity, the Society of the Evening Star wants to exploit many of those same magical creatures in order to gain power. The Society will pursue its ends at the expense of all humankind if necessary. The stakes could not be higher."

Friday, June 24, 2011

More on the Tenth Nancy Drew 1930A-1 Old Clock DJ

To make this discussion easier, I will refer to the above book as Auction #1. This is the book that closed at $3,028.88.

I was surprised at the overall lack of interest in the recent auction for a 1930A-1 first printing Old Clock book with the intact first printing dust jacket. Previous auctions have resulted in a circus in which some collectors try to get the auction kept open, other collectors try to get the seller to sell privately at a low price, and collectors who are not interested in bidding gush about how valuable and PERFECT the book is and try to make sure everyone in the entire world knows about the auction.

I'm sure that some of the above did happen behind the scenes. I bid on the book as soon as I saw it and asked the seller to ignore what would seem like excellent offers. I have no way of knowing whether anyone tried to get the auction closed. What I do know is that no one announced the auction to the rest of us collectors and that no one appeared to gush about it. This auction went like the average eBay auction without the usual crazy behavior.

Another seller had a first format (but not the first printing) Old Clock with dust jacket up for sale at the same time, and that auction seemed to be noticed by far more people. I will refer to this auction as Auction #2.


Auction #2 closed at $350 and was for a book and jacket that are worth around $600 in excellent condition, according to Farah's Guide. Auction #1 closed at a much higher price, yet fell far short of the $10,000 Farah's Guide value. The book from Auction #2 is in better shape, but it still fell far short of its Farah's Guide value.

Someone mentioned Auction #2 in the Nancy Drew Sleuths group and did not mention Auction #1 at all. I thought that was odd, since I was expecting Auction #1 to be mentioned by somebody. Furthermore, Auction #2, while a far less valuable book, had twice as many watchers as Auction #1. This is also odd.

The number of watchers for eBay listings can be seen by visiting this site. I entered the search term "Nancy Drew Old Clock" to see the watchers for these two auctions. I took a screen capture right before Auction #1 closed.

Auction #1 had only 15 watchers, while Auction #2 had 33 watchers. Even more strange is that 11 people were watching that fixed-price listing for a common purse that can be found anywhere.

I wondered if Auction #2 had better placement in Best Match. No, Auction #1 was ahead by at least two pages, so that does not explain the discrepancy.

I bid on Auction #1 around 30 minutes after it started. Auction #2 did not receive a bid until nearly 24 hours into the auction. One of those wacky conspiracy theories is that auctions that get a bid at the very beginning are hidden from people who have not already viewed it. Keep in mind that I really don't believe the conspiracy theory, but I have to consider it for these auctions.

One reason for the lack in interest in Auction #1 may be that most current buyers are not interested in first printings. They may be more interested in excellent condition books. For those people, Auction #2 may have seemed more desirable.

Many of the current buyers are not aware of the nuances of collecting Nancy Drew books. To the casual observer, Auction #1 and Auction #2 look like the same book and jacket. If buyers are not aware of the significance of the the front flap listing just three titles in Auction #1, they might see Auction #2 as much more desirable due to the condition of the book and jacket.

Auction #2 may also have been more desirable because of the seller. That seller always has a fantastic selection of very desirable series books and probably has a huge following.

Also, many buyers may have ignored Auction #1 because they thought that the closing price would be too high to afford. They may have preferred watching Auction #2.

Finally, eBay may have eroded its auction business enough that eBay is no longer the best place to sell valuable books.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Tenth Nancy Drew 1930A-1 Old Clock Dust Jacket

Please view these related posts for background information.

THIS Is a RARE Nancy Drew Book!
Scarcity of Early First Printing Nancy Drew Books
Nancy Drew 1st Printing Auctions Part 2
Nancy Drew 1st Printing Auctions Part 3
The Ninth 1930A-1 Nancy Drew Old Clock Dust Jacket

The tenth known example of the 1930A-1 Nancy Drew Old Clock dust jacket just sold this week on eBay.

1930 RARE Nancy Drew Secret of the Old Clock with DJ

The auction had the subtitle, "Bungalow Mystery Last listing on Front Flap."

The auction closed at $3,028.88, and the auction was won by a Nancy Drew collector. I am very glad that the book went to a collector, since the book means so much to collectors.

This auction is important, because it disproves David Farah's statement about how many known 1930A-1 Old Clock dust jackets exist. Farah's Guide states, "The first edition dust jacket is extremely rare with, probably, less than ten existing copies in any condition."

We now know that there are not fewer than ten surviving copies. We know that at least ten exist. I have long believed that more than ten of these dust jackets exist, and I expect to see at least a few more surface.

The sixth 1930A-1 dust jacket surfaced on eBay in 2008. Two years passed with none surfacing, and now in just the last year, the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth known jackets have surfaced. My theory is that these books were in the possession of the children of the original owners. Those children would probably be around 70 years old and are now passing on.

I have more thoughts on this and another auction which closed the same evening, and that will be the content of my next post.

Monday, June 20, 2011

How People Try to Find Books

I always appreciate comments, because the comments get me to think more about a topic or remind me of certain information. When I wrote about Google Product Search, a reader questioned whether buyers would just go directly to sites that sell books rather than using Google. I made the following response.
I believe that most book buyers would do that, which is another reason why I care very little about how well my items rank in Google Product Search.

However, there are some buyers who have no clue where to find books. They really don't. My website,, gets a lot of Google traffic from people who type "where to buy Nancy Drew books" or similar phrases into the search form. This blog gets a lot of that traffic as well.

I have had people contact me asking where they can find certain books, like Sally Baxter. I tell them that eBay is a good place to look. I tell them about ABE. There are people who don't seem to know that eBay has books for sale. It boggles the mind how many people have absolutely no idea where to find books.
Thinking about this topic again made me decide to take a look at my Google Analytics data for my website, I brought up all of the queries used by people who visited my website over the last five months.

People who think like me just type in the series name and book title when trying to find a book to buy. Many of my visitors do exactly that, and I cannot read their intent. They could be trying to buy the book, but they could also want a summary of the book or general information. Other people form their queries as questions or use certain words such as "buy," and in those cases, the intent is very obvious.

I took screen captures of the data that included at least some queries for which the intent is obvious. There is no way that I can show you all the data, because more than 13,000 search terms were used in the last five months to reach my website. This will give you an idea.

If any of the screen captures are too hard to read, click on them to see a larger version.

Since the queries regarding where to buy books caused those people to visit my website, you can see the importance of my site having links to my Bonanza booth, Jennifer's Series Books. Here are my main sources of traffic to my Bonanza booth over the same five months.

Direct traffic is the highest and includes widget traffic, which means that people who reach Bonanza via my widgets on my website or either blog end up counting as direct traffic. Each widget is like a piece of Bonanza inserted into my website.

Between the unattributed direct traffic from widgets and the traffic that is attributed to my website, I have a large amount of traffic reaching my booth through my website. If I can also get my individual items to rank high in Google's results, I have an even greater chance of bringing more buyer traffic to my booth. The goal is to reach those buyers who have no idea where to buy old series books.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 2011 Nancy Drew Prices on eBay

Consider this lot of 24 Nancy Drew books with dust jackets.

24 Nancy Drew Mystery Stories Most w Dustjackets

The books have the wartime conditions notice, so they are from the 1940s. The lot sold for $243.46 in an auction.

Now take a look at this lot.

Lot of 23 Nancy Drew Hard Cover Books 1930s to 1950s

This lot closed at only $66 in an auction, yet eight of the books have dust jackets.

Compare both of the auction listings to the following two Buy It Now lots.

NANCY DREW Collection of 26 Vintage Books - Nice Set

This lot sold for $200 in a Buy It Now. The books are from the 1950s and do not have dust jackets.

Here is another set of all tweed books without jackets.

Nancy Drew 24 piece Mystery Thriller Book Set

This lot sold for $195 in a Buy It Now.

I have long held the belief that some people value the books which do not have dust jackets more than they value the books with dust jackets. I have never understood this manner of thinking, yet time and time again I see closed listings which seem to support this theory.

The first lot which had all books with dust jackets from the 1940s sold at around $10 per book. The second lot which had some books with dust jackets sold at less than $3 per book.

Both of the lots which had all bare books with no dust jackets sold at around $8 per book. This average price per book was much higher than one of the lots which had some dust jackets and only slightly less than the lot that had desirable dust jackets from the 1940s. The jackets from the 1940s are generally worth $20 or more apiece.

The bare books without dust jackets from the 1950s are supposed to be worth around $5 each, yet the books often sell for significantly higher prices.

It is also important to note that the two listings with lower prices were auctions, and the listings with higher prices were Buy It Now listings.

We can draw several conclusions. The first conclusion, as already stated above, is that some people prefer books without jackets and will pay significantly more for a bunch of blue Nancy Drew books without dust jackets.

The second conclusion is that eBay auctions often result in prices that are well below value. I'm not sure how many buyers are aware that many of the people selling series books on eBay at high prices bought 90% or more of their books in recent eBay auctions, usually using a secondary buying ID.

Finally, people are likely to impulse buy books at higher prices when they see a large lot of books in a Buy It Now.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Buying Big Boxes of Books

I like buying big boxes of books, especially Nancy Drew picture covers from the 1960s and 1970s. I bought some recently in a Buy It Now. I knew that enough of the books were the original text that the lot was worth buying. I also have a lot of fun unpacking the books when they arrive, hoping that I might find something that I need.

This rarely happens, but I still have fun. It's like a little treasure hunt. And if I don't find anything that I need, at least I will be able to help others work on their collections. I firmly believe that most of the good books on eBay are in the bulk lots, so I will keep buying them when the price is low enough. The downside is that I end up with too many extra books laying around.

I received one such purchase yesterday. Most of the books in the lot list to Crossword Cipher. This means that the lot has no first picture covers. Have you ever noticed how common the books are that list to Pine Hill? Usually, I end up with lots that list to Pine Hill. Finding a bunch listing to Crossword Cipher is less common; unfortunately, the Crossword Cipher books are not often special printings.

I always separate any books that need further investigation. I did find just one: a copy of Blackwood Hall listing to Crossword Cipher. I knew that since the book has the 1967 text and since Crossword Cipher was published in 1967 that I needed to check Farah's Guide. It turns out that the book is not the first printing of the 1967 text, but it is the first printing of the 1967 cover art, 1967B-33 according to Farah's 12th edition. Best of all, I didn't have it in my collection! This is probably the first time in quite a while that I've bought one of these lots and found a treasure!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

eBay Nancy Drew Prices December 2010

You did read the title correctly. This post was written on December 17, 2010, but it was never published. Instead of deleting it, here it is. I removed the links to the eBay items, since they are no longer in eBay's database.

Current prices are not all low. It depends upon who is looking.

Carolyn Keene - Nancy Drew Book "Lilac Inn" Vintage

This listing was for a 1932E-12 Lilac Inn book with orange silhouette endpapers and no dust jacket. Someone bought it for $125.00. Seriously? Examples with dust jackets often sell for well under $100.00.

EARLY Nancy Drew Sign of the Twisted Candles MINT w/ DJ

This listing was for a 1941B-26 Twisted Candles book and dust jacket. The dust jacket lists to #18 and has the blue silhouette spine symbol. This is the earliest and thickest format for the blue spine symbol dust jackets. The book sold for $125.00.

I have had a couple of books and jackets meeting the same points up for sale for around $80.00 to $100.00. I guess my prices aren't that high, right?


First printing Nancy Drew books in dust jacket have retained their values despite most books falling in value. This first printing book and jacket sold for $315.96.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Nicholas Flamel Series #5: The Warlock

This book was just released in late May. This review continues no spoilers and no plot information. After having read five books, I now consider the story to be as epic as Harry Potter, thus the importance of mentioning no plot details.

Right after I read the second Kane Chronicles book, I read the fourth installment in the Nicholas Flamel series, The Magician. I devoured the book in 24 hours. As with the previous book, I am eager to read the sixth and final story, The Enchantress, yet I will have to wait another year.

The Nicholas Flamel series includes a large number of historical figures as well as gods from all major mythologies. The series can be a bit confusing, particularly during the first couple of books. Each book in the series is more entertaining than the previous title, and the story continues to build.

Reading gets easier the further along one is in the series, since by books four and five, the reader is thoroughly familiar with the premise as well as the majority of the characters.

I thought the fourth book was outstanding, and the fifth book is just as good. At this point in the series, the reader is beginning to get an idea of how some of the plot will play out, but many questions remain. The fifth book ends with a major revelation in the final few sentences. The book ends abruptly with that cliffhanger, so the reader is left wanting more. That is what a really good story does.

I wanted to know about others' theories, so I searched for online discussions of the book. I found the Flamel's Secret forum, which is a site endorsed by the author, Michael Scott. I highly recommend this forum for fans of the series. Michael Scott is an active participant. He also posts a few messages in some of the fan discussions.

When I read some of the older threads, a certain theory was discussed. This theory shocked me, and I wondered if it would prove to be true. I wanted to find a certain passage in the fifth book in which a certain character was described. This is where I am fortunate that I decided to purchase the Kindle version for my iPad instead of the hardcover version.

I searched for a certain word and found the passage within a minute or so from the list of results. If I had purchased the hardcover, I probably would have spent at least 15 minutes trying to find the passage. Electronic texts have the distinct advantage of being searchable. How splendid!

I also am so intrigued by the series that I am now reading all five books again. Michael Scott has stated that all details are important to the plot and that nothing is coincidental. He has placed clues all through the books. Even a mundane detail such as a character's eye color is important! I am currently up to the third book in my second reading, and I have spotted many clues to future events.

I highly recommend this series. At this point in the progression, fans have just as many questions about the role of certain characters as Harry Potter fans did about those characters. The anticipation and speculation is most of the fun!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Kane Chronicles: The Throne of Fire

I recently finished the second book in the Kane Chronicles series, The Throne of Fire. The Kane Chronicles series is written by Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series.

From the official Kane Chronicles website:
Ever since the gods of Ancient Egypt were unleashed in the modern world, Carter Kane and his sister Sadie have been in trouble. As descendants of the House of Life, the Kanes have some powers at their command, but the devious gods haven't given them much time to master their skills at Brooklyn House, which has become a training ground for young magicians. And now their most threatening enemy yet - the chaos snake Apophis - is rising. If they don't prevent him from breaking free in a few days' time, the world will come to an end. In other words, it's a typical week for the Kane family.

To have any chance of battling the Forces of Chaos, the Kanes must revive the sun god Ra. But that would be a feat more powerful than any magician has ever accomplished. First they have to search the world for the three sections of the Book of Ra, then they have to learn how to chant its spells. Oh, and did we mention that no one knows where Ra is exactly?
I enjoyed this book more than I did the first book. I still do not like these books quite as much as Percy Jackson, but I was kept interested from start to finish as I read this book.

My main complaint is that I am not very familiar with the Egyptian gods, so I have more trouble appreciating the gods and understanding their importance.