Friday, March 30, 2012

Nancy Drew #17 The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk

The revised text of Nancy Drew #17, Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk, has always been one of my favorites. I am happy to report that upon this reading, my memories of the book held up.

The book does not feel choppy or flat like some of the revised text books. The revised text books that have the same story as the original text books suffer from the attempt to take the original text and cut it down to fewer pages. Red Gate Farm is one of the rare exceptions in which all the good parts were kept so that it is just as good as the original text.

Other revised text books, like Brass-Bound Trunk, are completely different stories from the original text. I would like to say that the ones that were completely rewritten have smoother, more interesting stories than the revised text books that were heavily edited, but this is not true. Hollow Oak is a revised text book that is completely different from the original text, and it is pretty bad.

For whatever reason, the revised text Brass-Bound Trunk is very good. It might perhaps be due to the enthusiasm of Harriet Adams and Nancy Axelrad after their cruise in which they saw a total solar eclipse. That cruise trip was part of the research for the revision of Brass-Bound Trunk, but instead, the main material gathered was used for The Bobbsey Twins on the Sun-Moon Cruise. Despite the change in plans, the revision for Brass-Bound Trunk has the setting of a cruise just like the original text, and some ideas gleaned during Adams and Axelrad's cruise were likely still used. The best writing comes when a writer is enthusiastic about the idea, and it shows in this revised text story.

I enjoy the clandestine searches for hidden jewels in the mysterious brass-bound trunk. I particularly like the camaraderie between Nancy, Bess, and George and their new friends, Nelda Detweiler and Rod Havelock. Most Nancy Drew revised text books keep the mystery solving to the core group of six, Nancy, Bess, George, Ned, Burt, and Dave, which grows a bit tiring. This book makes for a pleasant change.

I have nothing bad to say about the revised text.

In the original text, Nancy sails to South America on a cruise with the girls from Laurel Hall. Just like in the revised text, the story involves two trunks that look almost identical, this time Nancy and Nestrelda's. At times, the trunk switching is a bit silly. In particular, Bess has trouble figuring out which trunk is Nancy's on page 147, but she finally points out the correct trunk. As Bess is watching, the man grabs the wrong trunk, and she says nothing, thus causing more problems. Seriously?

On pages 61-62, a young man randomly recites a limerick. Nancy Drew books usually do not have limericks. In the revised text, Bess makes up two short rhymes on pages 22 and 23. I guess the revision needed to have at least one rhyme like in the original text.

On page 193 of the original text, Nancy is allowed to go into another person's hotel room to check on her trunk. The hotel employee allows this, even though he has never seen Nancy before and can have no way of knowing whether Nancy is telling the truth. This seems strange.

The original text has some qualities that remind me of the Dana Girls and Kay Tracey books. In this case, the similarities to those series are not nearly as strong as with some original text books that were completely rewritten, such as Broken Locket. This particular original text book could probably have been revised with the same story intact and have remained a good book. Nevertheless, I am glad that the Stratemeyer Syndicate chose instead to do a complete rewrite of this title, since the revised text has always been one of my very favorite Nancy Drew books.

This brings me to the question of which text is better. The original text is a solidly good book. I do not believe that I liked it a great deal when I read it years ago, but I very much enjoyed it this time. I also enjoyed the revised text just as much.

The stories are not the same, and they cannot be fairly compared since the lengths are different. Certainly, the original text is more detailed and descriptive, and as we know, was written by a better author. Regardless, both stories are very good, so good that I put them on approximately the same level.

Since I have always dearly loved the revised text, I have to give it my vote for the better book.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Importance of Packing Slips and eBay Search Problems

On February 19, I wrote about a lost package that I mailed on January 5.
The package was mailed January 5, and the delivery confirmation showed the normal information up until a scan on January 10 at a USPS sorting center in the buyer's home state. The sorting center is within 50 miles of the final destination and was probably the last stop before the package would have reached the buyer's post office. The tracking information ended at that sorting center with no updates since January 10.
I refunded the buyer's money in early February since it was apparent that something bad had happened to the package. I still had hope that the package might eventually surface, but I could not keep the buyer's money any longer.

On March 22, the buyer paid for the book again and let me know that the package had finally arrived. The delivery confirmation no longer showed the old information from January. The first date was March 19, showing the location as in Georgia. From that point, the package quickly traveled back to Michigan where it was delivered on March 22.

Apparently, the shipping label had come off of the package. The postal service opened the package, and found my packing slip with the buyer's address on it. This situation serves as a good example of why packing slips are important. Should a shipping label come off of a package, then the address can still be found inside the package.

I use plain paper for my labels, and I use glue on the package before I affix the label with tape covering all four edges. I also tape across the middle of the label. On several occasions, I have had to remove one of my shipping labels due to a change in an order, and I have had trouble getting the label off. Even though my labels are affixed quite well to the packages, they can still come off, as this recent example shows. Remember: Packing slips save packages!

eBay has been having problems with its saved searches for at least a couple of months. I recently reported on my Facebook page that I could get past my saved searches problem by deleting them and saving new searches. Unfortunately, none of my newly saved searches work. Now, nearly all of my old saved searches that I have not yet deleted are also broken.

I am having to rely on manual searches from eBay's Advanced Search page. This is a throwback to how I used eBay many years ago. While a burden at first, I am growing used to running the manual searches, just like I used to do.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Nancy Drew #16 The Clue of the Tapping Heels

I had a lot of trouble enjoying much of the revised text of Nancy Drew #16, The Clue of the Tapping Heels. I recall that I enjoyed this book as a child, but for some reason, I found it difficult to be interested in the story during this reading. This could have something to do with reading it right after I finished The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy.

Nancy is told about a mystery of strange tapping noises at Miss Carter's home, but instead of throwing herself into solving the mystery, she spends half of her time in River Heights in order to rehearse for a talent show. This makes the story disjointed and a bit uninteresting.

Nancy and Ned are both attacked during rehearsals for the talent show, and during one rehearsal, some of the costumes are set on fire. These events seem so contrived to me.

Like with the revised text of Broken Locket, this book was written by someone who had no understanding of cats. Early in the book, Miss Carter's cats have just been frightened by an aggressive, barking dog. Miss Carter calls each cat by name, and the cats immediately climb down. The text states that the girls were "amazed that the woman had such good control over the cats." I am amazed as well. A cat will never forget its fright and respond to a command. In fact, a cat will never obey any command.

On page 98 of the revised text, Mr. Simpson recalls having met a Mr. and Mrs. Woonton in St. Louis and that he had heard that they had passed away. Nancy wonders if they could be the same Woontons as Gus's parents. On the next page, Nancy phones her father who states that he will talk to the Beverly, the home where Gus had been sent before he ran away. Nancy's father calls back shortly to tell her that the owner of the Beverly was surprised to learn that the Woontons are dead.

I feel like I am missing something. I can assume, perhaps, that the owner of the Beverly knew that the Woontons had been in St. Louis, so that is why he was certain they were the same people as Gus's parents. However, I got the impression that nobody had any idea what had happened to the Woontons.

In the revised text, Nancy, Bess, and George find the secret room in the basement. George's hand is hurt when her finger gets caught in a mousetrap. On page 115, Mrs. Bealing concludes that the trap was set in order to hurt somebody. She continues, "Incidentally, I don't see how any mice could get into that room downstairs." Exactly how does Mrs. Bealing know this? Mice are capable of going anywhere they want. Mrs. Bealing's comment is stupid.

The revised text books make a point of mentioning church attendance, but at times, mentioning church comes across as a bit strange. On page 144, Mrs. Bealing tells Nancy that her church plans a special service that day. Next, "Suddenly she asked Nancy, 'Do you always go to church?'" This strikes me as a rather odd statement to show up in the middle of the text.

In the revised text, Miss Carter sells the Persians for income. In the original text, Miss Carter is a cat hoarder with around 25 cats roaming free all over the neighborhood and all over her home. I always find it amusing how the revised text books purposefully whitewash everything. We just can't have weird people in these wholesome children's books.

The story with Mr. Bunce makes less sense in the revised text. Bunce's relationship with the Woontons is not explained, but somehow Bunce is executor of the Woonton estate. In the original text, Bunce was Mr. Woonton's secretary, which sets up the relationship that logically would have caused Bunce to be the executor of the Woonton estate.

Deciding which text I like better is hard for this title. I really like how Nancy, Bess, and George stay at Miss Carter's house in the revised text. They find the secret room in the basement. I always enjoy reading about secret rooms! The setup of the revised text Tapping Heels reminds me a lot of Hidden Staircase.

The trouble with the revised text is that Nancy keeps leaving Miss Carter's house to participate in the talent show. Gus Woonton follows her most times and tries to get either Nancy or Ned injured. I did not enjoy the talent show part of the plot at all.

The original text is written much better, and I don't find the characters making stupid statements all the time. Unfortunately, Nancy, Bess, and George spend almost no time at Miss Carter's house.

During part of the original text story, Nancy and George follow a colored man with freckles (for some reason this description sounds ridiculous to me) to an Egyptian temple where he gets his fortune told. Nancy and George pass out from the incense, and then the owner decides to kidnap them. This part takes up a good portion of the story and comes across as a bit strange. It could easily be inserted into the middle of a Kay Tracey book, which is the problem. This part does not seem like Nancy Drew.

My conclusion is that both texts are flawed. The perfect story might have existed if Mildred Wirt Benson could have written the revised text story. She probably would have made the talent show part of the plot read a lot better.

Even though I have problems with both texts, my vote is in favor of the original text because it is written better. I do like the main plot of the revised text better, but the choppy writing takes too much away from it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Blurring of Dust Jacket Images

Sometimes dust jackets have a flaw in which the image is blurred or shadowed. This is a printing defect that is caused by a problem with the printing equipment. This flaw is easily missed by sellers, and buyers are never happy when they receive a jacket which has this flaw.

I usually catch this problem when I am listing a single book from a series, but when I have a stack of books in a series, I tend to miss the flaw, such as when I list a bunch of Nancy Drew books with dust jackets. When I list a number of books in succession, I look for chipped edges, tape, and other flaws, and I tend not to focus on the actual image on the dust jacket.

The good news is that if I miss the flaw while listing the book, I will almost always notice it when I pull the book for packing. The bad news is that when I notice the flaw at that point, I have already sold the book. I then have to tell the buyer about the flaw. Since this just happened to me, I decided that now would be a good time to write about the problem.

Here are two books that have dust jackets which have the flaw of the blurred image.

At the default image size in Blogger, the Kay Tracey jacket on the left looks fine, and that is the problem. The flaw is very easy to miss when viewed in a seller's listing. Make sure you click on the above image to see a larger version, and I believe that you will be able to detect the flaw. The red is out of alignment. The man's face is blurred as is Kay's. You can see red underneath Kay's shoes. At a glance, the jacket looks fine since the only part of the image affected is the illustration itself.

The flaw in the Linda Carlton jacket is easier to spot, since the red in the lettering is noticeably out of alignment. I paid quite a lot of money for this Linda Carlton A. L. Burt edition in dust jacket. I failed to notice the flaw in the seller's image, and the seller did not mention the flaw. The flaw is so obvious that he had to have noticed it. I decided to keep the book, but I was very displeased with the transaction.

I have seen several cases of sellers of series books getting negative or neutral feedback on eBay for failure to disclose the blurred image flaw. Since photographs often hide this flaw, it is very important that sellers disclose the flaw. The Kay Tracey jacket shown here looks much worse in person than it does even in the enlarged photo view. In fact, the Linda Carlton jacket also looks much worse in person. The fact that both jackets look worse in person should tell you how very important it is to make certain that this flaw is fully disclosed to potential buyers.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Forest of Hands and Teeth Trilogy

The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy consists of the following books written by Carrie Ryan.
  1. The Forest of Hands and Teeth, 2009
  2. The Dead-Tossed Waves, 2010
  3. The Dark and Hollow Places, 2011
The books are set a couple hundred years after the zombie apocalypse. Most of the human race has been infected by zombies and only a few scattered communities of uninfected humans remain. Those communities are at constant risk of infection. These are the first books that I have ever read about zombies, and I must say that the content is very scary. While these novels are dystopian novels, I consider them to be more horror than anything else.

From Amazon's product page:
In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

The first book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, has a love triangle between Mary and two brothers, Harry and Travis. Mary has to figure out what it is that she really wants, not only with respect to the two boys, but in life, while all three struggle to find a away out of the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

The second book, The Dead-Tossed Waves, jumps around 30 years into the future. At first, I was a bit dismayed to have a new protagonist, Gabry, but I was quickly pulled into the action. Gabry has a connection to Mary, and Gabry's story has much to do with the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Gabry is part of a new love triangle with two boys, Catcher and Elias.

The second book tells a very similar story as the first book, although with different characters and twists. This does not bother me, since I enjoy series fiction, which always recycles ideas. While the overall story is much the same as the first book, the second book is just as interesting and fulfilling to read.

The second book ends with a cliffhanger, and the third book, The Dark and Hollow Places, begins shortly after the end of the second book. The third book has another new main character, Annah, but the action also heavily involves Gabry, Catcher, and Elias from the previous book.

The third book is significantly darker and more depressing than the other two books. While the book is very good, I found it to be almost a bit too hopeless. While all three books contain violence, the third book ratchets it up a few notches. Not only do the teenagers have to contend with the zombies, the Recruiters have become extremely cruel. The third book is definitely more for older teenagers, and a number of reviewers have labeled the book as a gateway to adult fiction.

Since the third book has such heavy content, I enjoyed it a little less than the other two books, although I still very much enjoyed it. While the third book has a conclusion to its main story, the ending is also left open-ended. The books have been referred to as a trilogy, but I have heard that the author has also called them a series. So far, the author has not made any comment one way or the other, but the possibility does exist for more books to be written.

You can read the beginning of the first book on Amazon's product page, which is what I always do in order to get a feel for whether I like an author's writing style. I greatly enjoyed these books.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Nancy Drew #15 The Haunted Bridge

The revised text of Nancy Drew #15, The Haunted Bridge, is a condensed version of the original story. As I read the revised text, I noticed one portion of the story that is flawed.

On page 138 of the revised text, Nancy is given two notes by the hotel clerk. One note is from Bartescue, and the other from Margaret Judson. The text specifically states that Bess and George have returned from changing in their rooms, and before they leave again, Nancy tells them about the two notes.

With only Ned present, Nancy places a note in the hand of a statue to communicate with Miss Judson, as requested in the note. Later, Bess and George see Bartescue take a note from the statue. George comments, "It must have been a note from someone." Wouldn't she know that Nancy received a note from Margaret Judson asking for a response to be placed in the statue? Nancy told them about the note from Margaret Judson, right? I was curious as to how this scene plays out in the original text.

In the original text, Bess and George are not present when Nancy receives the notes, and nothing is mentioned about them returning from their rooms. Ned is the only person told about the notes. George makes the same statement in the original text about the note from someone, but in this version, George does not know about the notes. If the revised text had not inserted the statement about Bess and George returning from their rooms and being told about the notes, the revised text would have kept the same logic as the original text. Those little details will get you every time.

With regard to both versions of the text, the story about Margaret Judson bothers me somewhat. I'd have to read both versions carefully and take notes, but the timing of the fire that destroyed Margaret Judson's property, and Carson Drew's search for a woman accused of theft seem off to me. I also find it strange that Mr. Drew takes Nancy around to various hotels to search for a woman with a compact, and this is done at random times and for varying amounts of time. It seems pointless, but of course Nancy sees Margaret Judson multiple times during her attempts.

I don't have any other thoughts about this Nancy Drew book. Both texts tell exactly the same story, and both versions are good. Since the revised text makes a mess of the scene with the notes, I vote in favor of the original text as a better story.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Parody of Wacky Seller Photos

Recently, I showcased some wacky seller photos. I decided to try to imitate some of those great ideas. Before I commence sharing my photos, I thought I would give sellers some suggestions on how they, too, can impress their buyers with their photography skills.
  1. Never crop your photos. Buyers want to see your messes as well as get great decorating ideas.
  2. Always make sure you use good props. Trees, bushes, and random objects work quite well.
  3. Never show the spines of your books. Buyers don't want to know how well the books will look on the shelf.
  4. Photograph the books from far away. Buyers like to be surprised about the condition of the books.
  5. Never place the books in order. Buyers enjoy having to search through the photos to figure out what you have. Even better, don't include a list of the books in the listing. Buyers enjoy trying to read the titles in blurry photos.
Here are my photos. Feel free to use any of these ideas when you photograph your items.

The mailbox:

The pig statue:

Near a tree:

On a wagon wheel:

Under the arbor:

On some rocks:

On the car:

In a tree:

In the middle of some spring weeds:

On the fence:

In another tree:

On the compost pile:

By some bushes:

On some more rocks:

On the roof:

On the awning:

No books were harmed during the shooting of these photos. As a precaution, I did use books that are not in the best of shape.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Victor Horton's Idea: The Story That Started It All

James Keeline has recently published "Victor Horton's Idea," which was Edward Stratemeyer's first long story. The story is important, for it was the beginning of Edward Stratemeyer's career. Without Stratemeyer, our favorite series books, including Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, would never have existed. We can go further and conclude that many of our favorite series books that were not connected to the Stratemeyer Syndicate would likely never have existed.

Here, James Keeline explains the importance of this release:
We just released our annotated illustrated edition of Edward Stratemeyer's first professional long story, "Victor Horton's Idea." Although the story is only 18,000 words, I have added annotations, vintage illustrations, and maps so readers can follow along. I have also written a 50-page introduction and added about 26 pages of vintage ads for Stratemeyer's books. It is offered as a 6x9" paperback ($14.99) and hardcover with dust jacket ($24.99). If Stratemeyer had not made this sale in early 1889 for $75, it is quite likely that he would not have continued to establish a professional career that would include 160 of his stories published as books and hundreds more produced through the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Few series of the twentieth century had continuing characters but this is something he refined well beginning with the Rover Boys and his success in this led to competition that includes the books many of us collect. In a way, our field of collecting is due to the sale of this one story. Stratemeyer wanted to buy it back but the publisher would not agree so Edward could never issue it as a book. This is the first time this story has been so issued.

This book is the first in a series of reprints under the 24 Palmer Street Press imprint as Lulu print on demand volumes. The name of the imprint is derived from the address where he lived with his parents from at least 1876 to the end of 1890 and where he did his amateur writings and his earliest professional writings. It is dedicated to reprinting early and scarce Stratemeyer texts. The next book will be Holiday Stories for Boys, Volume 1 which has 13 short stories he wrote in the 1890s for the Newark Sunday Call.
The book can be purchased from 24 Palmer Street Press.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Matched and Crossed by Ally Condie

After reading Divergent, I decided to read Matched and Crossed by Ally Condie, since the Matched Trilogy was mentioned so often in the reviews for Divergent.

The Matched Trilogy is set in a dystopian society. The Society controls all aspects of people's lives including what they eat, what they drink, where they live, where they work, and who they marry.

From Amazon's product page:
For Cassia, nothing is left to chance--not what she will eat, the job she will have, or the man she will marry. In Matched, the Society Officials have determined optimal outcomes for all aspects of daily life, thereby removing the "burden" of choice. When Cassia's best friend is identified as her ideal marriage Match it confirms her belief that Society knows best, until she plugs in her Match microchip and a different boy’s face flashes on the screen. This improbable mistake sets Cassia on a dangerous path to the unthinkable--rebelling against the predetermined life Society has in store for her. As author Ally Condie’s unique dystopian Society takes chilling measures to maintain the status quo, Matched reminds readers that freedom of choice is precious, and not without sacrifice.--Seira Wilson
The first novel, Matched, deals with Cassia's feelings about both Xander, her Match, and Ky, the boy whose face flashes on her screen. In the Society, people whose parents commit Infractions are reclassified. Ky was reclassified as an Aberration due to an Infraction committed by his father. For that reason, Ky cannot be matched, yet his face flashed on Cassia's screen. Could Ky be Cassia's true Match?

In the second novel, Crossed, Ky has been sent away, and Cassia makes the choice to leave the Society in order to find him. Cassia learns about the Enemy, which fights the Society, and the Rising, which is a group of rebels hoping to infiltrate and bring down the Society.

The Society is set in the future, probably by 100 to 200 years. The Society decided to take away people's freedom of choice and seeks to destroy the artifacts of the previous society, such as books, poems, and art. The items that survived are traded on the black market. I found this aspect of the story to be very interesting.

The first book is dangerous. The reader constantly fears for what will happen to Cassia as she pursues a forbidden relationship with Ky and hides artifacts that she should not have. The first book is very compelling.

Most of the second book consists of Cassia trying to find Ky, and frankly, most of it is filler material. As someone on Amazon pointed out, the book is like a long camping trip. While Crossed introduces several new characters and the reader learns about them, very little plot advancement occurs.

Fairly early in the book, something is mentioned about Xander having a secret, and this bothered me so much that I flipped through around 200 pages of the book until I discovered what it was. The fact that I could skip through that many pages without anything major to the plot getting spoiled tells how much filler material the book has. By the way, knowing Xander's secret earlier in the story, as a result of spoiling myself, kept me from being annoyed the entire time. Interestingly, the secret could make Cassia's final decision on which boy to choose easier in the end. I'm not sure that the author made a good decision.

The point of view switches between Cassia and Ky during the second book, and I kept having to look back at the first page of each chapter to keep track of who was narrating, particularly after Cassia and Ky were reunited. It isn't a big problem before they reunite, but after, it is confusing. I find that books that switch back and forth between two points of view tend not to be as good as books that stick with one character. This is why I don't like Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles as much as Percy Jackson. The changes in point of view are distracting and often confusing.

The filler in the second book should have been shortened so that we could see more of what happens with Cassia towards the end. I can't say exactly what I mean without spoiling the content, but Cassia learns what her next move will be, and the plot finally advances beyond the long camping trip. Suddenly, the book skips ahead by months. I hate it when books do that. Why do authors insist on taking the easy way out to the detriment of the reader's enjoyment?

Most of the negative reviews for Crossed state that the book is boring. I did not find it boring at all, and I enjoyed the entire book. My primary problem is that the long trek through the canyon should have been shortened and the description of what happens to Cassia towards the end of the book should have been lengthened.

While the second book has a number of flaws, I enjoyed both of these books and will be reading the third book when it is released later this year.