Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Three Investigators Crimebusters #3 Rough Stuff, #4 Funny Business, and #5 An Ear for Danger

In the Three Investigators Crimebusters #3, Rough Stuff, the Three Investigators travel by plane with Mr. Andrews to a remote lake.  While in an unpopulated area, the plane crashes, stranding the travelers.  The situation worsens when Mr. Andrews disappears, and people begin shooting at the boys from inside the woods.

This is the kind of book I really like.  Since the boys are isolated from other people, Bob is not surrounded by his usual entourage of girls.  This story comes close to being similar to the original series.

This book is outstanding.

In the Three Investigators Crimebusters #4, Funny Business, the Three Investigators attend a comic book convention hoping to sell some valuable comics.  Many of the comics get stolen, and the boys begin an investigation.  Soon they learn that the thievery is but a small part of the crime.

On page 18, the Three Investigators discover that their old business cards are considered collectible by a comic book dealer.

On page 21 one person comments that people ruin collecting by selling comics for high prices.  I have heard this same statement from series book collectors about series book prices.

A few negative comments are made about comic book fans, for instance saying that they are fat.  Perhaps lots of comic book fans are fat, but lots of people in the general population are fat these days.  Statements are also made about collectors being weird and crazy.  On page 42, Jupiter adds, "And I don't think it helps that what they collect is something as childish as comic books."  I know enough about comic books to be aware that many have subject content that is far from childish.

I enjoyed this book.

In the Three Investigators Crimebusters #5, An Ear for Danger, Jupiter wins a free trip to a ranch in Mexico.  The contest was suspicious, and Jupiter suspects that more is at play.  Bob and Pete travel with Jupiter to Mexico, where they learn that someone is after a hidden treasure.

Jupe has yet another new diet.  I think he needs Hector Sebastian's cook, Don.  If Jupe had to deal with Don's cooking, he wouldn't have any trouble losing weight.  Speaking of Don and Hector Sebastian, Jupiter calls Sebastian on page 39.  

Just like in Rough Stuff, the boys are in an environment that does not include Bob's endless parade of girls and the other stupidity brought forth in this series.  With those qualities absent, the book is much more enjoyable than the others.

This book is outstanding.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Observations about the Valerie Drew Stories

It took me reading at least a dozen Valerie Drew stories before I fully understood the premise and was able to appreciate them completely.  Now that I've read quite a few Valerie Drew stories, I can make some observations.  Valerie is extremely well known, and people often recognize her on sight.  Flash is also well known.

Valerie's mysteries often start by someone coming to Valerie to request her services.  Other times, Valerie stumbles upon the mystery.  Valerie only helps girls or young women.  She does help men, but only if the man has a sister, daughter, or granddaughter who is the main person who gets Valerie's attention.

While that is a bit sexist, the stories were written for Schoolgirls' Weekly.  Of course the magazine kept the stories centered around girls.

I consider the 1930s to be the golden age of series books.  I dearly love the plot elements of books that were published in those years.  These stories have all of those plot elements, including hidden passages, haunted places, strange noises, and odd footprints.

I especially like books where the events are a bit far-fetched, because I find them entertaining.  These stories have that, too.  Here are some examples.

In a 1934 story, a house has a Dictaphone.  Flash's paw goes down on the pedal accidentally, starting it up.  An important conversion is recorded, providing Valerie with evidence.  I find it hard to believe that an average house in 1934 would have a Dictaphone, allowing for voice recording.

I checked on what a Dictaphone might have cost.  I did not find a 1934 price, but I did see where one cost $190 in 1924.  Running $190 through an inflation calculator gave me $2,560.  I'm off by ten years and don't know the price for 1934, but I feel confident that a Dictaphone is not an item many homes would have owned in 1934.  Also, the people Valerie helps are almost always poor.  No Dictaphone for them!

In a 1936 story, a telephone is present inside a tent in a camp in the middle of the country.  Say what?  It was explained that the telephone was installed because the camp was permanent for the summer.  It sounded like the camp was a least a few miles from the nearest town, so we are expected to believe that telephone poles were erected up to the campsite so that a phone could be placed inside a tent.  I find this hard to believe.  And remember, we are talking about 1936.

In a 1937 story, a television set is rigged with a film projector inside.  When the television is turned on, the film projector plays a film of an event, then automatically rewinds, playing it again.  It stretches believability to say that the villains would be able to rig a film projector inside a television in 1937 and then get it to behave like a modern device set on repeat.  Hmm...

We also have the usual array of stunning disguises where men masquerade perfectly as women and where young people pass themselves off as elderly people.  Valerie manages to pull off a few amazing disguises which always work flawlessly, including the following case in which she disguises herself as an Indian.

Last, Valerie's dog, Flash, is unbelievably smart.  In fact, he is easily smarter than Judy Bolton's cat, Blackberry, and is the most capable animal I have ever seen outside of a cartoon.  Flash can think and reason out what to do in various situations!  He is a perfect partner for Valerie, even better than a human!

When I read my first Valerie Drew story, I was taken aback by Flash.  He thinks in words, and at first, I thought he could speak, which would be silly.  Fortunately, the words are just his thoughts, and while Valerie knows he is smart, she doesn't know exactly how smart.  At the same time, the stories make reference to Flash's "doggy brain," indicating that he doesn't fully understand everything Valerie tells him. 

I find these stories to be really fun.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Nancy Drew's Alter Ego, Valerie Drew

A few months ago, I wrote about the Valerie Drew short stories that were published in Schoolgirls' Weekly in the United Kingdom from 1934 through 1939.  Over 200 stories were published.  The old magazines probably survived in very low quantities and are now in rough shape with rusted staples, soiling, and foxing.  Even worse, I must import them from the United Kingdom, which raises my cost substantially.  I now have at least one-third of the stories and have been gradually reading them.  Even though I have spent quite a bit on the issues, it's worth it to acquire long-forgotten stories that most people have never seen.

These stories fascinate me.  Valerie Drew is Nancy Drew's British counterpart.  The creator of Valerie Drew quite obviously based her on Nancy Drew.  What is most remarkable is that a number of the Valerie Drew titles are eerily similar to Nancy Drew or other Grosset and Dunlap series titles that were published after the Valerie Drew stories were published.  It's almost like someone at Grosset and Dunlap saw the Valerie Drew stories.  I have no evidence upon which to back up that statement, and I have to believe that the similarities were bizarre coincidences and nothing more.

Here are some of the coincidences from the stories I have read so far.

"The Girl in the Red Scarf" was published on July 7, 1934.  The first Kay Tracey book by Frances K. Judd was published on August 24, 1934. That story was titled The Secret of the Red Scarf.  The Valerie Drew story features a girl named Frances.  While I haven't read the Kay Tracey book in a very long time, I seem to recall a girl having an outfit like Kay's.  In this Valerie Drew story, a girl is made up to look like Frances as part of a deception.  The publication dates of the story and the book were too close for this to be more than coincidence, but it is very strange.  "The Girl in the Red Scarf" is a very good story with a unique and very creative solution to the mystery.

"The Whispering Cavalier" was published on June 9, 1934.  A painting of a female cavalier whispers a warning.  This reminds me a little bit of the Nancy Drew book, The Whispering Statue.

"Hide and Seek in the Circus" was published on March 26, 1938.  In this story, a girl who works as a trapeze artist owns an ivory statuette.  She is the daughter of the man who runs the circus.  During this story, Valerie helps with the equestrian act so that she can live with the circus and not be suspected of being a detective.  This story reminds me of parts of two Nancy Drew books, The Mystery of the Ivory Charm and The Ringmaster's Secret.  One Nancy Drew book came before this story while the other came after.  This story is not at all the same as either Nancy Drew book, but the similarities are still interesting.

"The Girl Water-Walker" was published on June 13, 1936.  When I saw this title, I immediately thought of the Nancy Drew book, The Secret of Mirror Bay.  I knew that a girl would somehow walk on water in this story.  How interesting!  The story is not even slightly like Mirror Bay, and the method used by the girl is completely different from the method used in Mirror Bay.  Still, I love the title of this story.

 "The Threat of the Tolling Bell" was published on July 7, 1936.  In this story, the occupants of a castle are terrified when the bell in one wing of the castle tolls each night.  A legend states that the tolling bell brings tragedy to whomever lives in the castle.

Several times during the story, the phrase "the mystery of the tolling bell" is used.  In 1946, the Nancy Drew book, The Mystery of the Tolling Bell was published.  This Valerie Drew story uses the precise title of a future Nancy Drew book.

Also of interest, this story takes place by a cliff and on the ocean, and The Mystery of the Tolling Bell has a similar setting.

"The Threat of the Tolling Bell" is a very good story.

It's like Valerie Drew was one of Nancy Drew's relatives.  The entire time that Nancy Drew was solving mysteries in River Heights in the 1930s, her counterpart, Valerie Drew, was solving mysteries of her own in Great Britain.  And we had no idea.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Three Investigators Crimebusters #1 Hot Wheels and #2 Murder to Go

I originally had no intention of reading the Three Investigators Crimebusters series, since many people say that the books are awful and that the premise was changed too much.  Partway through reading the Three Investigators series, I decided to try reading some of the English translations of the German Three Investigators series, Die Drei ???.  Once I learned that the Crimebusters series is part of the German chronology, I realized that I needed to read them before reading the German books.  I rapidly built a complete set.

In the Three Investigators Crimebusters #1, Hot Wheels, Jupe's cousin Ty Cassey shows up unexpectedly at the junkyard in a flashy Mercedes.  Ty promised to deliver the car for someone and is shocked when two police detectives arrive at the junkyard, accusing him of stealing the car. 

In this new series, the Three Investigators are now 17 and are surrounded by cars and girls.  Jupiter is still smart, but he is constantly on a diet, which is usually a stupid one, and is extremely shy around girls.  Pete is still the athlete and has a girlfriend named Kelly.  Bob ditched his glasses for contacts, which somehow made him a super stud who is constantly surrounded by swooning girls.

This first book was written by William Arden, one of the writers for the original Three Investigators series.  You would think that having one of the old writers would have helped, but it didn't.  This serves as a good example of how what the publisher wants will guide how the author writes the book.

This book tries too hard to be trendy.  Headquarters is called "HQ," which I found excessively annoying.  The girls are annoying.  The endless parade of car names is annoying.  All of the names of the karate and judo moves are annoying.  I don't know what the words mean, and I don't know how to pronounce them.  In short, the book is annoying.

I don't mind that the boys' personalities have shifted somewhat.  The extreme change in Bob's personality was most jarring for me, and I struggled with it.  I don't think I would have minded so much if he weren't surrounded by girls all the time.  It was just so... annoying.

Aside from all that, I did overall enjoy the book.

In the Three Investigators Crimebusters #2, Murder to Go, Big Barney Coop owns a popular chain of chicken restaurants.  Barney's daughter was in a car accident, and the Three Investigators suspect foul play. 

On page 7, I decided that Jupiter's diet schtick was getting old really fast.

I noticed that headquarters is no longer called "HQ" like it was in the first book.  Thank goodness.

I don't have much to say about this book, except that I enjoyed it. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Nancy Drew Game Is Near Its Goal!

As I wrote a few days ago, Quincy MacShane has created a Nancy Drew game.  She has obtained the licensing rights and hopes to get the game funded through Kickstarter.

Nancy Drew Board Game on Kickstarter

She is now within $2,000 of the goal!  There are just five days left in the campaign.

Another article has been published about the game.

Kickstartable:  The Nancy Drew Board Game

A new funding level has been added, allowing a backer to get two games at $55.00. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Three Investigators Series Summary

I have always heard that the first 30 titles in the Three Investigators series are better than the last 13 titles.  As I began reading the books, I wondered if that was really true.  I knew there was something to it, but sometimes readers react negatively to change, particularly for the people who were reading the books when they were first published.

#29 was the first book published only in a softcover trade edition, so I wondered if that was part of the reason for readers not liking it as much.  #30 was the last book with Alfred Hitchcock.  I know of people who refuse to consider any book past #30 as part of the series since none of them have Alfred Hitchcock in them.  So I wondered if that could be it.

Those feelings don't affect me since I did not read the books when they were new.  Furthermore, I always look past the format at the actual content. I wondered if I would like the books better.  Surely I would like the books.  Surely the books didn't get worse automatically as soon as they switched to softcover only and as soon as Hitchcock disappeared.  Surely not.

I soon learned that they did indeed get worse, although not immediately, at least with respect to the softcover books.  I liked #29 just fine.  It's not the very best but is still a good Three Investigators book.  I found #30 to be boring for most of the book.  #31 caught my interest faster, but the book was very uneven.  It was alternatively good and bad, switching back and forth between good parts and bad parts for the entire book.

I loved #32.  #33 was convoluted and boring at times.  #34 was very boring and the first book that I completely disliked.  So, yes, the books went downhill fast.  They did get better, however, past #34, so the series is still good after #34, although not quite as good as the earlier books.

Here is how I rank the books according to how much I enjoyed reading them.

Very good or outstanding books:  #1-29, 32, 35-38, 40

Not quite as good:  #30, 31, 39, 41, 42, 43

Mediocre or bad:  #33, 34

I want to address the main series authors and how I feel about them.  The core group of Three Investigators collectors considers Robert Arthur the best writer of the series.  My impression is that he is considered the best author by far.  I am not part of the core group of collectors since I only read the books recently, and my opinion does not quite match up with theirs.

I like the books of Robert Arthur, William Arden, and M. V. Carey just about equally.  I think most of the books by all three writers are excellent.  I have to say, though, I like many of the books by Arden and Carey more than I do most of the ones by Arthur.  There, I said it.  That may make some longtime collectors cringe, but that's how I reacted to the books.

The Arthur books are great, and as I mentioned, I like them about as much as the ones by Arden and Carey.  However, once I had read past the Arthur books and had read at least one book by each of Arden and Carey, I always checked the title page to see which of the two had written the book.  That told me what to expect.  I noticed that I felt greater delight when I saw Carey's name, because I really enjoyed the spooky elements of her books.

This means that Carey gets the edge, so I like the Carey books the best by a narrow margin, followed by the Arden books and then the Arthur books.  It's very close between the three.  If I were to rank the authors' books on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give Carey a 10, Arden a 9.5, and Arthur a 9.  All three authors did great, except for those few higher-numbered books that missed the mark.  For those books, I blame the editors since the authors had been great up to that point.

Of course, Arthur created the series; for without him, Arden and Carey would not have written so many great stories for us.  We owe a lot to Robert Arthur.

A small number of books were written by Nick West and Marc Brandel.  I greatly enjoyed those books, but there are not enough of them for me to rank those two authors quite as high as the other three.

I mentioned awhile back that I like this series a lot.  At that time, I stated that this series would end up ranking between third and seventh on my list of favorite series.  Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden always must occupy the first two positions since those are the two that I read as a child.  Judy Bolton used to be third, but Beverly Gray took third place after I read those books.  Beverly Gray has been securely in third place for a decade.

But no longer.  By the time I read #41 in the Three Investigators series, I decided that it would rank third after Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, moving Beverly Gray down to fourth place.  That is significant.

It's amazing that I have ignored this series for 20 years, selling each one that came into my possession.  I never considered reading them.  I didn't think I would like them.  I'm not sure why, except that I tend not to like boys' series books very much.  I like the Hardy Boys books, but not a great deal, primarily because of all the horseplay and boys' type activities.  I enjoyed reading Ken Holt, but the books got on my nerves the further I read.  That's because Ken and Sandy were always getting captured, and their escape was always described in painstaking detail, which was torturous reading for me.  The Ken Holt books are lauded for their realism, but the realism was too much for me.

Since the Three Investigators is a boys' series, I had preconceived ideas that caused me to ignore the books.  After I found a nearly complete set of #1-28 locally in a single purchase, I read the first two books to make sure.  I liked them enough to decide to read the books at a later date.  Reading these books this summer was a special treat.

The Three Investigators series does not read like the typical boys' series.  Early in my reviews, I mentioned that the series is more like Trixie Belden than any other series I have read.  I stand by that opinion.  Trixie Belden is a girls' series, but the Bob-Whites' activities fit both genders.  The same is true of the Three Investigators.  All of their activities could just as easily have been performed by girls.  There are only rare exceptions to this, like when Pete rides his bicycle with both Bob and Jupe perched on the handlebars.  Most girls would not have the strength to carry three people on a bicycle.  Otherwise, the Three Investigators could just as easily have been Trixie, Honey, and Di.  All of their activities would still have been plausible.

These days I try not to assure people that they will like a certain series.  I have noticed that some books that I really like are disliked by others, while books I hate are loved by others.  I didn't find Ken Holt quite as good as everyone promised.  Oh, the books are very good, but they are not strictly to my taste.  So even the best boys' series ever is not one of my favorites.

If you tend to like the same books I do, like a variety of series, or like Trixie Belden, then please consider reading one or two of these books to see whether you would like them.  I can't guarantee you'll like them, but don't make the mistake I did in ignoring the Three Investigators series for 20 years. You never know... the Three Investigators could end up becoming one of your very favorite series, just like what happened to me.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Three Investigators #41 Creep-Show Crooks, #42 Wreckers' Rock, and #43 Cranky Collector

In the Three Investigators #41, The Mystery of the Creep-Show Crooks, the boys find a tote bag on the beach.  They learn that the bag belongs to a missing girl, Lucille Anderson.  Lucille is soon located, and she has recently been cast in a horror movie.  The Three Investigators soon suspect that the producers are shady and set out to find evidence against them.

I don't have much to say about this book other than that I enjoyed it.

In the Three Investigators #42, The Mystery of the Wreckers' Rock, the boys go fishing off the coast near Rocky Beach.  They take pictures of a family reunion where the participants are dressed up as Vikings and Indians.  Later, the boys are pursued by several people who are desperate to obtain the photographs taken of the event.  The Three Investigators try to figure out what is so important about the photos while they dodge the villains.

A big deal is made about the boys not being able to accept money.  I'm pretty sure that they did in earlier books.

I enjoyed this book.

In the Three Investigators #43, The Mystery of the Cranky Collector, old Jeremy Pilcher disappears.  Pilcher is a book collector and hoarder.  He is mean, and many people greatly dislike him.  The boys suspect foul play, but unfortunately, just about everyone has a possible motive.

This book describes book collecting in rather unfavorable terms.  Here is a passage from page 28.
"Gives you a new feeling about books," said Bob.  "Like collecting could be a compulsion, like gambling or biting your fingernails."

"It's a disease," said Marilyn Pilcher.  "Believe me, it's a disease."
While I dislike reading that kind of statement, I have to remember that in other passages, Pilcher's collection is described in such a way that he must be a hoarder.  He is not a typical book collector, but rather, someone with serious problem.  Unfortunately, he is called a book collector.

On page 159, the villains shout threats at the Three Investigators in Spanish.  "The boys could not understand it all, but they knew that he called them sons of dogs."  I laughed.  I bet he said something other than sons of dogs.

I enjoyed this book.

I have not mentioned Hector Sebastian's Vietnamese cook, Hoang Van Don, who appears in #31-43.  Don is depicted as the stereotypical foreigner who has come to the United States and is so wowed by the American way of life that he behaves in an idiotic fashion.

A running gag throughout all of the books features Don cooking undesirable food for Sebastian.  Don is easily influenced by infomercials and television shows and insists on cooking whatever he sees.  Sebastian typically hates all of the food and is forced to eat snacks that he keeps hidden.  I found this subplot to be rather obnoxious.  I cannot understand why someone would allow an employee to cook bad food and not hold him accountable.  The running gag is supposed to be amusing, but it fails miserably.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Nancy Drew Game Kickstarter Campaign

Quincy MacShane is a Nancy Drew fan who has decided to share her love of Nancy Drew by designing a Nancy Drew game.  She has obtained the licensing rights from Simon and Schuster and is using Kickstarter to fund the game.

Nancy Drew Board Game on Kickstarter

The game will go into production if the Kickstarter campaign raises $20,000.  The campaign has 10 days to go and needs less than $7,000 to be funded.  I'd really like to see this campaign succeed, so I hope you'll consider becoming a backer.

The Boston Herald published an article about Quincy's campaign.

Concord teen using Kickstarter to fund Nancy Drew game

Monday, October 13, 2014

Parallel Trilogy by Christine Kersey

The Parallel Trilogy consists of the following books.

1.  Gone, 2013
2.  Imprisoned, 2013
3.  Hunted, 2014

In the Parallel Trilogy, Morgan Campbell is furious when her mother takes away her cell phone.  Morgan runs away from home and stays in a cabin in the woods overnight.  The next morning when Morgan returns home, she discovers that another family lives in her house.  Her family has vanished!  Soon Morgan realizes that she has somehow stepped into a parallel universe.

In this strange world, it is illegal for people to be overweight.  People are sent to Federally Assisted Thinning centers, known as F.A.T. centers, in order to force them to lose weight.  Some people are sent to the centers because someone turned them in.

Morgan quickly makes a few enemies and gets sent to a F.A.T. center.  The center is little more than a prison camp, where people are tortured.  Morgan must find a away to escape the F.A.T. center and get back to her own world.

In the beginning of the first book, many readers will have trouble liking Morgan.  She is very immature and makes horrible decisions.  In short, Morgan is the cause of all of her problems.  As the story continues, Morgan grows as a character, and she is not the same person at the end of the third book.  By the end of the trilogy, I had fallen in love with both Morgan and Billy.

A fourth book has also been written, After, published in 2014.  In this book, we get to see what happens to Morgan and Billy after the conclusion of the Parallel Trilogy.

I didn't refresh my memory before beginning After.  Around ten months had passed between when I finished the Parallel Trilogy and when I began reading After.  It was like no time had passed, and I was able to remember everything about Morgan and Billy quite clearly.  These stories are memorable, and I recommend them to people who enjoy young adult novels.

Another story is to be released in late 2014, The Other Morgan.  I look forward to meeting the Morgan from the parallel world who switched places with our Morgan.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Three Investigators #39 Trail of Terror and #40 Rogues' Reunion

In the Three Investigators #39, The Mystery of the Trail of Terror, Pete's Grandpa Peck plans to set off on a cross-country trip to New York to deliver his latest invention.  The Crenshaws fear that Grandpa will get into trouble, so the Three Investigators leave with Grandpa.  Soon after the boys and Grandpa depart, they realize that someone is following them.

I enjoyed most of the book, but I began to get bored towards the end.  A fairly large amount of the story occurs after the villain's motive is revealed, and I was bored with that part.  There was no mystery; we were waiting for the main villain to be nabbed.

In the Three Investigators #40, The Mystery of the Rogues' Reunion, Jupiter is forced to endure much teasing over his role as Baby Fatso when the Wee Rogues begins to air in syndication.  Even worse, Jupiter must participate in a quiz show reunion with the other members of the cast.  Jupiter quickly overcomes his aversion when he rises to the challenge of showing up the cast members.  Soon, Jupiter realizes that someone is out to eliminate him from the competition.

This book mentions Edmund Frank on page 91 and how Jupiter had briefly seen him during a museum robbery.  This is an accurate portrayal of an event from The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure and shows great continuity.  I was so pleased that one of the final books in the series mentioned an event from one of the earliest stories.

On page 144, Pete is angry because "he had never known Jupe to walk out on a case and let the crooks go free."  Actually, there was that time in The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon.  Apparently, Pete has forgotten. 

I greatly enjoyed learning about Jupiter's past with the television show.  This book is outstanding.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Quarantined and Survival Series by Tracey Ward

Tracey Ward has written two short young adult series that deal with a zombie apocalypse that began in the Pacific Northwest.  The first is Quarantined, which consists of two books, Until the End and In the End.  The opening pages of Until the End show the beginning of the zombie apocalypse in Portland, Oregon.  Two college students, Alissa and Jordan, escape together and try to get out of the quarantined area, which consists of much of Oregon.  Until the End is told from Alissa's point of view, and In the End continues the story but is told from Jordan's point of view.

Adding to the drama is the fact that Alissa suffers from a mental illness that causes hallucinations.  She needs medication, which becomes an immediate problem after the zombies attack.  Medication is not easy to acquire in the chaos.

The Survival Series is set in Seattle around eight to ten years later.  The Survival Series consists of three books, Writing on the Wall, Backs Against the Wall, and Tearing Down the Wall.  This series features Joss and Ryan as they try to stay alive in Seattle.  The threats are the zombies as well as different factions of colonists who have various agendas.  Alissa and Jordan make an appearance towards the end of the second book and in parts of the third book of the trilogy.

Both sets of the books are worth reading and are similar in feel to other young adult dystopian novels that feature zombies, such as The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  Overall, I enjoyed the Quarantined Series more than the Survival Series.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Three Investigators #37 Two-Toed Pigeon and #38 Smashing Glass

In the Three Investigators #37, The Mystery of the Two-Toed Pigeon, the Three Investigators meet a man named Blinky in a diner.  Blinky has a wrapped package that he leaves behind by mistake.  The boys take the package to headquarters for safekeeping and discover that it contains a pigeon with two toes on one foot.  The next day, the boys check on the bird and discover that it now has three toes on each foot.

The boys' investigation leads them to Miss Melody, who has a mystery of her own.  Her birds are being killed!  The boys suspect that Blinky, their pigeon, and Miss Melody's mystery are all connected.

The book is The Mystery of the Two-Toed Pigeon.  Why doesn't the cover show a two-toed pigeon?

The following passage is from pages 43-44.
"Great," Pete told him.  "So we find the murderer's footprints.  What do we do then?  Take a plaster cast of them and try to find out where he bought his shoes?"

Jupe sighed.
You tell him, Pete!  He has just pointed out how a plastic cast of a footprint is absurdly expected to provide the solution to a mystery.  I always want to roll my eyes when I read a Nancy Drew book, and Nancy notes a tire pattern or makes a plaster cast which always leads her directly to the villain.  After all, the villain is the only person in the world who wears those shoes or has that kind of tire, right?

In this book, Jupiter is worried about his weight.  At times, this distracted me from the story.  During Chapter 12, "Jupe Has a Plan," Jupiter reasons out the solution while he eats a sandwich.  He tears the sandwich in half so that he won't eat all of it.  As he talks through the solution with Pete and Bob, he absentmindedly tears off additional pieces and eats them.  The chapter ends with Jupe realizing with dismay that he ate the entire sandwich.  My attention was fixated upon the sandwich because I knew what was going to happen.  I was so distracted by the sandwich that I quit paying attention to the conversation.  After I finished the chapter, I had to read through a couple of pages again so that I could follow Jupiter's reasoning.

I enjoyed this book.

In the Three Investigators #38, The Mystery of the Smashing Glass, car windows all over town are breaking, and no one can figure out how or why.  The Three Investigators take the case when their new friend, Paul, is no longer allowed to drive his father's truck because the window keeps breaking.  Paul insists that he did not break the window.

As the boys work out possible solutions, they gradually realize that the culprit somehow knows their plans.  How is this possible?

On page 82, Bob explains that a satellite dish allows people to watch television shows without having to pay a cable company.  Pete remarks, "That sure sounds like Jarvis Temple."  Temple is a very disagreeable old man, so that remark comes across as critical towards satellite dishes.  It sounds like the author didn't agree with the idea of people avoiding cable companies!

I greatly enjoyed this book.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The 5th Wave Trilogy by Rick Yancey

Alien books are not my thing.  However, last year, Amazon had a free chapter sampler of The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, so I tried it out.  Even though the plot has to do with an alien takeover, what I read was enough like the typical zombie-driven young adult dystopian novel that I ended up purchasing the book.

In The 5th Wave, an alien mothership has arrived and is orbiting the Earth.  After 10 days, the mothership sends an electromagnetic pulse that wipes out all electronic devices.  Later, the ebola virus is used to wipe out most of the human population.  The aliens want the planet for themselves, so they must wipe out the entire human population.  The book follows the story of several humans who try to stay alive in the midst of the chaos.

The 5th Wave contains this great quote about books.

"Books? They're heavy and take up room in my already bulging backpack. But I have a thing about books. So did my father. Our house was stacked floor to ceiling with every book he could find after the 3rd Wave took out more than 3.5 billion people. While the rest of us scrounged for potable water and food and stocked up on the weaponry for the last stand we were sure was coming, Daddy was out with my little brother's Radio Flyer carting home the books."

I enjoyed The 5th Wave, but not quite as much as other dystopian novels.  Not surprisingly, it is because I don't like books about aliens very much.

The second book, The Infinite Sea, was published this month.  I found The Infinite Sea not to be as interesting as The 5th Wave, and I felt that the book was bogged down with too many details.  Throughout the entire book the question is posed as to why the aliens are not content with killing humans as quickly as possible so as to be finished with it.  Why are they killing humans in the cruelest way possible in order to inflict great emotional trauma?  Apparently, the aliens are killing people in a cruel fashion because they hate people—or something like that.  I'm not really sure that I completely understood.

Near the end of the book, there was a revelation about the aliens and what they were doing.  I think it was supposed to be shocking, but I had no reaction.  I didn't care.  I so very much didn't care and didn't see what it changed that I almost want to say what it is.  But since that might be a plot spoiler for people who might think it matters, I'll refrain.  My reaction was, "Whatever."  I don't see how it changed what had happened.  Maybe a little bit.  But I really don't care.

So this book lost me around halfway through.  I suppose I'll purchase the final book in the trilogy once it is released just to see what happens, but I'm rather ambivalent.