Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ken Holt Series Introduction and Overview

Usually I publish this type of post after I publish my reviews, but this time I'm publishing it first. 

When I read the Ken Holt series 4 1/2 years ago, I was a bit disappointed.  I recall that I enjoyed many of the books but that I felt a sense of letdown.  As best I can recall, I was disappointed because I had always heard such wonderful things about the Ken Holt series, which caused the books to be destined to fall short of my high expectations.  I have never been much of a boys' series fan, so that was also a large part of why I was destined to be disappointed.  I can't appreciate a boys' series like Ken Holt in the way that boys' series enthusiasts can.

Since I read the Rick Brant series last month and actually enjoyed them a lot, I wanted to read the Ken Holt books again just to see if my perspective had changed any.  This time I couldn't be disappointed no matter what, since I had already experienced that disappointment. 

I found that this time that I still struggled with the great detail, particularly the detail with which the boys knock ideas back and forth about what to do and the detail with which their attempts to escape are described.  I found that I had to skim the text at times in order to avoid becoming bored. 

I don't like several of the earlier titles in the series as much as later titles.  This is what derailed me over 4 1/2 years ago when I started to create a website section for Ken Holt.  In early July 2010, I had actually scanned the cover art for volumes 1 and 2 and had written summaries for those two books.  I created the main page of the section with the list of titles and some general information.  I had every plan to continue.  What I believe happened is that I didn't particularly care for volumes 3, 4, and 5, and by the time I finished volume 5, I wasn't interested in finishing the section.  I don't recall what I thought of the rest of the series.  All I can remember is that I was overall disappointed.  Below, see the dates on the files from my website that I captured from the file manager last month.  It shows how little I did and how abruptly I abandoned it.

I did finish reading the series in 2010.  I didn't admit until during the last year that I wasn't overwhelmingly thrilled with the Ken Holt series.  I felt so bad that I hadn't loved the series that I didn't feel comfortable admitting it to anyone.  I didn't want to upset anyone, since it seemed, according to online reviews, that every single person who has ever read the series thinks that the Ken Holt series is the best of the best.  I don't mean that in a sarcastic fashion; when I read the reviews it seemed that everyone who has reviewed the series online loves the books and thinks the series is the very best.  I didn't know what was wrong with me, so I didn't want to admit to how I felt. 

Now let's fast forward to the last month.  I wanted to read Ken Holt again to see what I thought after reading Rick Brant.  I also wanted to finish that website section for two reasons.  First, it was an unfinished project.  Second, I recently created a Rick Brant section, so I needed to create a Ken Holt section.  It wouldn't be fitting to ignore Ken Holt.

I began reading the books again.  I struggled with the first book, which I don't think was the case 4 1/2 years ago.  A few parts of it really dragged for me this time.  I liked the second and third books significantly better than I did before.  So far, so good.  I told myself that I would finish that website section.  I also enjoyed #4 better than before, although part of it bored me.  I did not care for #5.  I overall liked #6, but parts of it dragged for me.  #7 also dragged for me.  This wasn't going well.

By this point, I wasn't sure if I could force myself to finish the website section, since the same feelings were coming over me as before.  I had started writing reviews for this blog, but by #6, I began to lose interest.  Did I really want to write reviews where I would say that parts of several books from the very best boys' series actually bored me?  I started feeling bad again.

Fortunately, I really liked all of #8, most of #9, and all of #10.  Thank goodness!  This rejuvenated me, and I began working on the website section.  It was during the reading of #10 that I wrote most of my summaries and scanned all of the books. I ended up greatly enjoying the rest of the series.

I like the second half of the series a lot, while my opinion of the first half of the series is generally lukewarm.  The second half of the series has more of the feel of the average series book.  The earlier books have a higher page count and the text size is smaller than for other Grosset and Dunlap books.  The earlier books are extremely detailed with large amounts of text devoted to sleuthing around or making deductions.

One reason I like the second half of the series better is because of some recurring characters that are not present in the first half of the series.  Two of these characters are Mort Phillips and Ramon Gonzales.  Three books are set near or in Mexico, and Phillips appears in two of those books.  Gonzales appears in all three.

Female characters are almost completely absent from this series.  Another reason I like the second half of the series better is because several of the books feature Maribelle, who writes the society section of the newspaper.  I like Maribelle.

Most all girls' series books feature a few boy characters, even if they don't add much to the story.  Boys' books often feature a few girl characters, who, needless to say, never do much.  This series does not have girl characters.  Ken and Sandy do not know any teenage girls and never encounter any girls in their travels.  The complete absence of girls makes this a strongly masculine series. 

This month I finally discovered a few scattered online comments where one or two female readers have not liked the Ken Holt books.  Unlike those readers, I do like most of the books, but as stated, I had problems with enjoying the early books in the series.  Ken Holt is a series that strongly appeals to male readers, and apparently, most all male readers love the series.  Female readers are more likely to have lukewarm feelings towards the books and might not like them as much.

This post was written as I read the last five books in the series.  I am glad that I have worked out exactly why I feel the way I do about this series.  I enjoyed the series more this time than 4 1/2 years ago, and I can thank Rick Brant for that.  Reading Rick Brant helped get me into a more receptive mindset where I could enjoy Ken Holt better.  I think before that I overall disliked the early books and had only lukewarm feelings towards the later books.  This time I liked the early books better than before, except for the parts that dragged, and I greatly enjoyed the later books.

I believe if I ever decide read the first books a third time that I would like them even more.  It's like Ken Holt is an acquired taste for me.  I have had to adjust to them, because they a bit different than other series books.

Next up are my reviews, most of which were written before I wrote this post.  The first review will start out a little strange coming right after this post that was written a few weeks later, but I want to leave it as originally written.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Brains Benton #4 The Case of the Roving Rolls

In Brains Benton #4, The Case of the Roving Rolls, the boys try to find a missing golden vial that must be recovered for Prince Halam to ascend to the throne in the Middle Eastern country of Kassabeba.  The boys suspect that the vial has been hidden in a Rolls Royce that was sent to America at about the time that Halam's father died of mysterious causes.

Quite a few events in this book match up with the plot of the Three Investigators book, The Secret of the Silver Spider.  Brains and Jimmy search for a golden vial, while the Three Investigators search for a silver spider.  Both items are necessary in order for a man to become ruler.  Plot elements of Silver Spider were definitely copied from this book.  Silver Spider is probably my least favorite Three Investigators book by Robert Arthur.  I did not enjoy it very much.  I did enjoy The Case of the Roving Rolls, since it was more believable than Silver Spider, despite how convoluted parts of the plot were.

Brains is very annoying in this book.  I don't mind Brains' superiority as he lords it over Jimmy in the previous books, but he takes it far in this book.  Rather, the author took it too far.  Early in the book, Brains keeps telling Jimmy over and over that he knew how the Rolls drove itself in different scenes throughout several chapters.  Enough already!  Tell your partner, now!  A little suspense is fine, but this is too much.

This type of behavior continues from Brains all through the book.  In all of these books, Brains acts mysterious about his discoveries and commonly withholds telling Jimmy everything he knows.  However, he does relent fairly quickly.  In this book, he keeps dragging it out over many pages of text.  It's way more than necessary, and I found it quite obnoxious.  It should have been toned down just a bit like in the other books.

On page 101, we learn that Brains "liked to have everything all wrapped up nicely and neat as a box of candy before he started handing out solutions."  Let's see... who else is like that?  Why, Jupiter Jones!  Arthur had to have modeled his series after Brains Benton.

I enjoyed this book just a little less than the previous books due to my aggravation with Brains.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Rick Brant #24 Magic Talisman and Final Thoughts

In Rick Brant #24, The Magic Talisman, Scotty becomes reacquainted with some old friends he knew from the Marines, Derek and David Cameron, who are magicians.  The Camerons set up their magic act in an old mansion.  Their first performance is manipulated by an unknown person, so Rick and Scotty investigate.  Adding to the mystery, Jan senses a friendly presence in the mansion as well as an unfriendly one near the mansion.

I have mixed feelings about the plot.  The magic talisman's properties bother me, since I am not convinced that the talisman would have done as much as the book depicted and not so easily.  I had to ignore how I felt about the talisman.

In the early chapters of the book, I thought that the presence that Jan felt was a ghost.  I then realized that she was sensing a living person who was hidden in the mansion.  I wish that had been more clear, and I would have had less trouble with it.  I am very skeptical about the existence of ghosts.  I do not have a problem with a person sensing that more is present than is visible.

I know from personal experience that it is possible to know something that has not yet happened.  I have one instance in my life where I knew a very specific piece of information before it came to fruition.  It was quite unsettling until I came to terms with it.  So while I am a strong skeptic of the supernatural, I do know that sometimes events occur that cannot be explained through science.

I can't say that the events of this book caused me to suspend disbelief anymore than did the climax of The Scarlet Lake Mystery, so The Magic Talisman is not any less believable than the ending of that book.  The only difference is that the former deals with science and the latter with the paranormal.  

According to series book researchers, The Magic Talisman was written between Rocket Jumper and The Deadly Dutchman.  The book was rejected by Grosset and Dunlap for various reasons including the presence of ESP and magic.  When fans heard about the unpublished manuscript years later, they begged for it to be published.  It finally was published in 1990, although Hal Goodwin did make changes to what he originally wrote.  Fans do not know exactly what was changed, except that the story was changed so as to provide closure to the series.

Readers of the higher numbered Rick Brant books can make some assumptions about the future relationships of the young people, but The Magic Talisman leaves no doubt, which gives the series a definite ending.  Most series end without warning, which is what happened to the Rick Brant series in the 1960s.  It is quite neat that the author provided closure to the series more than two decades later.

I read this story via a PDF file, which I found online.  While the PDF has some words run together and a few errors, it is easy to read and a good alternative to spending a fortune for an actual copy of the book.  Some of the other high-numbered Rick Brant books can also be found online, possibly all of them.  I normally do not recommend free texts of books that are not in the public domain, but the books are not available in print copies.  I always purchase legal copies, but the only legal copies sell secondhand at rather extreme prices.

I greatly enjoyed reading the Rick Brant series.  When I made my impulsive decision to read the series, I somehow knew that I would enjoy them, and I knew that my certain belief was a bit odd.  Hmm... perhaps that was a touch of ESP on my part, since I had never been even slightly inclined to read the books.  Somehow I knew I would enjoy reading them in spite of my past lack of interest.  I was right, because I enjoyed all of them, even the stories that I didn't like quite as much.

I did not find that the books near the end of the series declined in quality.  I felt that the books remained strong.  Some of them were different, but they were still good stories.

I have mentioned that I do not have a good track record with boys' series.  I guess I can't make that blanket statement now.  I do like Rick Brant a lot, and I enjoyed the series more than I did Ken Holt.  I did like Ken Holt, but I also had problems with the books.  I will be reading the Ken Holt books again, so look for those thoughts soon.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Brains Benton #2 Counterfeit Coin and #3 Stolen Dummy

In Brains Benton #2, The Case of the Counterfeit Coin, Jimmy finds a foreign coin in his change from his newspaper customers.  Jimmy excitedly calls Brains to tell him, and while Jimmy is on the phone in the drugstore, someone tries to steal the coin!  The boys launch an investigation and discover that the coin is a counterfeit of an ancient Greek coin.

On page 33, the boys leave quickly because they are afraid that the Bentons' housekeeper, Mrs. Ray, has an errand for them.  This reminded me of all the times the Three Investigators stay away from Aunt Mathilda so that she doesn't put them to work.

I enjoyed this book.

In Brains Benton #3, The Case of the Stolen Dummy, Brains and Jimmy find a submerged vehicle in a pond.  An old dummy is hanging out of the vehicle.  The dummy once belonged to Will Parslow.  Meanwhile, someone stole $5,000 from a real estate agent's office, and Will Parslow was seen in the office that night.  Parslow is accused of the theft based on circumstantial evidence, but Brains is certain that Parslow is innocent.  The boys set out to prove it. 

On page 18, Jimmy's narration informs the reader about a recent fundraiser.  The reader is then told that Jimmy "is telling you all this for a very good reason, as you'll find out later."  It's refreshing for a series book to outright inform the reader that certain information is important.  I already knew that it was before Jimmy's statement, because every time seemingly random information is told to a reader in a series book, the information always plays a role in a later part of the story.

On page 71, Jimmy learns that Mr. Gault and his wife were murdered with a hatchet.  Ouch.  That's a bit gruesome for a series book.

In this book, a bitter old woman causes trouble.  We can all relate to that, because we've all had to deal with such people.  I live right next to some of them.

On page 105, Brains and Jimmy go looking for an obscure book for Mr. Benton.  The book is The Canaanite Period of Syrian History.  They find the book in the first store they check in a nearby town.  Right.  Just like if I go looking for an obscure series book, I will find it in the first store I check.  I wish.

On page 132, Jimmy reacts with horror to the news that a certain man is a convict, guilty of grand larceny.  He is scared to death to be around the man.  This particular man is scary, but I thought it was a bit ridiculous to be terrified of someone who was convicted of theft.

I thought this book was a pretty good mystery.  I guessed who was likely involved fairly early in the story, but the clues were not that obvious.  I also had a suspicion as to why that person was guilty, but the pieces didn't fully fall into place until near the end of the story.  This is an an engaging book.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Rick Brant #22 Deadly Dutchman and #23 Danger Below!

In Rick Brant #22, The Deadly Dutchman, Rick gets invited to a scientific conference in Europe.  Rick invites Scotty to come to Europe after the conference is over so that the two of them can take a vacation.  After Scotty arrives, he is attacked by men who want him to hand over a message.  Scotty swears that he doesn't have a message, but the men refuse to believe him.  Thus begins a most harrowing adventure for Rick and Scotty.

This book has no science.

The content is a bit dark with somewhat graphic descriptions of violence.  I cringed at one point and came close to cringing a few other times, and that usually doesn't happen to me when reading vintage series books.  This book almost fits into the modern young adult book category.

This book is a travelogue book, and I did find some of it to be more than I would have liked.  However, most of the descriptions of Holland were interesting, and I enjoyed the travelogue aspect more than I do in the average Nancy Drew travelogue.  I learned several things about Holland that I did not know.

The character of Gretchen is rather interesting.  Take this passage, for instance.
Gretchen shrugged.  "Oh, I knew you could take him, even with your hands tied.  He is too slow and stupid to get out of his own way.  And I was right, wasn't I?"

Scotty smiled weakly.  "I wish I'd had your confidence."

"If he had killed you, I would have shot him," Gretchen assured him earnestly.

Scotty stared.  "That's nice," he managed.
Gretchen is dead serious.  She makes more bloodthirsty comments in other passages.  She's a bit scary, just like much of what happens in this book.

This is a thrilling book, with a suspenseful climax.  I greatly enjoyed it.

In Rick Brant #23, Danger Below!, a hurricane bears down on Spindrift Island.  Rick and Scotty spot a man setting up a tent on the New Jersey shore.  The man claims to be a meteorologist collecting data.  Rick and Scotty find it odd that the man would be staying in a tent.  Meanwhile, a ship has to release an oil drilling platform while towing it due to stormy waters, and the platform just happens to be lost above a deep ocean trench.

I had the same feeling while reading the first two-thirds of this book as I had while reading The Wailing Octopus.  This may have more to do with the plots being centered around scuba diving than anything else, but I felt tense expectation while reading this book.  There is something about diving down in the ocean that adds suspense and makes the reader expect complications.  Rick and his friends have some very interesting and dangerous complications while scuba diving!

Unfortunately, I did not find the last one-third of the book to be as interesting.  The suspense disappeared, and the plot centered around extremely detailed technical information about deep-sea diving.  The information was too much for me, and I had to begin skimming it.  The climax of the book wasn't that interesting to me, either, and I skimmed the last few pages of the book.

The first two-thirds of this book is excellent, while I found the last one-third to be mediocre.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Brains Benton #1 The Case of the Missing Message

After I heard that the Brains Benton series is similar to the Three Investigators series, I decided to read the Brains Benton books.  The similarities are quite striking.

Barclay "Brains" Benton and James "Jimmy" Carson have their own detective agency.  Brains is "X" and Jimmy is "Operative Three."  Jimmy is the narrator.  The two boys use coded messages to communicate by telephone.  They have a secret headquarters.  Brains makes most of his equipment from junk.  The two boys have business cards.  The tone of the books matches the Three Investigators series.  I felt like I was reading a Three Investigators book.

The Brains Benton series was published before the Three Investigators series, and Jupiter Jones was clearly based on Brains Benton.  According to a letter written by Robert Arthur, Arthur's original name for Jupiter Jones was Genius Jones, which is rather similar to the name Brains Benton.

As I began reading The Case of the Missing Message, I noticed that certain events are rather similar to events that occur in The Secret of Terror Castle.  Both books open with a coded message received by telephone from Brains Benton/Jupiter Jones.  In The Secret of Terror Castle, Jupiter and Pete run away from Terror Castle, terrified.  Brains and Jimmy run away from the Madden Place in the same fashion.  Both Brains and Jupiter proclaim that they will go back the next day, much to the dismay of the other sleuth.  Jimmy uses the expression "creeps" while Pete uses "gleeps."  And if that isn't enough, Brains and Jupiter talk in the same superior fashion.

In this passage from page 71, Brains reminds me of Jupiter, and Jimmy's reaction reminds me of Pete.
"The crime lab of the Benton and Carson International Detective Agency is well equipped," Brains said loftily.  "There are sleeping accommodations as well as a small bathroom."

"And food?" the Queen said.  "Skeets will have to eat."

"My partner and I both live at home," Brains replied.  "It should not be too difficult for us to . . . ah . . . obtain the necessary provisions."

I could almost see myself pulling stuff off the kitchen shelves without Mom knowing.  Creeps!  This was going to be just great!
I greatly enjoyed this book.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Rick Brant #20 Veiled Raiders and #21 Rocket Jumper

In Rick Brant #20, The Veiled Raiders, Rick and Scotty travel to Africa with Tony Briotti.  Tony plans to check whether an archaeological find is significant enough to warrant a dig.  The three also plan to join Parnell Winston later for a satellite communications demonstration.  Rick, Scotty, and Tony end up abducted and imprisoned by an Emir who seeks vengeance against all Americans because he believes that an American fed him a pork hot dog.

I have browsed through both old and more recent discussions of the Rick Brant books, and around 15 years ago, a number of fans thought that the premise with the hot dog was farfetched and weak.  Now, many fans realize that it actually isn't farfetched at all.  Events from recent years show that this story is more realistic than fans once thought.  In fact, if the book's events were to happen right now, the Emir's reaction would likely be far stronger than how it was depicted in the book.

In The Veiled Raiders, Rick and his friends have to overcome overwhelming obstacles.  Many series books feature everything working out as expected, especially when great effort is applied.  In The Veiled Raiders, the boys experience failure over and over in spite of very detailed planning but manage to persevere in the end with great struggle.  Interestingly, some fans do not like this book because of the struggles, while this book is a great favorite of other fans.

So what do I think?  This book is awesome.  It is very engaging from start to finish.  It grabbed my attention quickly and held my attention firmly with no boring parts.  I often grow tired towards the end of books when the falling action drags, but no part of this book dragged.  I loved reading every passage in the book, so I place this book as one of the three Rick Brant books I have enjoyed the most, along with The Phantom Shark and The Wailing Octopus.

In Rick Brant #21, Rocket Jumper, Rick and Scotty go to Nevada with Dr. Winston to work on a top-secret project.  Information has leaked out about the project, and Rick and Scotty are to keep their eyes open for anything strange.  Since Dr. Winston had promised Barby and Jan that they would get to go on the next expedition, they get to go to Nevada as well.

The culprits were rather obvious in this book, but that did not take away from my enjoyment of the story.  I enjoyed trying to figure out how the culprits were getting the information.

This book is thoroughly engaging, and even some of the science is interesting as well.  I did, however, have to skim some of the scientific descriptions.  The climax of this book is quite thrilling and is among the very best in the Rick Brant series.  This is an excellent book.   

Friday, January 16, 2015

Wacky Auction Photos Part 2

Nearly three years ago, I posted some photos from eBay auctions that I found particularly amusing.  I followed up with my own parody of wacky seller photos along with advice on how sellers could impress their buyers with their photography skills.

Wacky Auction Photos

A Parody of Wacky Seller Photos

I recently compiled a bunch of photos from eBay listings.  These photos aren't particularly amusing or strange, but taken all together, they make an interesting group of photos.  It's interesting how sellers take different ordinary household items and use them to showcase the books.  My favorites are the photos that show different objects in the background, like knives and electrical cords.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Rick Brant #18 Flying Stingaree and #19 Ruby Ray Mystery

In Rick Brant #18, The Flying Stingaree, Rick and Scotty sail aimlessly in their houseboat in Chesapeake Bay with their only goal to visit Steve Ames at his home.  Rick sees a stingaree fly over their boat during a storm, and later, a stranger warns the boys not to be nosy about a certain man.  Of course the boys get involved, sensing a connection between the man and the stingaree, and soon, Steve Ames is just as engrossed in the boys' mystery.

In a bit of cross promotion, Rick asks Ken Holt for help in identifying the man in a photograph.  Likewise, Ken Holt asks Rick Brant for assistance in one of the Ken Holt books.

As with a number of the Rick Brant books, I found this book slow to get started.  The overall pace of the book is slow.  I found the climax of the book to drag a bit too much for my taste.  The events seemed to go on and on.  I enjoyed this book, but not as much as many of the others in the series.

In Rick Brant #19, The Ruby Ray Mystery, Rick and Scotty attend a scientific conference in Europe with Hartson Brant.  While at the conference, Steve Ames contacts the boys, asking them to keep an eye on one of the scientists, Dr. Keller.  He believes that Dr. Keller may be in trouble and wants the boys follow him.  This request leads Rick and Scotty on a harrowing trip across Europe.

On page 5, we learn that the word laser is "made up of the first letters of the phrase 'light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.' "  Nowadays we are so familiar with lasers that the word doesn't need to be defined.

On page 15, the boys use "knapsacks of the kind used by European schoolboys for carrying lunches and books.  The boys had purchased the knapsacks for their own use at home because they were practical and easier to carry than a bag or briefcase."  I do believe that we are talking about backpacks, which must not have been yet in vogue in 1964.

Rick and Scotty come across as full adults in this book, even though they are still described as boys.  The plot of this book is quite sophisticated and also a bit convoluted.  However, the complicated plot does not detract from the story.  This is a thoroughly engaging book.  It is interesting to see how the boys track Keller across Europe.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Offers on eBay Listings

Some buyers have a real problem with items offered on eBay with free shipping.  They don't realize that I am paying part of the shipping cost, so they don't want to purchase multiple books without receiving a discount.  I break even when multiple books are purchased.  They have received a discount on the first book ordered when I offer an item with free shipping.

Back in September, a buyer offered me $49 plus shipping for seven different books on eBay.  I did not consider the offer.  I might have considered the offer if the buyer had presented it differently.  The buyer was probably figuring a postage cost of around $6 for the seven books and was willing to pay $49 plus $6.  It would have been complicated for me to have changed the listings.  I would have had to have taken seven listings and converted the postage from free to a postage cost of $3.95 plus $0.60 for each additional listing.  I would then have had to have figured the starting prices so that this would have worked out to what the buyer wanted to pay.

Alternatively, I could have canceled the listings and made one listing with all seven books plus postage, which would have solved the problem.  However, I did not want to cancel my listings and then have to create a new listing since I am allowed a set number free listings per month.  Moreover, I did not want to have to go to any extra trouble.  If you've read a recent post where I mentioned my reluctance to spend extra time on buyer questions due to illness and stress, then you'll understand why I didn't consider setting up a new listing.  I didn't want to mess with it.  If the buyer had stipulated a set price per book, like $8.00 with shipping still set as free, there is a small chance that I might have quickly edited the seven listings to $8.00 each so that the buyer could have made a purchase.

For these particular books, I was certain that I had not overpriced these books, since they were desirable books.  When the eBay listings expired, I moved all seven books to Bonanza.  It was clear that the eBay buyers wanted me to offer them below value.  I had received previous offers on these books.

Five of the books sold immediately on Bonanza.  The books sold in two different orders on Bonanza, and the prices paid ended up being within around $0.50 each of the prices of the original listings on eBay.  I was correct that I had not overpriced the books.

In another situation, I had a complete set of Nancy Drew books, #1-56, with the double oval endpapers.  I priced the set at $295 including postage.  I knew this was a bit steep and wasn't sure if the books would sell.  One day in early December, I almost reduced the price to $275.  I decided not to do it for whatever reason.  Just a few hours later on that same day, a buyer contacted me and asked if I would take $275.  Why not?  I had almost lowered the price a few hours before, so I told the buyer that I would lower the price.

I did lower the price, but the buyer did not purchase the set.  No matter.  Five days passed, and then a different buyer purchased the set.  Around two hours after the set sold, the buyer who had asked for the lower price contacted me to ask what had happened to the set, since she was going to buy it that evening.  Unfortunately, she waited too long to make the purchase.  She should have purchased the lot on the day that she made the request.  The price of $275 was at the right level that made the lot desirable to others.   

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Rick Brant #16 Egyptian Cat Mystery and #17 Flaming Mountain

In Rick Brant #16, The Egyptian Cat Mystery, Rick and Scotty travel to Egypt with Parnell Winston.  Winston will be working on a project while the boys enjoy Egypt.  As a favor to a new acquaintance, Bartouki, Rick and Scotty take an Egyptian cat prototype with them to give to Bartouki's business partner.  The boys have trouble making the delivery, as it turns out that other men try to take the Egyptian cat away from them.

The Egyptian cat consists of lead that is covered with plastic.  Somehow the plastic makes the cat look like a reproduction of an authentic Egyptian artifact.  This is somehow an extraordinary idea, although I can't image how plastic over lead looks and feels just like sandstone.  That aside, this excellent idea is to be rushed into production in Egypt, so the boys take the statue to Egypt.  The story doesn't ring true.  I knew that the cat had to have been designed to hide something, yet the boys wonder for the entire book why the cat is important.  It's hard to enjoy a book when the protagonists, who have 15 previous adventures behind them and are seasoned detectives, act like complete idiots.

The cover art to this book is in the style of the later Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Nappi covers, which is quite different from other Rick Brant books.

I did not find this story to be engaging.  It's hard to pinpoint exactly why, but the story didn't grab me.  The main reason probably has to do with the lack of a mystery about the cat, since I knew that it had to contain something important.  I did enjoy some parts of the book greatly, but much of the book was mediocre.

In Rick Brant #17, The Flaming Mountain, the Spindrift scientists head to San Luz island to try to save it from a volcanic eruption.  Fears are increasing that a volcanic eruption is imminent, and the Spindrifters gather data in hopes of coming up with a means to prevent an eruption from destroying the island.

This book is a return to the kind of adventure that I enjoy, although I do miss Chahda.

This is an engaging book.  The solution is a bit hard to believe.  As long as the reader doesn't worry about how logical that part is, then the book is quite enjoyable.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Buyers Thinking the Wrong Book Was Sent

I had a buyer contact me, telling me that I sent her the wrong book.  She told me that she expected to receive title A, which was pictured, and instead, she received title B.  This was a Nancy Drew book.  Pretty much, I was speechless. 

You see, I know how I package my books.  I know how easy it is to pack a different copy of a title or to switch address labels, thereby sending the wrong books to two different people.  Around 16 or 17 years ago, I had a suspicion that I might have switched labels right after I packed two boxes.  I opened one, and I discovered that I had switched labels.  Around the same time, I mailed the wrong copy of a book to someone and had to have that person mail the book to the correct recipient.  Ever since those incidents, I have been careful to make sure it doesn't happen again.  I was 99.9% certain I had sent her the right book.  I am not infallible, so I could possibly have messed up.

This is how I pack my books.  I find the title that was purchased.  To make certain that I have the right copy of the right book, I bring up the listing and get the picture enlarged.  I hold the book and compare it to the picture.  I make sure that both have the same wear patterns.  As long as I can find some blemishes, even very tiny ones, that match exactly, I know I have the same book.  Sometimes I discover that I have picked up the wrong book and have to go back to find another.  When I am satisfied that I have the correct book, I pack the book with the packing slip from that listing.  I make sure that I click on the "print label" link from that listing.  I completely finish sealing the box and applying the label before I begin on the next package.  That's why I was 99.9% certain I had mailed the right book.

I looked at the listing and thought about it.  This isn't always the case, but I remembered packing that book.  I won't get into the details, but there is a specific reason I remember.  It has to do with when I was checking for wear patterns and looking over the listing.  I knew I had packed that book a week before.  I had mailed out no copies anytime in recent weeks of the title the buyer said she received.  I couldn't have mailed the book she received.

I told the buyer that I was certain I had mailed the right book and asked for a picture of what she received.  I also told the buyer my name and asked if my name was on a packing slip inside the package.  Meanwhile, I continued thinking about the book.  There was still a chance I could have screwed up.  I thought of one possibility.  I had a stack of Nancy Drew books on the floor that had been there since around the time that I packed this book.  There was a slight chance that I could have somehow switched the book with one from that stack.  I still had the books stacked, so I brought up the listing from which they were purchased and compared the books to the listing.  The books were all there, and the book I was supposed to mail was not in the stack.  I had to have mailed the right book.

Shortly, the buyer sent me a picture of an envelope with another seller's name on it along with a UK edition Nancy Drew book.  I told her that the seller was not me, because we have different names and live in different states.  The buyer told me that she had begun to wonder after she received my response giving my name, which was different from the sender's name.  She agreed that I didn't send her that package.  That was the end of it.

I probably have around one buyer per year tell me that I sent the wrong book.  The situation always gets resolved when they figure out that they have confused me with another seller.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Rick Brant #14 Pirates of Shan and #15 Blue Ghost Mystery

In Rick Brant #14, The Pirates of Shan, Howard Shannon and Tony Briotti have disappeared while on an expedition in the Sulu Sea.  Rick, Scotty, and Zircon travel to the Philippines to see if they can find the missing scientists.  They soon learn that the Pirates of Shan are likely responsible for abducting the scientists and that the pirates are formidable opponents!

This book reads like a companion novel to The Golden Skull since the setting is once again the Philippines along with the surrounding area and includes some of the same characters from that book.

I thought that Chahda's English pronunciation took a nosedive in this book.  Why make him seem more stupid?  Speaking of Chahda, this was the last book to feature him.  Some people have theorized that perhaps the changing times caused Chahda to be dropped from the series because of the racial stereotyping.

This is possible, since The Pirates of Shan was published in 1958.  The last Nancy Drew book to have obvious racial stereotyping was The Haunted Showboat, which was copyrighted 1957. 

This book has no science and is purely adventure.

In one scene, Rick carefully avoids killing a pirate and finds a way to knock him out.  In another scene, Rick and Scotty shoot pirates with a rifle and arrows.  While the reader does not know for sure, it is implied that some pirates die.  It's a bit strange for Rick to go to great lengths to avoid killing a pirate and then go on an apparent killing spree later in the book.

As always, the beginning of the book has much expository information, although it did not drag as much for me as in some other books.  It is at about page 63 that the main action truly begins, and the book is quite fast-paced from that point on.

This book is quite good.

In Rick Brant #15, The Blue Ghost Mystery, Barby and Jan beg the boys to come investigate the ghost that appears near the Millers' property in Virginia.  The ghost of a Union soldier appears nightly near the old mine.  Rick and Scotty believe that the ghost is a hoax and set out to prove it.

This is another of those stories where a ghost is used to frighten people.  I find it hard to believe that everyone would have been frightened away from a campsite because of a ghost sighting.  Nowadays, everyone would flock to the campsite with their cell phones waiting to take pictures of the ghost so that they could post the pictures on Facebook.

While I enjoyed this book, I did not find this story to be very compelling.  It was enjoyable, but in some places I felt like the story dragged. 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

German Three Investigators Master of Death and Final Thoughts

In Master of Death, the Three Investigators take part in the filming of a short drama for a school project.  The students find an old house to use for filming.  The owner informs the Three Investigators that they must not touch the puppets or disturb the chalk line that serves as a magical barrier.  The puppets are cursed, and if the barrier is broken then the students will be in grave danger.

Ooh, this sounds spooky!  M. V. Carey would have come up with a plot like this one.

On page 43, it is stated that a 400 year old puppet is not that valuable.  I find it strange how often in the Three Investigators series that very old items are said not to be valuable.

I greatly enjoyed this book.

The German Three Investigators books fall between the Crimebusters series and the original Three Investigators series as to how good the books are.  Some titles are as good as the original series.

This is how I rank the books.  I have indicated the condensed books in green.


The Haunted Ship
Valley of Horror
Evil Games
Ghost Train
Ghost Village
Soccer Trap

The books I ranked as outstanding are as good as the original Three Investigators books.  In particular, The Haunted Ship, Valley of Horror, and Ghost Train are not only as good as the original series but have the same atmosphere as the original series.  These three books hit the mark quite well and are actually better than some books in the original series, such as the higher-numbered ones.

Very Good:

Hidden Fouls
The Curse of the Cell Phone
Mysterious Testament

Pharoah's Message
Pirate's Curse
Vampire City 
Master of Death

These books are a step down from the previous group, but they are still quite good and are above average.  My two favorites from this group are Pirate's Curse and Vampire City.


Poisoned E-Mail 
Dangerous Quiz Show
Canyon of Demons 
Black Madonna 
Soccer Mania
Web Phantom

The "good" books can also be considered borderline mediocre.

Did not like:

Soccer Gangsters
Hollywood Horrors

Arctic Adventure
Bite of the Beast

This last group is mediocre or not good.  Hollywood Horrors is the only one in this group that was not shortened for the English translation.  The condensed books tend not to be as good as the ones that were not shortened.

The books in the German series are uneven in quality, like the higher-numbered books from the original series.  Some books are excellent while others are not as good.  The premise also varies somewhat depending upon who wrote the books.  Some books mention Bob having lots of girlfriends, while other books have the boys using chalk like in the early books from the original series.

Overall, the German books are worth reading.

Friday, January 2, 2015

My 2014 Book Year in Review

I have always used reading as escapism, and I become an unusually voracious reader during times of great stress, particularly when the stress is caused by a physical ailment.  I didn't realize as 2014 began that it would be a year of great stress and illness and that I would use books as escapism to a greater degree than I ever have in my entire life. 

I began 2014 reading In the End, the second volume in Tracey Ward's Quarantined dystopian series.  I quickly followed by reading Zombie Attack! Rise of the Horde by Devan Sagliani and then Erased by Jennifer Rush.

My next task was forcing myself to continue reading the Nancy Drew Digest books.  I had taken a long break to read the dystopian novels that I just mentioned in addition to a good many others that I read at the end of 2013.  I had been sidetracked from the Nancy Drew Digests for at least two months.  I resumed my reading of the books with #92 The Ghost of Craven Cove on approximately January 19.

I became sick around January 28 or January 29.  I didn't realize immediately how sick I was.  I gradually figured it out over the next week as I made some very unusual errors, including leaving an electric skillet on and the deletion of a not-yet-published blog post on February 1.  Ugh.  I had to quickly rewrite the deleted post from memory, and I know parts didn't get rewritten.  Fortunately, I was able to recreate it pretty well.

I got worse and had to miss work on February 4.  I made it to work on February 5 and later realized that had been a bad idea.  I was relieved when school was closed on February 6 and 7 due to snow, giving me a four-day weekend.  I was not well.  I was somewhat better the next week, and my illness lingered for around a month.

Meanwhile, I read and read Nancy Drew books.  I finished #175 in the Nancy Drew Digest series on March 22.  I observed that even though I was over my illness that I was quite rundown and not well.  So I kept reading.

I acquired two pieces of advertising memorabilia in March, one new and one old.


Also in March, I first learned about the Valerie Drew stories.

I read through the entire Nancy Drew Girl detective series, finishing on May 10.  After I finished the Girl Detective series, I read the Nancy Drew Diaries books.  I then read Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull and played the Nancy Drew game, The Shattered Medallion.

I began the Three Investigators series around May 20 and finished around July 16 or 17.  Meanwhile, I wasn't feeling that great in June and July with a bunch of symptoms that could have been anything.  I didn't realize it until much later, but I was in rather bad shape.  The Three Investigators helped me during that time.  I decided to catalog my collection in July, and you wouldn't believe how fast I went. I was miserable.  I felt bad and stressed out because of how awful I felt, and I didn't know what was wrong with me.

I read the Three Investigators Crimebusters books from around July 17 to August 4 and followed up with the German Three Investigators books from August 5 through September 20.  During this time I was quite ill and was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.  I received medication, and as my body adjusted, I went through six weeks of feeling worse with bad reactions.

I only mention this because it has had a profound effect on me and should explain some remarks I have made.  I mentioned in July that I had "motivational issues that I need to overcome."  That is one of the symptoms.  This is also why I have been terse when answering questions and why I have skipped some details when listing books online.  I have managed to do everything I normally do, but I have had to figure out how to do things in an easier, quicker fashion.  I expect myself to perform my duties at or as near as possible to 100% regardless of any hardship. 

I got over the bad reactions but then cold and flu season began.  I began to catch one virus after another beginning in the middle of September.  I also had dental work that didn't go well resulting in intense pain that lasted for an entire month.  Bad toothaches are awful.  So I had to keep reading and reading.  I also ate lots of chocolate ice cream.  Reading and ice cream go great together.

After I finished the German Three Investigators books, I read The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey and Tearing Down the Wall by Tracey Ward.  I read the follow-up book to the Parallel Trilogy by Christine Kersey.  I played the Nancy Drew game, Labyrinth of Lies.

I read the entire Rick Brant series from early October through December 11.  I immediately followed up with the six books in the Brains Benton series and the six Power Boys books.  I felt worse in December, a cumulative effect of having caught around 10 viruses since early September.  Must...keep...reading.

On December 31, I received a higher dose of medication.  2015 begins with my body starting the adjustment process to the new dosage, and I will probably resume catching viruses once school starts back in a few days.  Meanwhile, I started reading Ken Holt #1 on December 30 and will hopefully read through the Ken Holt series during the next month unless I get sidetracked onto something else.  I have read the Ken Holt books before, and I want to see how Ken Holt compares to Rick Brant.

The beginning of 2015 will be like 2014 for me.  This is good for all of you, since my reading pace will not slow anytime soon.  For the next couple of weeks, I plan to schedule some posts closer together so that I can reduce the number of posts in the queue.  My reading has been so rapid that I have many posts already written.

I read at least 262 books in 2014.  I might have read one or two more.