Friday, July 31, 2015

Tom Quest #7 Inca Luck Piece and #8 Timber Giant

In Tom Quest #7, The Inca Luck Piece, Hamilton Quest is asked to study a stone that came from an Inca temple.  The stone contains uranium, and the United States government wants to locate the source of the uranium before communists can exploit the information.

This book feels different from the rest of the series.  Almost the entire book is set inside a mansion on an island in the St. Lawrence River.  The plot is solely a mystery and not an adventure.  Someone who is staying in the mansion is trying to learn about the source of the uranium, so Tom, Whiz, and Gulliver investigate.

The book strongly reminds me of a few of the higher-numbered Beverly Gray books that are mysteries.  While some of the similarity is because of the story, the rest is because of the actual book itself.  The book is a Clover edition, and the higher-numbered Beverly Gray books are Clover editions.  The pulp paper in the Clover books has a certain smell, which reminded me strongly of Beverly Gray.
The previous book, The Secret of Thunder Mountain, has an advertisement for this book.  The ad reads:
What was the significance of the Inca Talisman?  What connection did it have with the project Tom Quest and his friends were conducting in a hidden valley in the Andes?  You'll find the answers to these questions in the exciting story of Tom's next daring adventure, a story so packed with thrills and surprises that you won't put it down till you have finished it.  It's called

The title is a draft title that was changed before The Inca Luck Piece was published.  This is common to have a title that is wrong in a blurb for the next book in the series.  What strikes me as strange is that the plot is also wrong.  Tom and his friends do not conduct a search in a valley.  They spend nearly the entire book in a mansion and aren't searching anywhere for anything.

In Tom Quest #8, The Mystery of the Timber Giant, Tom, Whiz, and Gulliver come to the aid of two men who are at risk of being swindled out of their land which contains valuable timber.

By the title of the book, I expected a giant man to be the focus of the plot.  Gulliver is rather large, but he is not the timber giant.  The timber giant is the man in charge of the syndicate responsible for cheating men out of their land.

From page 170:
Gulliver's indifference to peril would never cease to be a source of wonderment to Tom Quest and Whiz Walton.  The big man sat grinning as if highly amused at the sight of the stranger who held the gun.

"Now," he said, "things are gittin' interestin'.  Speak yo' piece, stranger.  Why'd yo' come here wavin' that hardware?"
And that is why Gulliver is so amazing.  He is truly the star of the series.

This book is a rewrite of Fran Striker's book, Gene Autry and the Redwood Pirates.  I have not read the Gene Autry book, but I have heard that this book is better than the original version.

I greatly enjoyed this book.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sandy Steele #3 Stormy Voyage and #4 Fire at Red Lake

In Sandy Steele #3, Stormy Voyage, Sandy and his friend, Jerry James, are disappointed when they cannot get jobs at the Mesabi iron ore mines in Minnesota.  Fortunately, in a chance encounter with the owner of a long boat, the boys get jobs as part of the crew.  During the journey, the boys learn that the captain is dishonest.

In a manner similar to the Grosset and Dunlap travelogues, each Sandy Steele book imparts information about wherever Sandy is visiting.  That information was grossly overdone in the first book, but in these other books, the right balance was struck, making these books quite interesting.

This is an excellent book.

In Sandy Steele #4, Fire at Red Lake, Sandy, Quiz, and Jerry go on a hiking trip with Sandy's Uncle Russ in the woods of Minnesota.  Uncle Russ works for the government, and soon into the hike, a forest ranger locates Russ so that he can call Washington.  Uncle Russ learns that a bomber jet crashed, and the A-bomb on board is missing, presumably in the woods of Minnesota.  The situation becomes grim when a wildfire breaks out.

On page 57, the boys use DDT, which is now banned in the United States.

This book is unusual in that the book has no villain.  The book is purely adventure and danger.

This story is very exciting and thrilling.  It is an excellent book.

While my reviews ended up short for both of these books, I greatly enjoyed both of them, about as much as I enjoyed my most favorite Biff Brewster books.  This series is very similar to Biff Brewster.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Tom Quest #5 Hidden Stone and #6 Thunder Mountain

In Tom Quest #5, The Hidden Stone Mystery, Hamilton Quest has been accused of fraud!  Quest identified the Mandan stone as genuine, but experts have proclaimed that he was mistaken.  At stake are the minerals rights to a parcel of Mandan land.

On page 10, we learn that about a year has passed since Hamilton Quest returned from staying with the Mandan Indians.  This means that more than one year has passed since the early books in this series, yet Tom is still 17 years old.

In Tom Quest #6, The Secret of Thunder Mountain, Tom and Whiz stay with Gulliver on his ranch in Texas.  Tom found some strange rocks on nearby Thunder Mountain, but the rocks disappeared.  Soon, Tom learns that the rocks are important, and he is determined to find out more.

The meals are described in great detail in the Tom Quest books.  A particularly yummy meal is described on page 49.  The meal includes roast beef, smoked ham, turkey breast, homemade bread, strawberries and cream, milk, cold beans, apple sauce, jams, jellies, condiments, and an apple pie.  Gulliver declares that the meal is just a "snack."

The books are approximately 180 pages beginning with this title.  The first five books are over 200 pages.

I enjoyed learning about Gulliver's ranch and getting to know more about Gulliver, although I prefer the exotic locations.

I greatly enjoyed both of these books.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sandy Steele #1 Black Treasure and #2 Mormon Crossing

In Sandy Steele #1, Black Treasure, Sandy and his friend, Quiz, take summer jobs in the Four Corners area.  They work for John Hall, who is president of a small drilling company.  The boys learn about oil, uranium, and the history of the Four Corners area.

A large amount of historical information about the Indians of the southwest is given.  While I found some of it interesting and learned a few things, I felt that there was way too much of it.  It went on and on, and I finally began skimming it.

The book also gives a large amount of information about how to locate an oil reserve and how to drill for it.  The reader also learns about geology and about how to locate uranium.  The information about geology, oil, and uranium is just as excessive as the historical information.  I also had to begin skimming this information as well.  This book is almost like a textbook because of how much information is in it.

The story doesn't get to the mystery part until around page 100.  Even then, lots of information about finding and drilling for oil is given in that part of the book, and the mystery is minimal.

The setting and the information about uranium and the Indians reminded me of Franklin Folsom's Search in the Desert.  However, Search in the Desert is a much better book.

This first Sandy Steele book is quite weak, unless the reader wants to learn everything there is to know about Indians, geology, oil, and uranium.  Otherwise, the book is mostly boring and mediocre.  I felt similar to how I felt while reading my least favorite Cherry Ames books, and I almost didn't make it to the second book.  In fact, I was concerned that I had just wasted money on my purchase of the set.  I bought the set because several collectors indicated that the series is quite good.  They didn't mention how boring the first book is.  However, I decided to try the second book just in case it was better, although I was tempted to abandon the set and read something else.

In Sandy Steele #2, Danger at Mormon Crossing, Sandy is invited to go on a hiking trip with Mike Cook and his father.  The destination is Mormon Crossing in Idaho.  The group hires an Indian guide, Joe, who is an excellent guide, but he seems afraid of something.  Joe refuses to talk, but Sandy is certain that something is wrong.

This book is much, much better than the first book in the series.  I was so afraid that I had built this set of six books for nothing. I was relieved to see some evidence of why collectors say this is a good series.

This book also gives some detailed information such as how to correct the sight on a rifle and how to properly cast a reel while fishing.  While that information is a little more than I'd like, it is brief enough that I was not annoyed like I was with the first book.

I enjoyed this book.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Tom Quest #3 Cypress Stump and #4 Lost Mesa

In Tom Quest #3, The Clue of the Cypress Stump, Tom, Whiz, and Gulliver search the Florida everglades for a hidden cache of stolen uranium.  The only clue is a cypress stump.

I knew what the significance of the cypress stump would be as soon as I knew the basis for the mystery.  The plot summary on the dust jacket mentions how the climax of the mystery would be when the cypress stump "yields its secret."  The secret is obvious from the beginning.

This book features Captain Popple, who is a magnificent character.  Captain Popple is spunky, and he is a little man with a piping voice.  In his own way, Popple is as great of a character as is Gulliver.  I wouldn't have minded seeing Popple appear in a another book, but alas, this is the only one with him.

The fight scene near the end of the book is a bit long for my taste.  This lengthy fight scene is the only scene in the entire Tom Quest series that was tedious for me.

This is a very good book.

In Tom Quest #4, The Secret of the Lost Mesa, Tom, Whiz, and Gulliver search for a lost Aztec civilization in Mexico.  The civilization is said to be located on an isolated mesa.  Soon, the group realizes that someone is trying to keep them away from the mesa for some sinister purpose.

On page 13, we learn that Tom found a camera on a beach in Mexico.  The camera contained a roll of film that had been fully exposed.  Tom removed the film and mailed it to his father so that his father could develop it.  Meanwhile, Tom advertised in a couple of papers in an attempt to find the owner of the camera so that it could be returned.  Um, what about the film?  I thought it a bit high-handed that the film was removed and mailed away to be developed.  Wouldn't the owner want the film as well as the camera?

Of course, the film is the clue to the lost mesa and necessary to the plot of the book, but still, Tom had no right to mail the film to his father to be developed.

On page 63, Tom, Gulliver, and Whiz are driving through the jungle in Gulliver's jeep when they spot a map that has been pinned to a tree.  The map appears to show the path to the lost mesa.  So of course, Tom and Whiz decide that finding the map is fortuitous and that they should change paths to follow it. 

It's just like if I were to walk out on my porch one morning to find a mysterious cupcake waiting for me.  I don't know who put it there, so I should eat it, right?  No!

At least Gulliver is suspicious of the map and investigates its path alone, or else the entire expedition would have been doomed.

This book is so full of adventure that by page 92 I felt like the book ought to be almost over.  So much had already happened!

On page 104, Gulliver thinks about how the "Indians in Texas and in Oklahoma were primitive people."  He concludes that he could interact with the lost Aztec civilization in the same manner in which he has dealt with the Indians of Texas and Oklahoma.  This book was written in 1949.  The Indians of Texas and Oklahoma couldn't have been that primitive in 1949, certainly not so much as an Aztec civilization that supposedly had been isolated for centuries.

But then again, the lost Aztec civilization was not quite so primitive as one would expect.  A couple of the Indians could speak some English, so they had been in contact with modern civilization.

This book is also very good.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Another Nancy Drew Lilac Inn First Printing DJ

Note:  If you are a seller trying to identify whether you have a valuable book, please read the comment in bold at the end of this post for more information.  Many sellers read these blog posts, which are written for advanced Nancy Drew collectors, completely misunderstand the content, and misidentify books that are not valuable.  If you have a 1930A-1 Lilac Inn book, you can identify it through the above link.  If you have a 1930A-1 Lilac Inn jacket, it must match the below jacket in every single detail on both the front and reverse sides with no differences whatsoever.  Anything different means it is not the same.

Second, this post is in no way critical of Farah's Guide, so please do not read meaning into this post that is not present.


A recent eBay auction featured Nancy Drew #4, The Mystery at Lilac Inn, with the 1930A-1 dust jacket.  The book sold for $4,302.22.


According to the seller, the post-text ads were Nancy Drew, followed by the Blythe Girls, and then Amy Bell Marlowe.  Those ads in that order make the book the 7th printing, 1931D-7.  I now know of four different first or second printing Lilac Inn dust jackets that have sold on eBay, and every single one of them was matched with the wrong later printing book.

The first three books from the following list sold on eBay in 2010, and the last one is the above book.

1930A-1 jacket paired with a 1931D-7 book
1930B-2 jacket paired with a 1930C-3 book
1930B-2 jacket paired with a 1935B-22 book
1930A-1 jacket paired with a 1931D-7 book

I own the first and third books in the list.  For the books that I purchased, the wear patterns on the books and jackets matched, which indicated that they had probably been paired together from the early 1930s.

I find it very strange that my first printing dust jacket was paired with the 7th printing book, just like with the book in the recent auction.  While books and jackets do sometimes show up mismatched, they are matched with a printing from Farah's Guide the vast majority of the time.  I'm not sure how often they match precisely as Farah has observed, but I'd guess that they match at least around 85% of the time.  For the four Lilac Inn first or second printing jacket sales of which I am aware, 0% were matched correctly.  This is very unusual.

Sometimes stores kept the jackets separate from the shelved books for sale, and this was one reason why books and jackets ended up mismatched.  Additionally, books and jackets were printed separately from each other, so the jackets from the same batch could have ended up on books from separate printings.

Most of the early and first printing Nancy Drew books from 1930 to 1932 have shown up fully matching what Farah has observed and noted in this guide.  It is only The Mystery at Lilac Inn where most copies showing up do not match the guide.  I don't have the answer for what the real reason is, but I find it fascinating.  Whatever the reason, I believe it is why the first printing book and jacket for the The Mystery at Lilac Inn are both so extremely scarce.

The Mystery at Lilac Inn first printing book appears to be the scarcest of all the first printing Nancy Drew books.  Farah's Guide identifies the first printing of The Clue in the Diary as extremely scarce and gives it a much higher value than the first printing book for The Mystery at Lilac Inn.  However, The Clue in the Diary shows up more often than The Mystery at Lilac Inn in the first printing.  The first printing book for The Secret of the Old Clock is also assigned a higher value, but it also shows up more often.

Collectors covet the 1930A-1 dust jacket for The Secret of the Old Clock more than any other dust jacket.  As incredibly scarce as the Old Clock jacket is, that jacket is slightly more common than the 1930A-1 dust jacket for The Mystery at Lilac Inn.  In my opinion, the first printing dust jacket for Lilac Inn is the toughest first printing Nancy Drew dust jacket to find, although its value will always trail behind Old Clock simply because collectors covet Old Clock so much.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Damaged Rick Brant Books

I received a package today that consisted of one of the large Ready Post mailers that can be purchased at the post office.  Likely, the seller shoved the books in the mailer while standing at the counter inside the post office.

This is what the package looked like from the outside.

With the books stuffed inside, the mailer was five inches thick.  The dimensions of the mailer while flat were 12 1/2 inches by 17 inches.  I wasn't that concerned, since I hadn't received damaged books in quite some time.  Now that I think about it, I should have been concerned, since my luck was bound to run out.

I opened the package and got a good whiff of cigarette smoke.  Of course, the seller didn't mention the odor.  While annoying, this is a minor problem that will be fully solved once the books have enough time to air out.  No big deal.

This is what I saw inside the package after I ripped open one end.

I wasn't even concerned at this point, although I went ahead and snapped the above photo just so that I could post a comment on Facebook about how old books deserve better than this.  Then I pulled the books out of the package and discovered the damage from the books shifting back and forth during their journey.

One book was inside another book positioned like this.

This was the result.

The Electronic Mind Reader was not in good shape before it was mailed.  The book already had a split hinge with old tape on it and had heavy wear.  You can see all the additional damage caused by the other book sliding inside.  The pages are now creased and folded.  While annoying, this wasn't enough to upset me.  I didn't buy the books for this one and don't care about it.

What does upset me is that I bought the lot to get two of the books with dust jackets, and both jackets were damaged by the careless packaging.

This jacket was torn in the upper left corner.

And this jacket was torn in the lower right corner.

The seller's photo shows both jackets as undamaged.

I decided earlier this year that I liked the Rick Brant books enough that I wanted a set with jackets.  I didn't want to pay high prices, so I have been waiting for bulk lots.  I bought a bulk lot last month that got me most of them.  The Pirates of Shan and The Blue Ghost Mystery are two of the books that were not part of that bulk lot.  That's why I bought this small bulk lot.

It is the bulk lots where I do have most of my problems with damaged books.  The sellers don't understand that they can't just throw the books in a box or large envelope and ship them off.

It should be noted that the books from this transaction would have been fine if the seller had just wrapped some plastic wrap around the books before placing them inside the mailer.  Just anything to secure the books shut and in two small stacks so that they wouldn't shift around each other and cause damage. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

An Introduction to Brad Forrest

I decided to collect the Brad Forrest series after reading a few positive reviews.  The series was published in Canada, and Brad Forrest is a Canadian.  The series consists of eight titles.

I read the first book, Brad Forrest's Hong Kong Adventure, which is a mess.  Undaunted, I read the second book, Brad Forrest's Los Angeles Adventure, which is better but not that good.  The first two books are overall so bad that they are almost good in the sense that they are good for laughs.  The books remind me of some of the more ridiculous of Nancy Drew #41 through #56, which means that they provide great material for blog reviews.

So this is Brad Forrest, eh?  Still undaunted, I was determined to read all eight of them, whether good, bad, or ugly.  I kept reading and was delighted as the books get much better starting with the third book.  In fact, #3 through #7 range from pretty good to excellent.  Unfortunately, #8 is not as good, ranking somewhere between #1 and #2 in its mediocrity.  The series starts bad and ends kind of bad, but the middle part is great.

If you want to try Brad Forrest to see if you would like this series, try any of volumes three through seven.  The series does not have to be read in order.  While the books all provide a brief statement near the beginning alluding to a previous adventure, each story stands alone and has nothing to do with any previous adventures.

If you live in the United States, you will in most cases have to purchase the books internationally, which will add to the cost of each book.  The books were published in Canada and in the United Kingdom.

I decided to put up a page for the Brad Forrest series, but only after I read up through volume four.  These days, I will only put up a page if I like a series enough to do so.  I didn't like the first two books, and if all eight had been like those books, I wouldn't have bothered.

Brad Forrest Adventure Series

Monday, July 13, 2015

Tom Quest #1 Sign of the Spiral and #2 The Telltale Scar

In Tom Quest #1, Sign of the Spiral, Tom Quest learns that a recent photograph of John Hanford has surfaced.  John Hanford disappeared along with Tom's father, Hamilton Quest, ten years ago while on an expedition in the jungles of Peru.  Tom's mother died of illness, and soon after, Tom's father and John Hanford were captured by natives.  The men have been presumed dead all these years.  Hamilton Quest's friend, Gulliver, brought Tom back to the United States and looked after Tom, making sure he went to school.

Now, ten years later,  Gulliver sends Tom a letter that includes a recent photograph of a native wearing a brooch that was fashioned in the shape of Hamilton Quest's Archimedes spiral.  The only way the native could have the brooch is if he came into contact with Hamilton Quest.  Soon, Gulliver and Tom learn that John Hanford has reappeared, so they travel to Horsehead, Texas, where Hanford is said to be staying with his stepdaughter, Barbara.

Gulliver is a great character, and he is the centerpiece of the series.  Gulliver has many strange habits.  For instance, Gulliver removed the windshield from his jeep because he finds it easier to step out of the front of his jeep and across the hood.  Gulliver also believes in driving in a straight line to his destination, through fields.

This book is suspenseful from the very beginning. Striker tells a good story, getting the reader intrigued from the beginning.

On page eight, "Tom acted impulsively.  Leaping from the seat, he used a trick learned from his Math instructor who had been a Commando."  That made me laugh.  Imagine a teacher showing the students some good Commando moves after a daily lesson.  

On page 74, Whiz "used his thumbnail to snap an old-fashioned wooden match into flame."  As opposed to what?  Don't we still use wooden matches even now, nearly 70 years after this book was published?  I did a minor amount of research into matches, and I assume that the "old-fashioned" wooden matches had a head made of different materials that were no longer in common use in 1947.

In Tom Quest #2, The Telltale Scar, Tom, Gulliver, and Whiz travel to Peru in search of Hamilton Quest.  A plane has been chartered to Ecuador, and preparations begin for the trip.  Alonzo Perry warns the group that someone is trying to kill Tom, and at about the same time, a bomb is delivered to their room.  The group learns that Perry is from Ecuador, so it is agreed that he can fly to South America with them.  Gulliver seems suspicious of Perry, but Tom is certain that Perry can be trusted.

In Ecuador, the group prepares to trek into the jungle towards Peru, where Hamilton Quest disappeared.  Gulliver is infuriated that Perry continues to linger in the vicinity, but finally, Perry vanishes.  Natives are hired for the journey, and all is going well.

I like that Gulliver is not easily taken in by smooth-talking villains.  Gulliver is easily the most important character and the real star of the series.

I greatly enjoyed both books.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Biff Brewster Series Final Thoughts

The Biff Brewster series was created by and published by Grosset and Dunlap.  The books are travelogues like other Grosset and Dunlap books from the 1960s.  The books were written by at least three different authors.

 #1  Walter B. Gibson (first draft by Edward Pastore, rewritten by Gibson)
 #2  unknown
 #3  unknown
 #4  Walter B. Gibson
 #5  Edward Pastore
 #6  Peter Harkins
 #7  Walter B. Gibson
 #8  Edward  Pastore
 #9  Walter B. Gibson
#10  Peter Harkins
#11  Peter Harkins
#12  Peter Harkins
#13  Walter B. Gibson

The quality of the series was negatively impacted by having several authors.  Biff's personality shifts over the course of the series, and some events don't fit with the events of previous volumes.

Biff has a new friend in nearly every book.  While I do like Biff having a friend who is from the country that Biff visits, I found that Biff having a new friend in every book lessened the impact of the series.  When the friends do show up again, I find that they are interchangeable.  Every friend is like the same person but with a different name and a slightly different manner of speech.

All of the books are travelogues, but the earlier books are quite exciting and the travelogue aspect complements the plot.  Most of the early books are much better than the average travelogue.  I feel that by volumes 9 through 13, the travelogue aspect encroaches upon the plot, thereby detracting from the story.  The final two books, in particular, are lacking like the average Grosset and Dunlap travelogue book of the 1960s.

While I didn't enjoy the final books in the series very much, I greatly enjoyed the middle of the series from #3 up through #8.  #8 is a bit stupid, but I found it nearly as enjoyable as #4-7.

This series is similar to Rick Brant but is not as good as the Rick Brant series.  Some collectors instead compare this series to Tom Quest.  To me, Tom Quest is incomparable and in a category of its own.  Of the series I have read, the Biff Brewster series is most similar to Sandy Steele, which has a very similar premise.

I do recommend this series as one that is likely to appeal to readers of Rick Brant and other similar boys' series. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Biff Brewster #12 Arabian Stallion and #13 Alpine Pass

In Biff Brewster #12, Mystery of the Arabian Stallion, Biff vacations in Saudi Arabia while his father works on a project with an oil company.  Biff helps his new friend, Ahmed, search for his stolen horse.  Soon, Biff and Ahmed have reason to suspect that the horse thieves are working to sabotage the oil company.

As the book opens, Biff is flippant and joking all the time.  He also complains a lot, although in a joking fashion.  I don't like this Biff.  Once the adventure starts, Biff is more likeable again and is more like the Biff from the other books.

A scene in this book reminds me of a scene in the Rick Brant book, The Veiled Raiders.  In both books, the protagonists are chased by Arabs on horses and throw things at the Arabs in order to slow them down.  Also similar to The Veiled Raiders is the accurate depiction of the intolerance that exists in the Arab world.  Most Americans were not aware of the intolerance when these books were published. 

Page 155 has another series inconsistency.  Biff asks questions about pearl diving, and the prince explains the process to him.  The only problem is that Biff went pearl diving in Mystery of the Caribbean Pearls.  He knows all about it, but he acts like he knows nothing in this book. 

I partly liked and partly disliked this book.

In Biff Brewster #13, Mystery of the Alpine Pass, Biff and Uncle Charlie travel to Switzerland.  Uncle Charlie is up to his latest scheme, which is to learn about funicular railways so that they can be implemented in the United States.  Uncle Charlie seems to think that someone will steal his idea if anyone knows why he is in Switzerland, so his plans are kept secret.  Meanwhile, Biff is mistaken for a famous chess player, Tim Larkin.  Tim wishes to avoid the extra attention, so Biff masquerades as Tim to help Tim and at the same time help Uncle Charlie keep his scheme a secret.

The entire time Biff and Uncle Charlie kept running around with people after them thinking Biff was Tim, I kept wondering why.  It is so stupid.  The early Biff Brewster books are exciting.  These last ones are not that exciting and are a bit pointless.

This book bored me with the travelogue aspect.  The travelogue aspect comes across as the most important part of the plot in these last Biff Brewster books.

It's not clear what the mystery is for much of the book, which caused me to be bored.  I skimmed the second half of the book.

I will give the book this:  I enjoyed it more than I did the last Cherry Ames book, Ski Nurse Mystery.  That's not saying much, however.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Nancy Drew Diaries #9 The Clue at Black Creek Farm

In Nancy Drew Diaries #9, The Clue at Black Creek Farm, Nancy investigates who is sabotaging Black Creek Farm, which grows organic vegetables.  All of the farm's vegetables have been contaminated with E. Coli.

And that pretty much summarizes it.  Can Simon and Schuster think of anything other than sabotage?  Other children's books published by Simon and Schuster do not feature sabotage.  I know, because I have read quite a few of them. 

I do better with series when I read titles in consecutive order.  Since I have had to wait until each new Nancy Drew Diaries title is released, I am not able to enjoy these books quite as much as I otherwise would have.  When I read Nancy Drew Diaries #8, The Magician's Secret, I had just read the Magic Repair Shop series.  I was so annoyed about the contrast between the Nancy Drew Diaries series and the Magic Repair Shop series that I wrote this post.  With Nancy Drew Diaries #9, I had just concluded reading the excellent Tom Quest series.  I found this book to be rather lacking in comparison, even though the book is much better than the previous Nancy Drew Diaries book.

This book opens with a large amount of what I call "organic food propaganda."  I don't have a problem with organic food, but I don't want to read copious amounts of information about how wonderful it is while reading a book for pleasure. It's like reading a Grosset and Dunlap travelogue:  boring!

Nancy and Ned discuss the case in Chapter 3, and during the entire discussion, the text gives a play-by-play description of Ned's eating.  Nancy tells Ned something, and then "Ned dunk[s] what [i]s left of his burrito in a little puddle of guacamole."  A moment later, "Ned glance[s] up from his guacamole, which he [i]s now scooping up with a spoon."  Nancy makes a few more comments, then "Ned [sticks] his finger into the spoon to pick up one last dab of guacamole."  Why do I care?  Is this supposed to make me hungry?

It was during Chapter 3 that I concluded that some scenes in these Nancy Drew Diaries books are juvenile, as in childish. Out of curiosity, I actually scanned a page of text and ran it through an online readability test to see what the reading level is.  The result was grade 7.9.  I decided to check a random page of text from an original text Nancy Drew book selected at random.  I chose a random page from Jewel Box and got a result of grade 5.9.  I then selected a random page of text from the revised text of Old Clock.  The result was grade 5.2.

The reading level is higher in the Nancy Drew Diaries, but the cover art gives off the appearance of a much younger Nancy Drew.  Furthermore, the book seems like a book for younger readers than grade 7.9, because of the manner of delivery and type of content.  Is this a reflection of our current society?  But then, series like the Magic Repair Shop books and Brandon Mull's Beyonders Trilogy, both published by Simon and Schuster, do not come across as juvenile.  What's up with the childishness of the Nancy Drew books?

On page 28, Nancy is annoyed that Bess and George offer Nancy's services.  Why is Nancy so reluctant to take a new case?  I thought she was supposed to love being a detective.

One page 34, we are told that Nancy can't cook.  Why is this depreciation of Nancy Drew necessary?  My problem with this type of statement is that it has nothing to do with the story.  I don't mind Nancy not being perfect, but I have a problem with negative statements being thrown into the text for no reason.  In one of the Nancy Drew Girl Detective books, Nancy breaks into a business, forgetting that it would have a burglar alarm.  Nancy gets arrested for her lack of judgment.  I don't mind that sort of thing, since people do make mistakes.  I do mind Nancy being torn down needlessly, which is how these books seek to make Nancy less perfect.

I was amused at the passage on page 71 where Bess likens Nancy's sleuthing obsession to a bad television series.  While still dismissive of Nancy's abilities, the passage is rather funny.

Page 87 has an example of slipshod writing.  Julie snorts near the top of the page, and Abby snorts near the bottom of the page.  I'm surprised that Nancy didn't immediately snort as well.  How about we all snort?

An eco-resort in Costa Rica is mentioned on page 126.  What is with the recent Nancy Drew books and Costa Rica?  Other South American countries could be mentioned. Besides, other continents exist as well.  So in Simon and Schuster's Nancy Drew world, only sabotage and Costa Rica exist.  Nothing else matters.

The recent recession is mentioned on page 126.  This sort of reference dates a book and shouldn't be mentioned in a series like Nancy Drew which should have a timeless quality to it.

I enjoyed this book, and I enjoyed it much more than I did the previous entry in the Nancy Drew Diaries series.  Nancy does some real investigation, including at night on the farm.  This is good.  However, I also found the book to be lacking, since I had just finished reading all eight Tom Quest books.  Reading an outstanding set of books immediately before this one drew out all the flaws in this book.  If I had just read the first eight Nancy Drew Diaries books immediately before this one, I would have noticed fewer flaws.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Biff Brewser #10 Tibetan Caravan and #11 British Spy Ring Mystery

In Biff Brewster #10, Mystery of the Tibetan Caravan, Biff searches for his father, who has disappeared in Tibet while searching for a Golden Buddha.

A passage on page five states that Biff's family had joined him in India right after the conclusion of Mystery of the Ambush in India.  However, Biff has been to the Caribbean and to Egypt since he left India, so this is another inconsistency.

The book opens with Biff and Taz watching some Bedouins, hoping to steal their food.  They are in Tibet.  Next, Biff recalls what brought them to that point, so the book goes into a lengthy flashback to previous events.  The flashback lasts until page 114, with Biff and Taz at the Bedouins' campsite.  I dislike it when books do this.  I would rather get the story in chronological order rather than get a prevue during the first chapter of events that occur far later in the story.

I overall enjoyed this book, but it's not a favorite.

In Biff Brewster #11, British Spy Ring Mystery, Biff attends school in England,  He goes on a bicycle trip with his friend, Peter, after the term ends.  The boys purchase a book in an antique book store, and the book turns out to be valuable.  Later, the boys realize that several men are after the book, but they cannot fathom why.

We can infer why the men want the book, based on the title of the story, but it seems so stupid.

Biff is a bit flippant in this book, and he jokes a lot.  I got used to serious Biff, so this doesn't set right with me. 

This book is different from the other books.  It's not in an exotic locale.  Like with the later Cherry Ames books, the story reminds me of the typical Grosset and Dunlap travelogue of the middle 1960s, and most of those books are not very good.  The travelogue aspect is excessive and is way too much for me.

This is a strange book.  Two men are following the boys, and they don't know why.  The book is full of coincidences, which makes it a weak story.  The further I read, the more I skimmed.  I became a bit bored. 

I skimmed the last few chapters.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Mill Creek Irregulars Series by August Derleth

I just finished reading the Mill Creek Irregulars series and have added the Mill Creek Irregulars section to my website.  On the main page of the section, I placed some useful links at the bottom, in particular, a link to an excellent article about the series.  When I create a page for my site, I do not wish to copy what has already been published elsewhere.  It is so easy to plagiarize someone else without intending to do so.  The article to which I linked has some excellent quotes from the series, and I chose to use different quotes in my reviews, which will be published later this month. 

I adapted the publisher summaries for the summaries placed on my site.  Publisher summaries are often quite sloppy and inconsistent, and this was certainly the case for the Mill Creek Irregulars.  The summaries generally were in the past tense, but a few were in present tense.  I like for my summaries to be in present tense, so I had to shift the tense of most of the summaries.  I also had to reduce the length of some summaries which were too long.

Most of my comments about the series will be forthcoming in my reviews.  I spent a lot of time studying maps as I read through the books.  I took the screen captures shown here.  I did not wish to put the screen captures in with the reviews, so I created this post in order to place them here.  I wanted to do so in case others find the maps useful while reading the books.

The Mill Creek Irregulars series by August Derleth is set in Sac Prairie, Wisconsin.  Sac Prairie is the slightly fictionalized name of Sauk Prairie, a real location in Wisconsin.  Sauk Prairie is the nickname of the adjacent cities of Sauk City and Prairie Du Sac, Wisconsin.  As always, click on each image to see a larger version.

All of the locations described in the Mill Creek Irregulars series are based on actual locations in Wisconsin.  Readers of the series who are not familiar with Wisconsin will find it quite helpful to view maps of the locations, since they are described in painstaking detail in the series.

Steve and Sim spend lots of time at the harness shop, and the location of the harness shop is shown on the following map.

Steve and Sim explore various locations along the Wisconsin River, including Black Hawk Island.

In The House on the River, the boys explore an old house on the island part of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.

The Mill Creek Irregulars is an outstanding series, and I highly recommend it.  While reading the books, I tried to figure out which series is most similar.  The easiest way to convey to others whether a series will appeal to them is to state which series are similar.  I first thought of the first five Trixie Belden books by Julie Campbell; I mention only the first five because that group contains the kind of exploring and adventure that is similar to the Mill Creek Irregulars.  I thought of Charles Dickens novels because of the outstanding characterization and detailed descriptions.  Finally, I settled on the Brains Benton books by Charles Morgan, III, and the Roger Baxter series as most similar to the Mill Creek Irregulars, both of which I consider just as outstanding as the Mill Creek Irregulars.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How to Find Good Series Books

The question of where to find cheap series books comes up often.  This question has been asked a lot lately on Facebook, as if some enthusiasts think that other collectors have access to large, hidden stashes of cheap books that they can share for low prices or for free.

When someone posts a fabulous find on Facebook, it looks easy.  That person just went out and found those books with no effort, right?  Wrong.  Perhaps on that particular day they did, but what some collectors fail to understand is that the finder may have looked for books and found none on the previous couple dozen attempts.  Nobody posts their failures on Facebook.

Think of all the time spent and gasoline burned on all of the failed attempts.  That means that the cheap books purchased one day really cost a lot more in time and money.  Is it fair to expect that person to give the books away for a low price?   

When I have posted fabulous finds here, some readers assume I have the magic touch.  I've had good luck, but I have had far more bad luck.  Currently, I'm not looking for books very often, because all of my luck has been quite bad for quite a few consecutive attempts.  Remember, nobody posts about their failures.  I certainly don't.

The short answer is that there isn't an easy way to find cheap series books.

The long answer is that fairly cheap finds do exist, but the buyer has to be willing to put forth the necessary time and effort in order to locate those finds.

Book Sale Finder can help collectors find book sales in different regions.  Search the Yellow Pages for book stores and antique shops.  A frequent problem is that stores that are out of business sometimes appear in the yellow pages.  I like to search for the store's name on Facebook to see if it has a Facebook page that has been updated recently.  If so, that tells me quickly that the store is still in business.

While great finds can be found by taking a road trip, the better method is to purchase them online.  In order to get cheap books online, one has to be willing to purchase bulk lots that might include extra books not needed.  The extra books then must be sold.  This is the best way to get cheap books consistently these days.  The cheap bulk lots can usually be found on eBay.  The cheap bulk lots are not available all the time, and a lot of buyers don't understand the secret to finding cheap books on eBay.  The prospective buyer must search eBay every single day without fail, and it might take months and months to finally strike gold.  If the buyer misses one day, that one day might be the day that someone lists a cheap bulk lot at too low of a price, and someone else gets it.

Some of the work can be eliminated by using eBay's saved searches.  If that feature is utilized, then eBay will send an email each morning for the searches that have new results.  The buyer can click on the links to see what has just come up for sale.

eBay isn't the only site where good books can be found.  While the books are often cheaper on eBay, I have also sometimes found cheaper books on other sites.  Anytime I want to build a set of books, I search everywhere online to find the best deals.  I overlook nothing.

Goodwill stores list some of their vintage books online.  

Here are some useful links to search engines that can help buyers locate books.

Google Shopping

Not all sites pay for inclusion in the search engines.  Amazon and AbeBooks are two notable sites that do not appear in Google's shopping search, for instance.  AbeBooks has a saved searches feature that I have found quite useful.  I have been able to purchase desired books right after they are listed.  AbeBooks sends out the message as soon as a book becomes available.


Both Amazon and AbeBooks are very useful, but the buyer has to be careful.  Avoid all listings that state that the book "comes with dust jacket if issued with one."  This phrase means that the seller doesn't have the book and plans to purchase it from someone else.  The buyer gets whatever the seller decides to purchase.  It's far better for the buyer to find a seller who actually has the book instead of using a seller who does not.

Also avoid all listings that use the word "may," as in the book "may have writing inside," "may have water damage," or "may have tears."  These sellers also don't own the book and plan to purchase a copy from another seller.  Once again, find a seller who actually has the book.

Some sellers on Amazon and AbeBooks do take photographs of their books.  I try to purchase from those sellers, if possible, and always get exactly what I expect.  However, make sure the description is read carefully even when a listing has a photo.  Look at the following screen capture of a deceptive AbeBooks listing.  Click on it to see a larger version.

I highlighted the text that states that the book does not have a dust jacket.  However, a jacket looks to be present from the main picture.  A buyer could easily look at the rather high price of the book, see the picture of the jacket, and assume that the seller is offering a book with dust jacket. 

The picture used in the AbeBooks listing was taken from a listing on Amazon from another seller.  I purchased the book on Amazon from the other seller and at a lower price.  The jacket has distinctive rubbing on the front panel.  I am amused that I own the jacket that this seller shows in a listing currently up for sale.

I often have to purchase from Amazon and AbeBooks without photos, since most sellers do not photograph their books.  When I purchase from listings that do not have photos, I make certain to select listings where the sellers are specific enough that I can be certain that the book meets my requirements and is actually in the seller's possession.  I look for specific statements about the condition of the book and jacket, such as details about rubbing, tears, or chipping. 

There are rival sites to eBay that are also useful for finding books, and the sellers usually photograph the books.  While the selection tends to be poor, sometimes the books are priced better, and sometimes scarce books go unsold on other sites.  When I wanted to find a Ted Wilford book to try, I found one on Etsy with no trouble.  Of course since I purchased the book, it isn't there anymore, but this serves as an example of how books that are absent from eBay might be on another site.


Finding good books at reasonable prices is difficult.  The prospective buyer has to persevere and search often, day after day and month after month.  No matter how scarce a book is, it will show up for sale eventually.