Friday, August 30, 2013

Nancy Drew #67 Sinister Omen and #68 Elusive Heiress

In Nancy Drew #67, The Sinister Omen, Nancy and her five friends head down to Fort Lauderdale during spring break.  Nancy plans to assist her father in apprehending a gang of stamp thieves who counterfeit extremely valuable stamps.  Additionally, Mrs. Palmer has asked Nancy to learn who keeps breaking into her home without ever taking anything. 

In this book, Ned, Burt, and Dave's presence is not strange since the trip is made during spring break.  At the same time, the mention of spring break is a little odd, since Nancy, Bess, and George do not attend school and never have during the first 66 books in the series. 

On page 28*, River Heights is placed near the eastern coast somewhere north of New York City.

This book is similar to Captive Witness, which reads more like a Hardy Boys book.  Both books were written by Richard Ballad.  One scene early in the book is extremely strange for a Nancy Drew book.  Carson Drew has been imprisoned by gangsters inside an abandoned hotel in a very bad section of town.  Nancy goes by herself to rescue her father, in spite of the fact that her boyfriend is in Florida.  That part reads like a Hardy Boys book if Carson Drew had instead been Fenton Hardy with one or both of his sons, the Hardy Boys, rescuing him.  The Hardy Boys often come to the rescue of Fenton Hardy in their series.

Speaking of Fenton Hardy, he briefly makes an appearance in the first Wanderer printing of this title.  No, really.  On page 79, Carson's name is given as Fenton, and on page 84, he is called Mr. Hardy.  This is very strange.  It appears that this book may have originally been written as a Hardy Boys book and was later rewritten as a Nancy Drew book.  Otherwise, there is no logical reason why Carson's Drew name would instead be Fenton Hardy.  The mistakes with the name were corrected in later printings.

On page 140, the yacht has a Chinese cook.  I am quite used to old series books having Chinese cooks, but those books are from the 1930s and 1940s.  This book was published in 1982, so the Chinese cook strikes me as a bit unusual. 

Mrs. Palmer is lots of fun.  She is a cranky elderly woman who is fully in control.

After Nancy and Ned discover the stamps, which they believe to be valuable, they take a cab.  Their stupidity is incredible.  Needless to say, the cab driver is part of the gang, so Nancy and Ned are in trouble.

The timing of the passage that spans from page 188 to page 190 is off.  On page 188, Nancy and Ned arrive back at the Segovia mansion, where Nancy gives the envelopes to Segovia.  That means that Segovia was inside the mansion at the moment that Nancy and Ned return.  Next, Nancy and Ned get something to drink and go outside, where the others are watching the dock.  What seems like no more than around 30 minutes pass, then Nancy says that they need to tell Segovia what is happening.  Nancy is told that Segovia has been away from the mansion for two hours.  Wait.  I thought that Nancy and Ned gave the envelopes to Segovia a short time before.

This book caught my interest early due how the plot progresses in a straightforward fashion without throwing a million subplots at me.  I really enjoyed this book, but it began to lose me at around page 162 and for around the next 10 pages.  Fortunately, the book became interesting again.  Overall, this is a very enjoyable book.

And now we must have a moment of silence for the memory of good old Burt and Dave.  The Sinister Omen is the final Nancy Drew book with Nancy and her core group of five friends.  She will have many more adventures with Bess, George, and Ned, but Burt and Dave are extra baggage and must ride off into the sunset.  More likely, Burt and Dave need to attend some remedial courses to make up for all of the class time they missed while traveling with Nancy all over the world.

Burt and Dave each get mentioned briefly in a couple of future Nancy Drew books, but this book contains their last words.  On page 200, Burt asks his final question, "Where are the police?" and on page 204, Dave makes his final remark, "Even after he goes to jail, I won't be able to stand him."  No, Dave isn't talking about Burt, although it would be amusing.

In Nancy Drew #68, The Elusive Heiress, Nancy has been asked to track down what happened to Clarinda Winthrop.  Clarinda's father disowned her 40 years ago, but now, he wants to know what happened to her because he might not live much longer.  Nancy and Ned take a plane to Cheyenne, Wyoming.  A young girl named Jennifer gets off the plane with Nancy and Ned, but her mother fails to meet her.  Suddenly, Nancy has two missing people to find:  Clarinda Winthrop and Jennifer's mother.  Not surprisingly, the two mysteries are connected.

Ned is the only friend who makes an appearance in this book.  This is the beginning of a more logical setup in the Nancy Drew series where not all of Nancy's friends appear in every single book.

Nancy sets a building on fire in order to distract a criminal.  Somehow, I doubt that Harriet Adams would approve.

The Elusive Heiress was written by Sharon Wagner, who also wrote The Kachina Doll Mystery.  Both books are quite excellent.  This book is engaging from the very beginning and throughout the entire book.  My only quibble is that I found the description of the rodeo and related events to be too long and tiresome, causing me to skim over some of those pages.

*All page numbers refer to the Wanderer edition.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The "Original" Nancy Drew Mystery Stories

Exactly what is an "original" Nancy Drew Mystery Story?  I have come across a number of collectors, presumably newer ones, who use the word "original" with no other word after it.  I have to assume that they mean "original text," but still, some of their comments indicate that they have assigned other meanings to the word.

I came up with a list of possible meanings, and also asked my followers on Facebook what they consider to be an "original" Nancy Drew Mystery Story.  Here are many possibilities.

#1-34 original text only, any format
#1-34 original and revised text
#1-38 blue books with or without dust jacket
#1-34 original text only and Applewood #1-21
#1-34 original text only with original dust jacket art

Most of these possibilities involve the original text, and I believe that people who want to know if a book is "original" mean exactly that.  The problem is that I cannot tell, and often the people who ask mention details that seem to indicate that they may be more concerned about first printings or first format printings.

I believe that the use of "original" by itself has been caused by Applewood.  Applewood describes its books as "The Originals Just as You Remember Them."  I'm pretty sure by the explanation on the back of the books that Applewood means that the books have the original 25 chapter texts along with the original cover art and original illustrations.

The problem is that some people may think that the statement means more than it does.  The Applewood editions are considered facsimile editions with the implication that the books are copied after the original first printing Nancy Drew books.  There is a problem:  None of the Grosset and Dunlap books are just like the Applewood editions.  No, really.  The Applewood editions are not exactly like any of the Grosset and Dunlap editions.  Applewood took from different formats of Nancy Drew books when it published its books.

First printing of Nancy Drew #1
The Applewood editions have the orange silhouette on the front cover, except the first Grosset and Dunlap printings of the first seven Nancy Drew books from 1930 to 1932 do not have the orange silhouette.  Later printings of those books and first printings of #8-23 have orange silhouette endpapers, but the Applewood books have blank endpapers.  The Applewood books #1-13 have four glossy illustrations that are bound in the very front of each book, but the early printings of #1-13 by Grosset and Dunlap have only one illustration in the front of the book with the other three illustrations scattered throughout the book.

Notice from the two scans that I placed above and below that the first printing of Nancy Drew #1 as published by Grosset and Dunlap does not look at all like the Applewood edition of Nancy Drew #1.  However, both books contain the original text.

Applewood #1
The reason why I believe that Applewood has helped cause the confusion is because I have had people question whether a Nancy Drew book is "original" based on the format.  One person thought that a book was not original because it was not the first printing.  Another person thought that a book was not original because it did not have the glossy illustrations.  Assuming that "original" refers to the original text, many people are confused about the formats.

I have put together some pages that explain ways to tell if Nancy Drew books have the original text.

Original and Revised Text Books

The above page shows the different types of bindings and tells which text you can expect the book to have.  For some binding styles, you can be 100% guaranteed that a book has the original text.

Nancy Drew #1-56 Cover Art Gallery

The above page was originally just a cover art gallery for the picture cover books.  Later, I took the time to place underneath each scan a note as to which text the book has.  Some books can go either way, but the vast majority of the books must have a certain version of the text.

If you are trying to figure out how old a Nancy Drew book is, study the following page.

Nancy Drew Formats

While new collectors can be easily overwhelmed, I am confident that spending an hour or so studying this information will answer most questions and eliminate most confusion.  If you are new to collecting Nancy Drew books, devote one evening to studying these links.  You'll be glad you did.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Nancy Drew #65 Winged Lion and #66 Race Against Time

In Nancy Drew #65, Mystery of the Winged Lion, Nancy, Bess, and George vacation in Venice.  Unknown to them, Ned, Burt, and Dave show up in Venice, presumably to surprise the girls, except that they end up in jail.  And a bunch of stuff happens, all of it annoying and boring.  

This is another book that I do not like.  It reminds me too much of The Greek Symbol Mystery, which I hate.  In this book, people speak in Italian, then the Italian is followed with the English translation.  This practice with Greek annoys me in The Greek Symbol Mystery, and doing it with Italian is equally annoying.

Ned, Burt, and Dave get out of jail at the time that Nancy, Bess, and George are bound and gagged inside a church.  The boys make the assumption that the girls are out having fun and even think that they see Nancy and Bess enjoying themselves in a hotel.  Seriously.  The boys see a girl with titian hair and another girl with blonde hair, and they assume that the girls are Nancy and Bess having a good time.  Clearly, the boys have missed too much college and have lost too many brain cells.

The boys decide to make the girls jealous by dancing with some other girls.  This is all a bit stupid and out of character for how the boys have acted throughout the previous books in the series.  I would have been more interested in the book if the boys had actually wondered about the girls' whereabouts from the beginning and had shown concern much faster.

I read approximately the first one-third of the book before I gave up.  I recall that I did not enjoy this book as much as others when I read it years ago.  I find that I like these books generally less than I did years ago, so I see no point in torturing myself on books that I know I will not enjoy.  Onwards to the next title!

In Nancy Drew #66, Race Against Time, Ned is a member of a film club that is shooting a film in an abandoned house near River Heights.  Nancy has been cast as one of the stars and has also been asked by a famous director to be in a commercial that is to be filmed on a nearby ranch.  Someone is leaving warning messages and vandalizing the house.  Some jealous rivals sabotage the film.  A racehorse has been stolen from a nearby ranch, with quite a few suspects.  Valuable items have been stolen in a rash of burglaries.  And if all of that is not enough, a little girl who lives on a nearby ranch is frightened for unknown reasons.  Tell me why I should care.

Nancy's perfection is on full display in this book.  Not only is she perfect at everything, she is super-speedy.  A mirror slips out of a girl's hands on page 15* and begins rolling downhill.
Without even stopping to think, Nancy flicked the reins and nudged her mount, Black Prince.  The beautiful horse bounded forward and, in two strides, went streaking down the slope.  With perfect timing, Nancy swung out of the saddle and scooped up the round mirror in one hand before it could crash on the rocks.
Truly impressive.

This book does not mention Burt and Dave, and Bess is interested in a cute artist.  Burt and Dave have not yet made their final appearance, but they will soon vanish from the series.

You will notice from my summary that this book suffers from too many subplots.  I found the book to be more tolerable than the other books that I refused to finish reading, although at moments, barely tolerable.  Once I read more than halfway into the book, all of the many subplots had been revealed, so I found the book to be more interesting and was able to finish the book without too much effort.  I can't say that I enjoyed it a great deal, however.

*The page number refers to the Wanderer edition.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Nancy Drew #63 Twin Dilemma and #64 Captive Witness

In Nancy Drew #63, The Twin Dilemma, Nancy, Bess, and George go to New York to visit Aunt Eloise.  Upon their arrival, the girls learn that Jacqueline Henri, who is to model at a fashion benefit, is missing.  Nancy is asked to model in her place, but problems develop when it is discovered that some of the dresses have been stolen!  

I found the book engaging at the very beginning when Jacqueline is believed to be missing and when the dresses have disappeared.  Soon, it is revealed that Jacqueline's brother is instead missing.  Next, we learn that a couple of design houses have made cheap versions of designs.  Nancy and her friends investigate the design houses.  Nancy visits an auction to find out about a lion's crest.  She meets several other people, but then we learn that two of them are imposters.  That's when I became annoyed and had to begin skimming the text.

This book was written by Nancy Axelrad, and as I have noticed with the other Axelrad books, the story is too complicated.  The multiple imposters are not necessary.  Nancy refers to the imposters as a "twin dilemma."  I tend not to like books that count up how many of something or another is in the book and use that number for the title.  It's lame.  I dislike The Triple Hoax, which does the same thing.  It's like the mysteries are lacking something, so no attempt is made to find a proper title.

I was taken aback on page 88* when Nancy plans to work for one of the companies that have the knockoff designs for sale.  George is shocked because Nancy has "never worked for anybody in [her] whole life."   Actually, Nancy has taken jobs in the course of her investigations.  Furthermore, the statement seems unnecessarily derogatory towards Nancy.

After getting past the middle part of the book, I began to enjoy the book once again during the last one-fourth of the story.  So I probably enjoyed around half of the book:  the first one-fourth and the last one-fourth.

In Nancy Drew #64, Captive Witness, Nancy, Bess, and George are part of a tourist group in Europe along with Ned, Burt, and Dave.  Nancy is in Europe on assignment for her father, to try to find out what happened to a film, Captive Witness.  Nancy and her friends also become involved in an attempt to smuggle a group of children across the border from one of the Eastern European nations.

This book is not a typical Nancy Drew book, and the plot is much more like the plot of a Hardy Boys book or a James Bond film.  Nancy acts more like a boy.  She knows judo in this story, which is an accomplishment that previously only George had.  On page 15, Nancy leaps into the air while running, grabs a pipe, and brings her legs down on a man's shoulders.  Definitely strange.

The book also has some exceedingly bizarre coincidences, although they are nothing more than the coincidences of books like The Spider Sapphire Mystery.

The bus driver is a highpoint of the book.  He gets so worked up about Mozart that he nearly runs off the road.  Hilarious!

The Footlighters, the theatrical group from The Clue of the Dancing Puppet, is mentioned in this book.

I greatly enjoyed most of this story, but my enjoyment was tempered by my discomfort about how atypical this book is for a Nancy Drew book.  A lot of the events don't fit with what I expect in a Nancy Drew book.  While the story is engaging, I do not consider this book to be a very good Nancy Drew book.

*All page numbers refer to the Wanderer edition of each title.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dystopian Novels: Life As We Knew It, Quarantine, and Rage Within

Life As We Knew It Series - Susan Beth Pfeffer

1.  Life As We Knew It, 2006
2.  The Dead and the Gone, 2008
3.  This World We Live In, 2010
4.  The Shade of the Moon, 2013

In Life As We Knew It, an asteroid hits the moon, throwing it into a new orbit, causing widespread tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.  Most of the world's population dies, and life is grim for the survivors.  These books are very good, but the books are flawed.

In the first book, everyone looks forward to the asteroid hitting the moon, and absolutely no one has any idea that anything could go wrong.  The book is set in 2006, and think of how the media analyze everything.  People would have been well aware of the danger. 

The author throws in some really unnecessary political bashing that pulled me right out of the book and into reality.  Fiction should never do that.

The electricity goes off for days, then comes back on for an hour or so.  Most everyone is dead, so who is turning the electricity back on?  And why would they, since no one is paying the bills?  And a bunch of other stuff is not logical.  

The first book shows how the situation grows gradually worse, which makes for fascinating reading. Even though some aspects of the story make little sense, I enjoyed these books.

Quarantine - Lex Thomas

1.  The Loners, 2012
2.  The Saints, 2013

These books are very similar to the Gone series by Michael Grant, so if you've ever read those books, you have a good idea what to expect with these.  The teenagers are trapped inside their school, infected with a virus that is lethal to everyone over the age of 18.  The government has sealed off all exits to the school and periodically drops supplies down into the school.  Gangs form, and the students fight to the death for the supplies.  At least one more book will be published.

Dark Inside Series - Jeyn Roberts

1.  Dark Inside, 2011
2.  Rage Within, 2012

A huge earthquake strikes, unleashing an ancient evil that takes over the minds of at least half the human population.  The Baggers are consumed by hatred, hunting down the remains of the normal human population.  The Baggers are not zombies.  They look just like everyone else, except for the black veins in their eyes.  They are controlled by the ancient evil, which desires to rebuild the world according its own plan.

These books are scary and suspenseful in the way of old movies from the early part of the 20th century.  I got shivers.  I had to cover the lower half of many pages as I read, anticipating when something would come at them from the shadows!  I love these books, which are very good, chilling dystopian fiction.  There should be at least one more book coming in this set.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Nancy Drew #61 Swami's Ring and #62 Kachina Doll Mystery

In Nancy Drew #61, The Swami's Ring, a man is hospitalized with amnesia.  His backpack contains a ring that a bearded man is trying to steal.  Mr. Drew is involved in a controversy concerning a music festival.  A harpist is involved in a mystery of her own, and all of the mysteries are connected.  At least I think they are, because I only read the first part of the book.

Similar to what happened with the The Greek Symbol Mystery, I did not care about the amnesia victim or anything else.  I have never particularly cared for this story, and it bores me.  I did notice during the part that I read that Ned was whiny and didn't like Nancy focusing on her case instead of on him.  Admittedly, Ned had a point.  However, these books are the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, not the Nancy and Ned Series.  Ned either needs to deal with it or get lost!

Ned's behavior reminds me of the Nancy Drew Files Ned who constantly complains about Nancy's cases, except that this book was published first.  In fact, I believe that this book is the only one in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories in which Ned acts whiny and upset that Nancy solves mysteries.

By not reading The Swami's Ring, I was able to continue.  If I had forced myself to read it, I might have never made it to #62.

In Nancy Drew #62, The Kachina Doll Mystery, Nancy's old friend, Heather McGuire, asks Nancy to come to Arizona to help her find out what has caused a series of accidents.  The ranch appears to be haunted by a Kachina.  Nancy sees the Kachina soon upon her arrival, and the Kachina visits every night.  Spooky!

A boy named Ngyun lives at the ranch with his aunt.  Ngyun has been accused of a series of fires, but Ngyun swears that he is innocent.  Nancy believes that Ngyun is innocent, and she must prove who the culprit is before Ngyun is sent away.

This book is much more engaging than #59, 60, and 61.  I looked at the authorship and realized that this book was not written by Nancy Axelrad.  She wrote #59, 60, and 61, so my conclusion is that I do not care for her writing.

The Kachina Doll Mystery reads very much like the lower-numbered revised text Nancy Drew books.  The book most especially reminds me of the 1965 revised text of The Secret of Shadow Ranch.  Both books are set on a ranch in Arizona and both involve a haunting.

A cottage at the ranch catches on fire, and this reminds me of an incident in the revised text of The Mystery at Lilac Inn.

I have to think that the author of this book, Sharon Wagner, intentionally made reference to some of the revised text Nancy Drew books.  On page 140 of the Wanderer edition, a brass-bound trunk is used as a hiding place for jewelry.  A trunk is used as a hiding place for jewelry in the revised text book, Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk.

No logical explanation is given for the Kachina that Nancy sees several times and hears chanting every night.  The Kachina leads Nancy to two important clues that ultimately lead her to the treasure.  The way the story is written, the only conclusion is that the Kachina is supernatural.  This is rather strange for a Nancy Drew book.

The Kachina Doll Mystery is a very good Nancy Drew book.  Of the Nancy Drew Digests that I have revisited so far, the only two that I really like are #58 and #62.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dystopian Novels: Uglies, Ashes, and Birthmarked

The Uglies - Scott Westerfield

1.  Uglies, 2005
2.  Pretties, 2011
3.  Specials, 2011

In this series, society operates on all young people when they turn 16.  They are made "pretty," and their minds are altered so that all they want to do is think about "happy-making" and being "bubbly."

The books tell the story of one young woman's fight against what society has forced on her.  Some readers don't care for these books because the characters act like airheads much of the time.  That's the point, which those readers missed completely.  Society has made them into airheads, and then they fight against it.  I enjoyed these books.

Westerfield wrote a fourth book, Extras, which I have opted not to read since it features different characters.

The Ashes Trilogy - Ilsa J. Bick

1.  Ashes, 2012
2.  Shadows, 2012

This is another zombie apocalypse trilogy.  In these books, an electromagnetic pulse wipes out all electronics and kills billions of people.  Of the people not killed, many become zombies and others attain heightened senses.

I enjoyed the books, but they are heavy into extremely graphic gore and have excessively long fight scenes.  I found myself beginning to skim the fight scenes, as I was just not that interested.  If you enjoy really gross content, these books are for you.  I will be reading the third book when it is released because I want to know what happens.

The Birthmarked Trilogy - Caragh M. O'Brien

1.  Birthmarked, 2010
2.  Prized, 2011
3.  Promised, 2012

While I enjoyed the Birthmarked Trilogy for the most part, I found a lot wrong with the books.  The main theme has to do with reproductive rights.  Women who live outside the city's walls have to give their children up for adoption by families who live inside the city.  The protagonist, Gaia, is a midwife.

In the first book, Gaia is all about saving babies' lives.  In the second book, she is all about killing the unborn.  In the third book, some truly horrific things happen to Gaia, and I'm not sure what the point is.  At the end of the third book, I just felt depressed.  I also didn't really care by that point.  I felt like I had been through a traumatic experience and like I would have been better off not reading the books.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Two New Series Book Groups on Facebook

Two new Facebook groups have been created in the last 24 hours.

I created this group:

Collecting Vintage Series Books

Jennifer Fisher created this group:

Nancy Drew Fans

Since many people get easily confused about the similar names, I want to take this opportunity to explain that my name is Jennifer White.  I collect series books, write in this blog, have a website called Vintage Series Books for Girls, and maintain my Jennifer's Series Books Facebook page.

This is my (Jennifer White) avatar:

Jennifer Fisher uses this avatar:

Yes, it can be confusing since both of us collect Nancy Drew books, but we are two different people! 

If you follow Jennifer Fisher on Facebook or elsewhere, you will notice that she always signs her name as Jenn.  That's not me.

At least several times per year, someone contacts me with some type of statement that tells me immediately that they think I am Jenn.  It's happened at least three times in the last two weeks, which seems to indicate that the confusion is getting worse.

Most telling is when people address me as Jenn.  I do not shorten my name and prefer to be addressed as Jennifer.  When you call me Jenn, I feel uncomfortable because I assume that you think I am someone else.  I am sure many of the people who do address me correctly also think I am someone else, but at least I am not left feeling uncomfortable. 

Don't be surprised if I begin posting periodic announcements about who I am, kind of like public service announcements.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Nancy Drew #59 Old Lace and #60 Greek Symbol

In Nancy Drew #59, The Secret in the Old Lace, Nancy enters a contest in which contestants write a fictional story about what really happened to François Lefèvre, who disappeared in Brussels, Belgium in the nineteenth century.  Meanwhile, Nancy, Bess, and George travel to Belgium to help out Madame Chambray.  Of course, the entire solution to the Lefèvre mystery can be found at Madame Chambray's home.

Harriet Adams wrote the first manuscript for The Secret in the Old Lace, but the publisher rejected it and asked for Nancy Axelrad to rewrite it.  I'm sure that some of Harriet's work remained in the final version, but the book feels like it was written somebody else, so I assume that Axelrad's rewrite was significant. 

This means that the era of Harriet Adams ended with #58. I detected quickly that The Secret in the Old Lace has a different tone from the previous volumes.  Bess speaks just a little bit differently.  While Bess still gets scared easily, she is very bold and direct, more like what I would expect from George.

While The Secret in the Old Lace is overall enjoyable, I don't care for it very much.  I find that Nancy's fictional story about François Lefèvre is too easily confused with the real story concerning François Lefèvre.  The story would have been improved if the magazine contest had been removed from the plot.

Multiple villains try to steal Nancy's manuscript.  The real story concerning Lefèvre involves assumed names.  The heir to François Lefèvre also shows up, and other assorted people and places are part of the plot.  The entire story is too convoluted, and the book is a travelogue mystery.  Enough said.

I suppose Axelrad improved Harriet's original manuscript, but Axelrad's finished product is not good, either.

I have always hated The Greek Symbol Mystery.  I hate it so much that I cannot give a summary of it.

I have several grievances.  One of them is the usage of Greek all through the text.  Very often, Nancy says a word in Greek and then repeats the same word in English.  Who talks like that?  Of course the book is written like that for our benefit, but I find it extremely obnoxious, even more so since I have no idea how to pronounce the Greek words.

Like The Secret in the Old Lace, the book has too many different characters.  I decided to make note of them as I read the book.  We have the Papdapoulos family, Dimitri Georgiou, Isakos, Vatis, Helen Nicholas, Diakos, Mousiados, Alexis Hios, Zimmer, Irwin, Stella Anagnost, and probably five million other people.  I skimmed the first half of the book and gave up halfway due to how annoyed and bored I was.  There is probably an entire herd of people in the second half of the book.

Ned, Burt, and Dave magically appear in Greece.  I just know they are flunking out of college.

A bunch of random stuff happens.  A basket of apples containing a snake is delivered to Nancy's room.  A gold mask is planted in Nancy's bag.  The girls get on a freighter and it nearly leaves with them.  Their car is forced into a ditch.  Bess is stung by a jellyfish.  Later, her wallet is stolen.  And who knows what else happens in the second half of the story.

Did I mention that I hate this book?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dystopian Novels: Haddix, Darkwoods, and Born

I have come to love dystopian fiction.  In these books set in the near or distant future, just about everything goes wrong.  This means that the characters don't have cell phones, computers, automobiles, or most modern conveniences.  In the books where the characters do have some conveniences, society is so restrictive that the conveniences cannot be used for their intended purposes.  In short, these books are like reading the vintage series fiction that I love so much.

This is the first of several posts that contain brief reviews of dystopian fiction that I have not previously reviewed in this blog.

The Missing Series - Margaret Peterson Haddix

1.  Found, 2008
2.  Sent, 2009
3.  Sabotaged, 2010
4.  Torn, 2011
5.  Caught, 2012

This series is set in the 21st century, circa 2008 or so.  36 adopted children learn that they were abducted out of the past and taken to the future as part of a for-profit adoption scheme run by time travelers.  Time got messed up, and they had to be adopted into the late 20th century instead of in the distant future.  Now, the time travelers have returned from the future in order to take the children back to their own places in past history in order to set time straight.  The children are not happy, since they don't want to leave their 21st century lives.  This is a very abbreviated version of the plot.

Since the plot involves time travel, much it makes little sense, because the characters go back and forth in time and really make a mess of things.  The reader has to engage in much suspension of belief, accepting that certain things are possible in order to enjoy the stories.  Time travel never is logical.

The reader learns a lot of history in these books.  I found the books to be very interesting and very educational.  I do have a word of caution for people who have adopted children.  Read the first book before giving it to an adopted child.  These books have content that could be upsetting to adopted children.

Additional books will be published in this series.

The Shadow Children - Margaret Peterson Haddix

1.  Among the Hidden, 1998
2.  Among the Imposters, 2001
3.  Among the Betrayed, 2002
4.  Among the Barons, 2003
5.  Among the Brave, 2004
6.  Among the Enemy, 2005
7.  Among the Free, 2006

This series takes place in a society in which families are permitted to have no more than two children.  Many families have had a third child, and the third children are the shadow children, forced to live in hiding inside their homes, never able to come out into the world.  The third children sometimes get discovered and have to go on the run.  These books tell the story of the shadow children and their struggle for survival.  I enjoyed reading these books.

The Darkwoods Trilogy - J. A. Redmerski

1.  The Mayfair Moon, 2012
2.  Kindred, 2012
3.  The Ballad of Aramei, 2012

I read these books because I was a bit desperate.  These books were clearly inspired by the Twilight series, except that this series is about werewolves.  Adria falls in love with Isaac, who is a werewolf.  If you are familiar with Twilight, you know where this is heading.  Isaac will not age, and Adria worries that she will grow older than him, so... she wants to be a werewolf.  Shocking!

This trilogy has some of the same problems as Twilight, and in that respect, the author did a great job of mimicking Twilight.  Adria meets Isaac, and there is no chemistry, nothing, no reason for her to fall for him.  Yet she does.  I never was able to feel what Adria feels for Isaac, just as I was never able to understand Bella's inexplicable attraction to Edward.  In that respect, Redmerski copied Twilight beautifully.  These books are in some ways better than Twilight, especially since they don't have a grown man who is basically betrothed to a baby.  You know, that creepy imprinting thing from Twilight where Jacob seems almost like a child molester.  It's not in this trilogy, which is a plus.

These books are somewhat better than Twilight in the overall premise, but the books are poorly edited with quite a few typos. I found them enjoyable, although not favorites.

The Born Trilogy - Tara Brown
1.  Born, 2012
2.  Born to Fight, 2013
3.  Reborn, 2013

This trilogy is set around 10 years in the future after a man-made virus gets out of control, infecting a large percentage of the population.  The virus causes people to lose their minds, and all they want to do is kill and eat other people. 

These books feature the most awesome young woman named Emma.  This girl is a tough, aggressive survivor.  You just have to read the books to see what I mean.  Emma is awesome, and I love her.  This trilogy tells such a great story that it could become the next big thing.  The problem is that these books are not edited very well.  The books are self-published, and the author needs to get someone other than whoever is editing them.  There are many word usage errors, misplaced commas, and grammatical errors.  One example is the use of "planes" as the word for an open grassy area when the correct word is "plains."

The author also greatly overuses pronouns to the point that the reader often has to skip ahead several pages in order to try to figure out exactly who "he" or "she" is.  When the scene contains two men and a woman, referring to both men as "he" is extremely confusing.

All that said, I greatly enjoyed this trilogy.