Monday, June 29, 2015

Biff Brewster #8 Caribbean Pearls and #9 Egyptian Scarab Mystery

In Biff Brewster #8, Mystery of the Caribbean Pearls, Biff travels to the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean at the request of Uncle Charlie.  During Biff's flight, he meets another boy, Derek, who looks just like Biff.  Once the plane lands, Biff is abducted after the villains mistake him for Derek.  The villains are seeking the location of a pearl fishery found by Derek's father.

During this book, the inconsistencies caused by the series having multiple authors become apparent to the reader.  At the beginning of this book, Biff's mother refers to Charles Keene and the difficult situation in China from the second book rather than what just happened to Biff and his uncle in Mystery of the Ambush in India.  On page seven we learn that Biff has only heard from Uncle Charlie once since China, and that was in a letter.  What about Mystery of the Ambush in India?!  Biff just flew on a plane with Charlie!  These inconsistencies were caused by several different authors writing these books simultaneously.  This thirteen book series was published in just five years.

It's so strange that Biff has a double who happens to be the son of the man Uncle Charlie is helping.  It's a bit too convenient.

Biff is an idiot in this book.  He puts forth great effort in getting away from the villains who think he is Derek.  So what does Biff do?  He goes right back to the villains while pretending to be Derek, thinking the villains will have a chat with him and then let him go.  Biff's purpose is to delay the villains.  Of course Biff is imprisoned, and he can't believe that he and his uncle didn't think of the possibility of the villains keeping Biff prisoner.  Um, they were trying to capture Biff while thinking he was Derek.  Why wouldn't they keep Biff when he goes back pretending to be Derek?

Later, Uncle Charlie shows up to rescue Biff.  Biff invites Charlie to join him as a prisoner.  Yes, you just read that right.  Biff enjoys being a prisoner and wants Charlie to join him!  Biff is actually using a ploy to gain the trust of a simpleminded man, but the events are too stupid.

I enjoyed the travelogue information in this book, especially about the 1902 volcanic eruption.  I took a moment to look up the story of the eruption, as I found it quite interesting.

I greatly enjoyed most of this book, despite how stupid parts of the plot are.  If the book had been edited a bit or partially rewritten, it would have been outstanding.

In Biff Brewster #9, Egyptian Scarab Mystery, Biff and his father travel to Egypt, where they search for the lost tomb of Prince Reth.  Biff is given a scarab for luck before he leaves for Egypt.  Strange men follow Biff around and try to thwart the Brewsters' plan.

I don't get why a valuable scarab was given to Biff.  It plays a minor role in the plot, but it isn't that important.  The result is that this book seems to have come from a rough idea that was not fleshed out properly.  The book is rather forgettable, and I had forgotten most of it by the time I finished reading the Biff Brewster series just days later.

A few parts of the book have too much travelogue information in them, although I greatly enjoyed other parts.  This book is mixed, where I liked some parts and didn't like other parts.  Unfortunately, the book has more parts that I do not like.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Nancy Drew Game: Sea of Darkness

The 32nd title in the Nancy Drew game series by Her Interactive, Sea of Darkness, was released in May.

I had trouble getting into Sea of Darkness.  The beginning seemed boring to me.  Nancy arrives in Iceland rather abruptly, and I had no reason to care about Captain Magnus.  He was missing, and Nancy was supposed to find him.

In the early part of the game, I did not enjoy talking to the characters.  I did not like the setting.  I played a little bit of the game, then I continued reading Biff Brewster.  The last few Biff Brewster books were not as enjoyable as the earlier ones, but I was more interested in reading them than in playing this game.  That's not typical for me when I have a new Nancy Drew game.

It was a week after I received the game and had started playing it again that I finally got far enough into the game to find it somewhat interesting.  At this point, I reflected that my lack of interest reminded me of how I felt about Trail of the Twister, which may be my least favorite Nancy Drew game.

The more I played, the more I enjoyed the game.  I did enjoy the second half of the game about as much as the average Nancy Drew game.

I do believe that the main reason for my lack of interest was me and not anything to do with the game.  I was quite stressed around the time I received the game and was not feeling well.  I had mental and physical fatigue, so I was not able to appreciate the game.  That colored my opinion of the game as I began playing it.

However, the very beginning of the game could have been a little more interesting.  It would have helped for the game to have opened with a small scene showing Magnus before he disappeared and showing the ship's arrival at the dock. I felt a total disconnect with Magnus and cared not in the slightest whether Nancy Drew ever found him.

That aside, this game is just like the average Nancy Drew game.  Players can expect another solid Nancy Drew game experience.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Biff Brewster #6 Alaska Ghost Glacier and #7 Ambush in India

In Biff Brewster #6, Alaska Ghost Glacier Mystery, Biff and his father journey to the mine inside the Alaska Ghost Glacier.  A valuable radioactive substance has been discovered at the mine, and Mr. Brewster has been brought in to help.  Enemies of the project seek to prevent the Brewsters from arriving at the mine.  Their plane is sabotaged, and a time bomb has been planted on board.

The action starts quickly in this book with very little expository information.  Biff and Mr. Brewster are in danger from the very beginning and face one threat after another.

The mine is inside the glacier, which makes for a unique setting.  The tunnels in the mine burrow through ice, and coverings have been placed on the sides of the tunnels and on the walls of the rooms inside the mine to insulate them.

On page 75, an old man tells Biff the story of how something "started in '98."  This is the first time I have read an old series book where for just the slightest moment I thought of 1998 and of how 1998 is now far enough ago to be plausible in this context.  Of course in this book, the year referenced is 1898.

On page 78, Biff is "only half listening to the Eskimo's rapid travelogue."  Thank goodness.  The text then gives the reader a very brief mention of the sights, and I greatly appreciated the brevity.  This book depicts Alaska in an interesting fashion that does not get bogged down on lengthy descriptions of historical information. 

This book is unusual in that three people are killed near the end of the story.  Additionally, the book implies that the miner's ghost does linger inside the glacier.  As the book concludes, Biff tells his friend that he now believes the superstition.

This book is outstanding.  The story flows well and is quite suspenseful from start to finish.  The reason I read series books is for books like this one.  It is perfect.

In Mystery of the Ambush in India, Biff arrives in India with his friends, Kamuka and Likake.  Soon, Biff is tasked with safekeeping a priceless ruby, which he must take to the Chonsi Lama.  A new friend, Chandra, helps Biff in his journey.  Later, Biff meets up with Uncle Charlie, Mike, Muscles, and Chuba, who provide additional assistance.

On page 100, Biff chances to meet Mike, who just happens to be looking for Biff because his father just managed to run into Mr. Brewster in India. Consider that India had a population of 462 million in 1962, and these acquaintances just happen to find each other.

On page 105, Biff wishes his uncle, Charlie Keene, were there to fly him to his destination.  Promptly, we learn that Uncle Charlie has been called to India.  How convenient!

Having most of Biff's friends from other countries show up in India is very hard to believe and detracts from the story.  Most of them were invited to come, so that is why they appear, but it is not logical that they would all be able to afford to come.  This also makes for too many characters, and I found that most of them do very little.  Their presence is distracting. 

Two of Biff's friends are used as bait for a tiger, which is just amazing.  The boys somehow agree to be the bait inside a cage while others hope to shoot the tiger when it attacks.  Of course, the tiger does not cooperate, and several people end up in grave danger.

I greatly enjoyed a small part of this book.  Regarding the rest of the book, I enjoyed some parts and found some parts to be a little boring.  The travelogue aspect was too significant for this book, and that took away from my enjoyment.  I also felt that there were a few too many names and people of which to keep track.  Having all of Biff's friends around was a bit confusing.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Final Thoughts on the Cherry Ames Series

I owned a Cherry Ames set for around eight years, intending to get around to reading them.  I had trouble getting motivated, because the books never appealed to me.  I am not overly fond of Vicki Barr; the books are okay but not stories that I greatly enjoyed.  I have always suspected that I would rank Cherry Ames about the same as Vicki Barr. 

On this page, I ranked the different series books that I had read up to that time.  I suspected that Cherry Ames would get ranked a "1" like Vicki Barr.  Now that I have read the series, I can report that I was correct.  I rank Cherry Ames somewhere between Vicki Barr and Melody Lane on my list.  For me personally, this is a below average series.

The Cherry Ames series has many fans but is not my type of series.  The books are not bad, but they are not the kind of books that I greatly enjoy.  The books are too sentimental and get hung up on great detail.  I am not interested in nursing, so the detailed descriptions of nursing practices were not of interest to me.

It didn't help that I didn't like most of the people who are important to Cherry.  I especially didn't like Dr. Joe or Midge.  Midge outright annoyed me.  I didn't even feel much for Cherry's family.  I strongly disliked Cherry's first suitor, Lex.  I also didn't like her second suitor, Wade.  I only slightly liked most of her later suitors.  Cherry's nursing friends were okay, but I didn't like them much, either.

Cherry doubts her abilities in book after book.  It's logical in the first few books, but by volume 10, Cherry's lack of confidence is ridiculous.  This is particularly jarring during the Julie Tatham books.  I suspect that Tatham read the early Cherry Ames books and modeled her books after those.

I found Cherry's constant job-switching to be quite annoying by halfway through the series.  I feel like the series would have been stronger if Cherry had stayed with a few of her jobs for more than one book.  Cherry's nursing jobs all seem very important to her.  If so, why does she abandon them so easily?

I noticed strange changes in the series towards the later books, and I have to question whether Helen Wells really did write all of the later books that were credited to her.  The changes make Cherry Ames seem more like Nancy Drew.

Several higher-numbered books mention Cherry going to church.  There is no reason to mention church anymore than there is reason to mention Cherry going to the bathroom.  Most all series books never mention restroom needs, other than baths or showers.  Even though series book characters don't use the bathroom, they do go to church, at least in some Grosset and Dunlap books of the 1960s.  This is most prominent in the Nancy Drew series, so I was interested to see it appear in some Cherry Ames books.

When church is mentioned, it is usually just a single sentence, and it has nothing to do with the plot of the book.  It's like mentioning church was a requirement of the books at that time, just like with the higher-numbered Nancy Drew books.

By #24, the series fell in line with the other Grosset and Dunlap books of the 1960s.  I have to wonder how much editing was done on the books.  #24 is eerily similar to other Grosset and Dunlap travelogue books of the 1960s.  I would have thought that the book was a product of the Stratemeyer Syndicate if I didn't know better.  #24 uses the word "swarthy" more than once.  I don't recall this word from any earlier Cherry Ames books.  Did an editor place "swarthy" in the book, or did someone other than Helen Wells write the book?

Here's what I thought of the books.

Greatly enjoyed and wouldn't mind reading again:

 8. Visiting Nurse
 9. Cruise Nurse
13. Clinic Nurse
14. Dude Ranch Nurse
15. Rest Home Nurse
17. Boarding School Nurse
22. Rural Nurse

Enjoyed but probably wouldn't read again:

 1. Student Nurse
 2. Senior Nurse
 6. Veterans' Nurse
 7. Private Duty Nurse
12. Mountaineer Nurse
16. Country Doctor's Nurse
18. Department Store Nurse
20. At Hilton Hospital
23. Staff Nurse

Did not enjoy:

 3. Army Nurse
 4. Chief Nurse
 5. Flight Nurse
10. At Spencer
11. Night Supervisor
19. Camp Nurse
21. Island Nurse
24. Companion Nurse
25. Jungle Nurse
26. Mystery in the Doctor's Office
27. Ski Nurse Mystery

I see this series as divided into three parts:  the early Helen Wells books, the Julie Tatham books, and the later Helen Wells books.

Early Helen Wells:  #1-8
Julie Tatham: #9*-16
Later Helen Wells:  #17-27

*#9 was credited to Wells but was written by Tatham.

Let's see if there's any pattern as to which books I liked the best.

Early Helen Wells:  greatly enjoyed one book, enjoyed four books, and disliked three books

Julie Tatham:  greatly enjoyed four books, enjoyed two books, and disliked two books

Later Helen Wells:  greatly enjoyed two books, enjoyed three books, and disliked six books

My opinion is mixed for all parts of the series.  It looks like Julie Tatham has the edge, although I didn't like all of her books.  I definitely dislike the later books in the series the most. 

I am going to sell a good many of the books in my set.  I only bought these books to try, never expecting to like them greatly.  My experience was about what I expected, although I did enjoy some books greatly.  I plan to keep the books I enjoyed greatly plus some of the books I overall enjoyed.  I will sell all of the books that I didn't enjoy.


Right after I finished writing the previous part of this post, I began reading Biff Brewster #2.  I had tried reading Biff Brewster just before beginning Cherry Ames and found that I couldn't get interested in reading #1 again.  I decided that since I didn't especially enjoy reading Cherry Ames that trying Biff Brewster again might actually work, as in I might be more receptive to the series than previously.

I noticed a great feeling of relief as I read Biff Brewster #2, and that feeling strengthened as I began reading Biff Brewster #3.  I didn't enjoy every single part of the two books, but I enjoyed them far more than most of the Cherry Ames series.  This made me realize how difficult it was for me to get through all of the Cherry Ames set, more so than I realized as I read the books.

In conclusion, most of the middle part of the Cherry Ames set, which includes some books by both Tatham and Wells, was a pleasure to read.  The last part of the set was a bit torturous, and the first part of the set was also fairly difficult for me to enjoy.  Now that I have moved on to another series, I have decided that I will likely sell most of my Cherry Ames books.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Cherry Ames Doctor's Office and Ski Nurse Mystery

In Cherry Ames #26, The Mystery in the Doctor's Office, Cherry takes a position in a doctor's office.  Soon after Cherry's arrival, she begins to wonder whether the medical secretary, Irene Wick, is up to something.

Here we go again with another book with a lengthy and detailed description of another doctor's office.  I am long past being bored with these books, and I now simply want it to be over.

I wasn't interested in the book until around one-third of the way into the story.  It was obvious from the beginning of the book who the likely culprit would be once Cherry discovered what the mystery was.  However, there was no mystery for the first one-third of the book, so I was quite bored.  Finally, the mystery begins with the suspect as expected, and I enjoyed the story from that point on.

That is... I enjoyed most of the remainder of the story.  The book has a subplot involving some theater people that bored me.  I skimmed everything having to do with the subplot. 

In Cherry Ames #27, Ski Nurse Mystery, Cherry works as a nurse in the mountains of Switzerland.  This book did not interest me at  all.  I skimmed the first half of the book, then I quit reading the book halfway through.  I couldn't finish it.

The plot of this book gets started faster than some of the other books, but it wasn't interesting.  The characters are flat and uninteresting. I didn't care about anything.

We learn on page 19 that Cherry speaks some Italian and French.  When did this happen?  It's like she's morphing into Nancy Drew with all of Nancy's abilities.  However, it is stated that Cherry "struggles" in other languages, so she isn't perfect like Nancy Drew.  Still, it's interesting that the reader only now learns that Cherry can speak other languages.

On page 23, the doctor tells the patient, "It's a good thing you didn't hurt your right hand.  That would be inconvenient."  The patient then informs the doctor that he is left-handed.  This is only mentioned because the man's left-handedness is important to the plot.  However, the passage jumped out at me since I am left-handed.  I found it interesting that the doctor naturally assumes that the patient is right-handed.  This reminded me of how society has always looked down on left-handed people.  It's not so bad now as before, but during the first part of the 20th century, many parents forced left-handed children to use their right hands.  Even during the last ten years, I have had people suggest that I will have a shorter life because I am left-handed and will die from an accident.  The old wives' tales still linger.

I noticed as I read this and other higher-numbered Cherry Ames books that some characters have surnames that match series names published by Grosset and Dunlap.  A character named "Swift" appears on page one of this book.  This character was in the very first book and was one of Cherry's nursing friends.  I recall noticing it but not thinking much of it.  In recent books, character names have included "Drew," "Holt," and "Hardy." Only one such name appears per book, usually mentioned just one time in the book. I might have missed other names, since it was not until a book mentioned the "Drew girls" that I took notice, thinking it strange.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Biff Brewster #4 Mexican Treasure and #5 African Ivory Mystery

In Biff Brewster #4, Mystery of the Mexican Treasure, Biff's family has driven down to Mexico City where Mr. Brewster is helping with a mining project.  Someone is masquerading as Tizoc, an Aztec ruler, and is using his influence to pull local workers away from the mine.

On page 109, "enchiladas de pollo" are described as "Mexican pancakes stuffed with chicken."  Nowadays, we all know what an enchilada is, and we would hardly describe it as a pancake.

Biff and Mike infiltrate a meeting organized by Tizoc.  The problem is that the boys go in their regular clothes instead of dressing themselves in white like the other men.  They knew the day before that the men dress in white, and I find it strange that the boys make no effort to imitate their clothing.  As you can guess, this infiltration does not end well for the boys.

The Tizoc masquerade somewhat reminded me of the Three Investigators book, The Mystery of the Dancing Devil, which means that I found it silly at first.  Later, I decided that the Tizoc situation was rather believable.  The resolution to the mystery is not quite what the reader expects, so the climax of the story is quite thrilling.  Since the resolution was unexpected, I found the wrap-up of the mystery to be quite interesting.  

In African Ivory Mystery, Biff arrives in Kenya to join his uncle, Warren Becker, on a safari.  Biff learns that he is to aid his uncle in uncovering evidence against an ivory-smuggling ring.  The safari is led by the White Hunter, Mathews.  Another man, Wendell Henderson, joins the safari.  Henderson turns out to be a disagreeable man who views the natives as savages.

I greatly enjoyed this book.  It has everything you would expect in a series book set in Africa including quicksand, dangerous encounters with wild animals, and smugglers.

The book is suspenseful, because several of the participants in the safari behave suspiciously.

The book covers an important issue, the slaughter of elephants for their tusks.  The Brewsters are helping Interpol find the smugglers.  The hope is that by apprehending the smugglers that the sell of ivory can be slowed down, thus saving the elephant herds.  The issue continues to be of utmost importance today, since elephants continue to be slaughtered at an alarming rate, and most elephant species are now endangered.

The book depicts the slaughter of animals as unnecessary and heinous.  The safari happens upon a number of slaughtered carcasses, and Biff feels keenly the plight of the elephants.  More sensitive readers may find the content to be a bit disturbing.

I greatly enjoyed this book.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Cherry Ames Companion Nurse and Jungle Nurse

In Cherry Ames #24, Cherry Ames, Companion Nurse, Cherry travels to the United Kingdom as the nurse of a famous author, Martha Logan.  Martha plans to tour several museums and exhibits in her research for her latest book.  Valuable artwork is stolen, and Cherry begins to suspect one of their new acquaintances.

This book is a travelogue that features an art heist.  This tired-out plot has been used in so many different series books.  During my reading of the Cherry Ames series, I detected a shift in the books beginning with this title.  This book reads like a generic travelogue 1960s Grosset and Dunlap book that is not as good as earlier books.  The book is similar to Ken Holt #18, The Mystery of the Sultan's Scimitar.  The story also reminds me of a good many of the Nancy Drew books from #41 and up and of the higher-numbered Judy Bolton books.  In short, Cherry Ames, Companion Nurse is missing something, just like most of the other books I just mentioned.

In Cherry Ames #25, Cherry Ames, Jungle Nurse, Cherry travels to Kenya to work as a nurse in a remote village.  And she does some nursing stuff and then discovers that diamonds are being smuggled out of the hospital.  What an original plot!

This book starts out as a blatant travelogue.  It's sad how the Grosset and Dunlap books switched to travelogues in the 1960s.  It's not just one series but all of them!  Unfortunately, that makes most of the books rather boring in comparison to the earlier books from all of the series.

The book gets a little bit better once Cherry arrives in Africa, but I still found the text to be flat and uninteresting.  I didn't care about or even like most of the characters. 

On pages 22 and 33, the word "swarthy" is used to describe somebody.  "Swarthy" is used commonly in Grosset and Dunlap books, but I have not seen it in the Cherry Ames books.  Did Wells write this book, or did someone else?

In the 1980s, it was learned that Vicki Barr #16, The Mystery of the Brass Idol, was written by Walter B. Gibson.  The book is credited to Helen Wells, but a manuscript written by Gibson was found by a collector.  If Wells didn't write the last Vicki Barr book, then a possibility exists that she might not have written all of the final Cherry Ames books.

Assuming that Wells did write this book, I believe that Grosset and Dunlap had a far greater role in determination of content than previously.  It wouldn't surprise me if an editor inserted "swarthy" into the text.  Furthermore, these books fit the cookie-cutter mold of all the other Grosset and Dunlap books of the 1960s.

On page 84, Cherry shows the villagers how to plant flowers, like they have no idea how to plant anything.  I find it a strange assumption that no one in Kenya would know how to plant flowers.  Also, wouldn't vegetables be more helpful than flowers?  It seems silly.

I found this book rather boring.  The villains are obvious, and it doesn't take the reader long at all to figure out how they are smuggling diamonds out of the area.  This book has no suspense at all.  I skimmed a lot of the book.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Biff Brewster #2 Chinese Ring and #3 Hawaiian Sea Hunt

I read the first Biff Brewster book, Brazilian Gold Mine Mystery, several years ago.  I intended to read through all 13 books, but I lost interest.  I overall enjoyed the first book but not enough to want to continue.  Earlier this year, I tried to read the first book again, once again intending to read all 13 books.  I couldn't get through the book, because I remembered the villain and was uninterested in reading the text again.  I then decided to read Cherry Ames.  Once I finished Cherry Ames, I decided to try to read Biff Brewster again, mainly because Cherry Ames didn't go that well.  Since I had just completed a lackluster reading experience, I felt that the time was perfect for reading another series that might prove to be difficult.  This time I didn't make the mistake of trying to read the first book again, which is why I don't have a review of it.

In Biff Brewster #2, Mystery of the Chinese Ring, a rock, with a Chinese ring attached to it, is thrown through Biff's bedroom window.  Biff wonders if the ring has anything to do with his upcoming trip to Burma to visit his uncle.  When Biff arrives in Burma, he learns that his uncle flew into China a few weeks ago and has not returned!  Biff and his new friend, Chuba, journey into China in search of Biff's uncle.

This book reminds me a lot of the Rick Brant books featuring Chahda.  The adventure is similar, and Chuba's personality is similar to Chahda's.  Since this book reminds me of Rick Brant, I greatly enjoyed reading it.

I grew bored around the climax of the book.  I saw parts of it as somewhat ridiculous.  For instance, Biff's Uncle Charlie has been prisoner for a month; yet, he has cigarettes and lights one.  Also, Chuba doesn't speak English that well but he can make statements like "little brook fed by spring."

In Biff Brewster #3, Hawaiian Sea Hunt Mystery, Biff and his family travel to Hawaii.  A scientist has disappeared, and Mr. Brewster fears that someone is after a valuable cache of Cesium.  Biff and his father hope to find Dr. Weber and the clue to the location of the Cesium before it is too late.

On page 50, Mr. Brewster concludes that Biff is in danger because the villains believe Biff knows as much as Dr. Weber did.  Mr. Brewster then decides that he can't tell Biff the secret, because it would endanger Biff.  This reasoning bewilders me.  Mr. Brewster doesn't tell Biff the secret to keep him safe, but he believes that the villains already think Biff knows.  What difference does it make?  As is typical of series books, Biff is soon told the secret.

On page 93, a bomb is found on the boat.  Mr. Brewster is certain it will be okay for him to inspect the bomb because he knows it won't go off.  Wow.  Mr. Brewster has clearly never visited Nancy Drew in River Heights, where bombs always go off and usually rather quickly.  Mr. Brewster seems a bit overconfident and to be lacking good judgment.  On the other hand, the bomb doesn't go off, proving Mr. Brewster to be correct in his assumption. 

I enjoyed both of these books.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cherry Ames Rural Nurse and Staff Nurse

In Cherry Ames #22, Cherry Ames, Rural Nurse, Cherry becomes the county nurse for a county in rural southeastern Iowa.  Cherry soon learns that many of her patients are taking a homemade remedy for illness.  The remedy is made from ginseng, and Cherry suspects that the source is a local abandoned farm.  Cherry suspects that the remedy is making her patients ill, and an investigation is launched.

As typical with the Cherry Ames books, the story is a little slow to get started, although still interesting from the beginning.  Once the plot completely develops, the story is quite engaging.  I read this book quickly and greatly enjoyed it.

In Cherry Ames #23, Cherry Ames, Staff Nurse, Cherry is back at Hilton Hospital.  One of the patients, Peggy Wilmot, has been investing large sums of money in the Pell Plan.  Peggy receives payments of 10% on her investment each week.  Cherry suspects that the Pell Plan is some type of fraud, and she searches for answers.

This book is very slow to get started.  A lot of text is devoted to the extensive training of the Jayvees, Midge and her friends, who are volunteering at the hospital.  I was so very bored and skimmed almost everything having to do with the Jayvees.  For instance, I didn't find it interesting to learn how the Jayvees are supposed to answer the phone. 

Slowly, we learn about Peggy and how Pell might be defrauding her.  I gradually became interested as more information was revealed.

I couldn't help thinking of Pell Grants the entire time I read this book.  Pell Grants were created in 1965.  This book is from 1962.  I think if this book had been written a decade later that a name other than Pell would have been used. 

The last chapter bored me.  I get tired of books that spend many pages telling the reader in great detail exactly how the villain perpetrated his crimes.  We actually already know the main details.  We don't need a lengthy play-by-play.  I skimmed the last chapter.

I enjoyed most of the second half of this book.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Book Buying Dilemmas

Book prices have fallen precipitously since the summer of 2008.  Quite a buying frenzy occurred that summer due to one buyer.  I made the following statement in 2009.
Remember the buying frenzy of the summer of 2008? Gosh, those were such great times! We could list anything for a high price, and she would buy it! For those who don't know what I mean, a certain buyer was buying approximately $20,000 worth of series books per month for around three months on eBay in the summer of 2008. She paid $50 to $100 for $5 books. She paid $500 for $100 books. She paid $1,000 or more for $300 to $500 books. She won just about all auctions she bid on because of her huge bids. Months later we learned that she had stolen several hundred thousand dollars from a bank and went to federal prison.
After all, when a person is using stolen money, they can bid as high as they want.

By early 2009, prices had decreased to lower than they had ever been since the genesis of the internet.  Prices have decreased further since early 2009 and have never recovered.  Some scarce books sell consistently for shockingly low prices.  Not only are fewer people building sets of series books, but the low amount of interest and low prices have led to new collectors having no idea of the historical value of scarce series books.  That means that some buyers will never want to pay more than a few dollars for a book, no matter how scarce it is.

Series book prices will probably ever return to the previous level.  As current collectors grow older and quit collecting, fewer young people will become collectors.  The series are part of the distant past, and few young people will be aware of them.  This is why current collectors should not wish the demise of the few series that remain in print.  In particular, I recall a comment from a Trixie Belden collector who wished that Nancy Drew would go away.  Since Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys are still in print, they provide a gateway to the older series that are out of print, including Trixie Belden.  It would be a great loss if Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys ever go out of print, which is why I wish Simon and Schuster would take better care of them.

Waning interest in vintage series and ever decreasing prices lead to my dilemma.  I am now rather wary when an extremely scarce item shows up in an eBay auction.  As always, I have to outbid all other buyers in order to be the highest bidder.  Is that wise these days?  I am also wary of fixed-price items, and sometimes I hesitate longer than is wise when considering what is obviously a good purchase price on eBay.

Here's an example.  When I saw this Grosset and Dunlap sign on eBay, I hesitated, even though I wanted it and knew it was extremely scarce.  I'm not the only one, because someone else had already placed it in their watched items list.

I thought it over for at least several minutes.  I took the Buy It Now of $99.99.  My decision was wise.  Here is another Grosset and Dunlap advertising sign that sold recently.

The sign sold for $518.96 on April 14. If the second sign is worth over $500, then my sign is also worth over $500.

Auctions on eBay for the truly scarce books can be frustrating.  Since I have to outbid everyone else in order to win scarce books, I have to pay a high price.  The problem is that I usually already own a copy of the book in lesser condition.  Even when I pay a high or somewhat high price for the upgrade, the book that I already own usually cost more than the upgrade, since prices have fallen.  In order not to take a loss on the upgraded book, I have to price it higher than what I paid for my upgrade.  This is a problem, since buyers won't want to pay that high of a price.  The result is that I have to take a loss on the book that was upgraded.

I also can end up overpaying for books when I purchase them at fixed prices.  This can't be helped when I want to build a set quickly and don't want to play the game of checking eBay for one to three years.  I have to select from what is currently available, and I sometimes have to pay more than I would like.

I also end up taking a loss when I sell books that I have owned for many years.  I decided to sell a number of my Cherry Ames books.  I purchased the books in around 2007 at what were then very reasonable prices.  If I had sold the books in 2007, I would have made a nice profit.  Since 2015 Cherry Ames prices are much lower than 2007 Cherry Ames prices, many of the books will have to be sold at a loss or at a break-even price.  This is true for most all series books from most all series.

This means that I find it necessary to continue selling extra series books that I can find for less than the current fair market value.  Any profit that I might make on some books that I sell covers the losses I take on books that were purchased years ago. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Cherry Ames Hilton Hospital and Island Nurse

In Cherry Ames #20, Cherry Ames at Hilton Hospital, Cherry becomes a staff nurse at Hilton Hospital.  An amnesia patient arrives in the men's ward, and Cherry is assigned to his case.  Bob Smith cannot remember anything about himself, so Cherry and Dr. Hope work together to help Bob remember who he is.

The early part of this book reminded me of Nancy Drew #61, The Swami's Ring.  That book also deals with an amnesia case, and that book bores me.  Since I associated this Cherry Ames with a Nancy Drew book that I dislike, I immediately disliked this book.  I skimmed a lot of the first part of the book.  Finally, somewhere between pages 50 and 100, the book gradually began to interest me.  By page 100, I was thoroughly interested in the story and read the rest of the story very quickly.

I greatly enjoyed the second half of this book.

In Cherry Ames #21, Cherry Ames, Island Nurse, Cherry nurses Sir Ian Barclay, who suffers from a peptic ulcer.  Soon, Sir Ian must return to Balfour Island due to pressing business matters.  Cherry travels with him as his nurse.

This book is very slow to get started.  It takes 64 pages before Cherry arrives on the island.  I expected her to arrive a bit sooner, since this book is titled Cherry Ames, Island Nurse.  The island didn't seem much like an island to me.  Cherry stays in a mansion that is set right on the coast, and it doesn't matter much whether the mansion is on an island or not.

The plot of this book crawls slowly along.  I became more bored the more I read.  I skimmed a lot of this book, especially the last part.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What I Enjoy in a Book

In the last few years, I have realized that books have to fit very specific guidelines in order for me to be able to enjoy them.  First and foremost, the book has to grab my attention quickly, within the first two to three pages.  I can give a book a little bit more time, but it has to appeal to me rather fast, or I will give up.  I didn't use to be that way.

I read purely for recreation, and I'm not interested in thinking hard.  Much of this has to do with having an underactive thyroid.  I was not diagnosed until July 2014, but I am certain that I have had this condition my entire adult life.  The condition escalated in the last five to seven years to where I finally realized that something was wrong.  

I mention this because an underactive thyroid causes a lack of motivation and problems with memory.  When reading books, this has made me impatient with convoluted plots and stories that have too many characters.  I don't have it in me to want to keep track of detailed plots, especially if the plot is slow to develop.  I do still have the ability to do so, but long-term mental and physical tiredness going back five to seven years has caused me not to want to put forth the extra effort.  Reading should be fun, not a tiresome chore.  I often read when I am tired, so my reading has to be enjoyable and effortless.

I tried reading a book called Gods of Manhattan earlier this year.  The synopsis makes the book sound exactly like something I would enjoy.  Unfortunately, the author takes a very mysterious approach in the opening chapter that makes the story too vague and difficult to figure out.  I abandoned the book after around six to ten pages and read something else.

I dislike books that are set in alternate universes that are hard to visualize.  I don't have the patience to try to visualize an alternate reality that is totally different from our world.  I read the first book in the series Keys to the Kingdom and enjoyed it.  Part of the first book is set in our world, so it wasn't too hard to follow.  By the second book, the events became too hard to visualize, and I ended up abandoning the series.

As far as strangeness, Keys to the Kingdom reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, which is a book I have never read.  I tried reading a little of Alice in Wonderland one time since so many people love it, but I quickly abandoned it.  I don't enjoy that kind of book.

I dislike dialect in books.  I can be okay with it in small doses and when I don't have to think hard to figure it out.  I can think of a couple of instances where I found it amusing.  More often, I find it annoying.  In one case, I refused to read a series because of the dialect.  That happened when I tried to read an early Bobbsey Twins book.  Sam and Dinah speak in dialect, and the dialect in the book was inconsistent from one page to the next.  Sam could pronounce a word correctly on one page, but he couldn't on the next.  I put down the book in disgust.

Racial stereotypes generally do not bother me.  This is because I view them in the context of history.  We can learn from the attitudes of the people who came before us, and the inappropriate beliefs from the past teach us how not to behave in the present.

I now have a strong bias against books printed by Christian publishers.  This isn't fair, but it's because of how stupid one book seemed to me.  I can't recall the book or series, but the girls in it kept exclaiming "Ohmigoodness!" over and over throughout the opening pages.  The exclamation was overused.  Who on earth talks like that?  I know why the author used that expression, but it was too stupid and fake for my taste.  I got rid of the book, and unfortunately, I now refuse to try books by Christian publishers.

I dislike prologues.  The prologues are usually mysterious and vague and do not name the characters that appear in them.  This is supposed to pique the reader's interest, but it typically annoys me.  I want to know who the people are and why they are important.  I don't like games being played by the author.  I also dislike epilogues.  The most appalling epilogue I have ever read is the one at the end of the final Harry Potter book.  I can think of many other epilogues that are also substandard, although not as aggravating as that one.

I love exciting books, but I can also greatly enjoy slow-moving books so long as I enjoy the writing style.  The Beverly Gray series is very exciting with suspenseful and dangerous events occurring almost constantly as Beverly travels around the world.  In contrast, the early Trixie Belden books by Julie Campbell detail what are often rather mundane events that occur near Trixie's home; yet, the events in those books are just as thrilling to me as Beverly Gray's wild adventures.  If the text is written well, any kind of event can be thrilling and keep the reader engaged.

The key to a good book is that the text must flow well from one paragraph to the next and must be interesting.  This is hard to explain and is purely subjective, since text that flows well for me might not for another reader.  Whatever flows well for each reader is what keeps all of us reading books.