Saturday, November 28, 2015

Bret King #7 Comanche Caves, #8 Wolf Creek, and #9 Bandit Gulch

In Bret King #7, The Mystery of the Comanche Caves, Bret and his friends travel to Texas to help Andy's uncle track down some smugglers.

On page 48, Bret and the Rimrockers come across a young boy who is running away from home with his father in hot pursuit.  On page 51, just moments after meeting the Rimrockers, the boy's father agrees to let his son leave for two weeks and travel with the Rimrockers.  This is not logical.

Vic masters judo in one page.  This is also not logical.

Bret is given an amulet by a Chinese tourist.  Later, the amulet is seen by a Chinese man, who provides Bret with a clue because of the amulet.  How convenient.

I skimmed a lot of the text towards the end of the book.

The book is decent but nothing special.

In Bret King #8, The Phantom of Wolf Creek, Bret and the Rimrockers travel to Colorado to help the Conrads figure out who is pitting them against a neighboring rancher.

Church is mentioned on page eight, which, as I previously mentioned, is something that I tend to notice and find interesting. 

I feel like all the boys do in this book is follow tracks here and there, pretty much just like the last book.  In fact, at one point, I recalled an event from the last book and thought that it was in this book.  Later, I realized that I had confused the two stories, which shows how similar they are.

I enjoyed this book, although parts were not that interesting.

In Bret King #9, The Mystery of Bandit Gulch, Tovar is holding a festival that includes reenacting a train's journey into town.  The train's journey is put into jeopardy when the owner of a parcel of land refuses to let the train use the tracks across the property.  Soon, it becomes apparent that someone is after a treasure.

I greatly enjoyed this story.

I wonder if I am the only person who has ever been able to successfully completely ignore Benny's annoying expression, "well, gee my wheeze."  After the early books, the expression did not annoy me in the slightest.  In fact, I almost liked it at times, oddly enough, and in some of the later books, the expression does not appear often.  I found that I kind of missed seeing the expression in those books.

I overall greatly enjoyed this series.  I was bored at some points and had to skim some parts, but overall, the books are very good.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Phyllis Whitney Vanishing Scarecrow and Scowling Boy

In The Vanishing Scarecrow, Joan and her mother go to live on Rainbow Island, where Uncle Agate built an amusement park.  If Joan's mother can manage the park for three years, they will inherit the island.

Something is lacking in this book.  The story idea is interesting, and the setting should have been interesting.  The book didn't grab me, and finally, I began skimming it.  Considering how the story works out, I wish I had found the story more interesting.  It could have been outstanding and had great potential, but everything about it is flat and boring.

The book even has a plot twist, but I cared so little that even the plot twist didn't affect me at all.

In Mystery of the Scowling Boy, Jan and her brother spend the Christmas holiday in Pennsylvania with their grandparents in the mountains near the ski resorts.  Jan soon learns that Alanna Steven, her favorite actress, is staying in a house just below them on the mountain.  Jan's dream is to become an actress, so she yearns to become acquainted with Alana.

Jan soon learns that some mystery surrounds Alana and her son.  Their house is gloomy, and the others staying with them are unfriendly and suspicious of Jan and her brother.

I didn't like how Jo refused to defend herself while facing accusations.  My biggest problem in books is when characters hide things from each other.  I lost patience with Jo when she refused to tell what really happened.  Sure, they wouldn't have believed her, but she didn't even try.

Once the adults knew the truth, I began to greatly enjoy the story.  The last part of the book is excellent.

The last two Phyllis Whitney books that I read were Secret of Haunted Mesa and Secret of the Stone Face.  I did not write reviews of those books when I read them due to lack of motivation, which as I have explained before sometimes happens to me.  Since I am placing this post into the queue to be published around two months after I read the books, I am not interested in writing up reviews.  I recall that I did overall greatly enjoy both books. 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Bret King #5 Blizzard Mesa and #6 Fort Pioneer

In Bret King #5, The Mystery at Blizzard Mesa, New Mexico is having an unusually hard winter.  The Navajo are snowed in, and Bret volunteers to help with the airlift of hay and supplies to the Navajo reservation.  Meanwhile, Ace's uncle has been framed for the theft of valuable jewelry, and the boys seek clues to exonerate him.

On page 74, Bret tells a Navajo, "I don't think anything is crazy that good people sincerely believe in."  I like that quote, and it's too bad that most people don't have that kind of respect for what others believe.

This book has a lot of sabotage, which has become typical of the Bret King books.  However, the sabotage is written well and is consistently quite interesting.

This is an excellent book.  I greatly enjoyed it.

In Bret King #6, The Secret of Fort Pioneer, a movie is being filmed at Fort Pioneer and in the vicinity.  The set is being sabotaged, and one of the actors openly threatens Bret and his friends.

This book is a sabotage book that reminds me rather strongly of the modern Nancy Drew books.  It is quite similar to Nancy Drew Diaries #10, A Script for Danger.  That's not a compliment.  However, while weak, the book is much better than the Nancy Drew Diaries book.

The scenes transition way too fast from one to the next throughout this story.  In fact, the book reads like a Nancy Drew revised text book that was poorly revised.  Sadly, this choppy text is the original and only text.

A lot of the events in this book are a bit stupid.

One of the villains is so extremely obvious, since he openly threatens Bret and his friends over and over again throughout the book.  Of course, he works in the movie, just like the villain in another book I could mention.

I noted that church is mentioned in this book on page 80 and 150.  Church had not been previously mentioned in the Bret King series.  I tend to notice this since mentioning church became a staple of Grosset and Dunlap books in the middle part of the 1960s, and it's interesting that church was not mentioned in this series until the sixth title.

This book is okay but not that great.  I had to skim parts of it.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Phyllis Whitney Crimson Ghost and Missing Footprint

In The Mystery of the Crimson Ghost, Janey wants a horse of her own more than anything.  Her parents cannot afford to buy her a horse, and her father gets annoyed each time Janey talks about her desire.  Janey's family is spending the summer on a lake in New Jersey, and Mrs. Burley, who lives across the lake, owns a beautiful horse.  Janey hopes to get a chance to ride the horse, but Janey's aunt was responsible for injuring the horse.

I wasn't very interested in the book at the very beginning, but gradually, I became thoroughly engaged.

The part about Aunt Viv injuring the horse bothered me.  It seemed that Aunt Viv felt that Mrs. Burley should have already gotten over it, since Viv paid the vet bills and did everything she could.  I was thinking about how I would feel if I had a horse that I considered valuable, if a neighbor had ridden the horse without my permission, and if that neighbor had caused the horse to be injured where it would never completely recover.  I'd still be upset even after the vet bills had been paid.

Aside from my discomfiture about Aunt Viv's attitude about the horse, I greatly enjoyed this story.

In Secret of the Missing Footprint, Marcie's parents have decided to travel in Europe—without Marcie!  Marcie is forced to stay with Uncle Evan and his wife, and she feels that they don't want her.  Marcie is full of resentment, and soon, she is drawn to Timothy, a resentful boy who lives next door.

Marcie is mesmerized by Timothy.  Both of them have been abandoned by their parents, so she can relate to him.  He is troubled, and Marcie allows herself to get pulled into Timothy's scheme, which is to hurt their families.  Too late, Marcie realizes that Timothy's scheme is wrong, and she suffers the consequences.

This is an excellent book.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bret King #3 Range Rodeo and #4 Rawhide Gap

In Bret King #3, The Range Rodeo Mystery, the Tovar Range Rodeo is to be revived.  Both Rimrock Ranch and nearby Carrington Ranch have proposed prime locations for the rodeo.  Soon, the Rimrock crew realizes that Carrington will stop at nothing to win the competition for the rodeo site.

Basically, this story is about sabotage like so many modern Nancy Drew books.  Since I had just read the tenth Nancy Drew Diaries book, this stood out.  In contrast, these older series books that feature sabotage do that type of plot so well, making the story very interesting.  It's how the modern books should do it, but instead, they make it bland and uninteresting.

On page 46, a large group of visitors go back to the ranch for cake and refreshments.  I've often wondered how the mothers in these series deal with all these unexpected visitors arriving to consume large amounts of food.  It's not like they know ahead of time that all these people will arrive, yet somehow, they always have cakes and other desserts available.

The rodeo occurs in most of two chapters.  I skimmed a lot of those chapters, since I wasn't interested in the detailed descriptions of each event.

Benny's songs annoy me.  In fact, the songs annoy me while Benny's pet expression "gee my wheeze" no longer does.  I am now able to ignore "gee my wheeze" like it's regular conversation.

Jinx is a strong character in these books.  She is sixteen and makes decisions on her own, decisions that drive parts of the plot forward.  I like seeing a strong girl in a boys' series.  In fact, for both boys' and girls' series, I prefer seeing a mixture of both genders helping to drive the plot forward.

I greatly enjoyed this book.

In Bret King #4, The Mystery of Rawhide Gap, the boys plan to stay in the old ghost town of Rawhide Gap to help Jack Dullion look for proof that his great-great-great uncle did not commit a stagecoach robbery.  While in the ghost town, the boys become aware of a plot against a nearby government site and suspect that some of the tourists might be connected to the plot.

I smiled when sabotage was mentioned on page 10.  In these old books, the story is so creative that the sabotage is usually very interesting.

I love the strong girls in this series.  On page 121, the girls' tent has collapsed, and they try to set it back up without asking the boys to help them.

"Gee my wheeze" now reads like any other text to me.  It's like when George uses "hypers" in the Nancy Drew books.  I now do not find "gee my wheeze" to be even slightly annoying. 

This is an excellent book.  I read it quickly and enjoyed every bit of it.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Phyllis Whitney Angry Idol and Goblin Glen

In Mystery of the Angry Idol, Jan Pendleton stays with her grandmother and great-grandmother in Mystic, Connecticut.  Jan finds both Neil, who lives next door, and Patrick, who lives in Jan's grandmother's house, to be very annoying.

Jan becomes acquainted with her great-grandmother, Miss Althea, and learns about Miss Althea's jade collection.  One piece, called "Old Fang-Tooth," is ugly and hated by Miss Althea.  She can't get rid of it since her father gave it to her.  A mystery surrounds Old Fang-Tooth, and Jan decides that she will be the one to solve it.

I found this book kind of annoying.  I enjoyed the overall story, but several characters got on my nerves.  I had to skim parts of the book.

In Secret of Goblin Glen, Trina is spending the summer with friends of her parents in a town in New Hampshire.  Trina's Great-uncle Will Horst robbed a bank many years ago, and the stolen money has never been found.  Trina soon learns that she is unwelcome, so she decides to try to make amends by finding the stolen money.

This is an excellent story.  I found it very interesting from the very beginning, and the book held my attention all the way through.  I did not skim this book.  I read it very quickly, and the faster I read a book, the more I like it.

The book has a plot twist that occurs partway through the story, which makes it all the more interesting.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bret King #1 Ghost Canyon and #2 Hermit's Peak

Sometime years ago, I owned the first two titles in the Bret King series and tried reading some of the first book.  I was completely turned off by Benny's catch phrase, "Well, gee my wheeze."  This expression is uttered by Benny over and over again and is quite annoying.  The expression is first used on page three and was enough to scare me off.  I sold those two books.  After all, I did not like boys' series at that time.  This summer, I decided that I would try the series again and would purchase and read all nine titles, regardless of what I thought of Benny's pet expression.

In Bret King #1, The Mystery of Ghost Canyon, cattle are being rustled from Rimrock Ranch.  The boys also learn about a string of bank robberies.  Meanwhile, two scientists rent Benny Ortega's home, then proceed to warn everyone away.  Bret and his friends know the men are up to something.  The boys work to find the rustlers as they investigate the strange behavior of the two men.

While Benny's catch phrase was annoying, I simply ignored it as best I could each time it appeared, so I was not bothered much.

I found it a little hard to keep all the boys straight in my head, since they were all introduced very quickly and were present together in many scenes.  This took away slightly from my enjoyment of the story, but it wasn't that big of a problem.

As is typical in series books, the book has two seemingly unconnected mysteries, the rustled cattle and bank robberies.  It comes as no surprise when the mysteries turn out to be intertwined.

This book reminds me a lot of the Nancy Drew books of the 1960s.  In particular, the book contains plot devices that are similar to those books.  For instance, the culprits in this Bret King book use bull ornaments to identify themselves to each other.  As one culprit says on page 179, "That was another of -----'s trick ideas—carrying those fool bulls as a gang identification.  I warned him they would get us in trouble."  Indeed.  I was reminded of the Nancy Drew book, The Scarlet Slipper Mystery, when the villains use a passport number as identification.  These gangs in series books are not that large, so they hardly need to use some stupid means to identify themselves to each other.

While I enjoyed the first half of the book, it is nothing special.  The second half of the book is more interesting, and I was pleased with my reading experience when I finished the book.

In Bret King #2, The Secret of Hermit's Peak, one of Rusty's colts is killed by a mountain lion.  The boys search for the cat up near Hermit's Peak and are warned away by 'Ol Whiskers, the hermit.  'Ol Whiskers has a cache of gold hidden near the peak, and he is determined to protect it at all cost.  Meanwhile, several criminals have begun threatening 'Ol Whiskers to reveal the secret of his gold.

I like that both of Bret's younger siblings, sixteen-year-old Jinx and twelve-year-old Rusty, go along on some of the hunts.  Jinx can drive and does drive the boys around at times, and it's nice for a girl to take on a leadership role in a boy's series.

I feel like these books almost have too many primary characters.  While logical to have a group of seven or more people assisting, it's too much for a reader to appreciate.  It's like when Beverly Gray is accompanied by the Lucky Circle on an excursion.  Too many characters are present in the scene. 

I greatly enjoyed the main part of the story, but I got bored towards the end.  By that point, I felt like the boys kept going up and down the mountain over and over without much happening.  Since I was bored, I skimmed some of the text towards the end of the story.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Phyllis Whitney Hidden Hand and Emerald Star

In Mystery of the Hidden Hand, Gale Tyler stays in Greece with her mother and brother.  A mysterious figure dressed in a black cloak runs through their hotel.  Meanwhile, Gale finds a strange package in a closet, and soon learns that a mystery is connected to a nearby house in which distant relatives live.

This book is a travelogue.  I'm not interested in all the great detail about Greece.  I found most all of the information boring, because there is way too much of it.  "Less is more" is applicable.

I also have an aversion to books set in Greece because of The Greek Symbol Mystery.  I really hate that book.

The tone of this book reminds me of Golden Horn.  Too much is kept from the reader, and it is annoying. 

I was quite dissatisfied and bored with this book until page 111 when Gale learns the truth about the tiles, except at that point secrets about the hand and the significance of it are then kept from the reader.  I was dissatisfied again, but gradually, I gained interest in the story.  I intermittently skimmed the text, as I wasn't interested in all of the descriptions of Greece.

It look me longer that it should have to read this book.  The book did not interest me greatly, and I take longer in finishing books when I don't find them as compelling.

This is an overall good story, but it was somewhat lacking.  After reading this and the previous book, I was not very interested in continuing to read the Phyllis Whitney books.  I wanted to quit.

In Secret of the Emerald Star, Robin Ward and her family have moved to Catalpa Court on Staten Island.  Robin becomes friends with Stella, a blind girl who lives next door.  Stella's grandmother doesn't understand blindness and treats Stella like she is helpless.  Stella's grandmother is also prejudiced against people of Jewish faith.

This story is slow to get started, and I was partially bored.  I was concerned that I was not going to be interested in this book just like with the previous two books.  Finally, on page 53, discussions about prejudice and labels begin, which are very interesting and insightful.  Whitney mentions how a blind girl shouldn't be labeled as a blind girl and how she is a girl like all other girls.

This is an excellent book.  I greatly enjoyed it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Collection Sold on eBay

Quite a few fantastic lots of books came up for sale this summer on eBay.  I first started seeing the books in July and knew immediately that someone's collection was up for sale.  At that time I didn't know any details, but I began keeping a sharp watch on eBay for more listings.  Whenever entire collections come up for sale, books that are quite difficult to find become available.

Jennifer Fisher wrote about this collector's will which left her books to three collectors.  Another will surfaced leaving the books to some cats, then the estate ended up in disarray.  Unfortunately, the collector's will was ignored, and the books ended up on eBay.  Altogether, this is an unfortunate and distasteful situation.

Apparently, the books were given to a library, which then sold the books.  Based on the unusually low starting bids, I believe that the books were sold rather cheap to the sellers who listed them on eBay.  The deceased collector lived in southern Florida in the area of Fort Lauderdale.  Most of the sellers who sold the books on eBay were located within 15 miles of the collector's residence.  Ultimately, at least four sellers offered books from this collection.

I purchased a number of the lots offered by the different sellers.  One seller in particular did not sort the books, and I was forced to purchase many duplicates that I would have preferred not to have had to purchase.  Since the prices I paid for those books will be quite apparent, I want to mention that I have offered some books at less than what I paid and some at more than what I paid.  I am taking a loss on some books of necessity, while I make up the difference with other books.  

Seller #1 sold the following lots of books.  I purchased one lot of books, and the deceased collector's name was on printed emails found inside some of the books, thus proving that the books belonged to her.  Click on the images to view larger versions.

Seller #2 sold the following lots of books. This seller called all of the books "flashlight picture cover books."  It's kind of amusing to see Norwegian Nancy Drew books called "flashlight" editions.

Seller #3 sold the following books.  I purchased some of the books, and one package arrived in a box turned inside-out.  On the inside of the box the deceased collector's name and address was written, thus proving that this seller's books belonged to the collector. 

This seller sabotaged the second listing, the Swedish books that sold for $9.99, by inexplicably reducing the length of the auction a few days after the books were listed.  I would have bid, but the lot had closed early.  I'm sure that the seller realized the grave error days later after seeing the high prices of other listings.  He didn't make that mistake again.  You might think the listing closed low because Nancy Drew was misspelled in the title, but it was in the description.  I was aware of the listing from the day it was listed.  The change of duration was the real problem.  I always bid at the end, but I couldn't because it had ended. 

Seller #4 sold the following books.  For me personally, this seller's listings were the most interesting.  The Danish Nancy Drew books were mistakenly called Norwegian editions.  Also amusingly, the seller misspelled "Froken Detectiv" as "Frozen Detectiv."

The books from two of the four sellers were definitely from the deceased collector's collection.  Even though no proof of connection is known for the other two sellers, the books must be from the same collection due to the timing of the listings, the location of the sellers, and the nature of the type of series books being sold.  This collector was an avid collector of foreign editions, and every seller offered at least some foreign editions.

I found it interesting how every seller dumped the books into large lots.  Most buyers are not willing to purchase large lots where not all of the books are needed.  This caused the price per book to be well below what each book would have cost if purchased directly from other countries.  I have collected foreign editions since the late 1990s, and it is hugely expensive.  Most of these books were very cheap in comparison to the prices I have actually paid for foreign edition books.

The prices realized for these listings were likely all less that what the deceased collector paid for the books.  The prices she paid would have been comparable to what I have paid for similar books.  I found printed emails or invoices inside around six to eight books.  In each of those cases, what the collector paid was much higher than what I paid for her books.  If those sellers had bothered to inspect the books and had noticed the printed emails and invoices, they might have realized that the books are worth more than how they priced them.

I do not believe that all of this collector's books ended up on eBay.  A small number were listed on Amazon by one of the sellers, and many other foreign editions that the collector would have likely owned have not shown up for sale anywhere to my knowledge.  If you live in southern Florida, consider checking your local stores.  Perhaps some of the books are there.