Saturday, December 31, 2016

They Never Came Home, Ransom, and Gallows Hill

In They Never Came Home, Dan and Larry disappear during a hiking trip in the mountains. Joan is Dan's girlfriend and Larry's sister.  Frank is is Dan's brother.  Joan is threatened by a man who claims that Larry owes him money.  She confides in Frank, and soon, the two young people find themselves caught in the middle of a smuggling ring.

The way the story develops is intriguing, and I love how Joan and Frank end up being pulled into the mystery.

This is an excellent book.

In Ransom, five students are kidnapped while riding home on the bus.  Most of the students are from wealthy families, which is why they were targeted.  The teenagers are taken to an abandoned cabin up in the mountains while their families are contacted for ransom.

For me, the most interesting part of the plot is how four of the five teenagers experience personal growth during the story.  One teenager does not, and I somehow knew as I read the book that this teenager would not change.

This book is also excellent.

In Gallows Hill, Sarah and her mother move to Pine Crest so that Sarah's mother can be with her new boyfriend.  Sarah doesn't understand what has gotten into her mother, and soon Sarah finds the entire town is against her.

Gradually, Sarah realizes that something more important is at play and forces unknown to her are the reason why Sarah and her mother moved to Pine Crest.

This book is a bit depressing.  Everyone is against Sarah, and she can't catch a break.  When other students play pranks on Sarah, neither Sarah's mother nor her boyfriend believe her.  I found it quite annoying, especially since the text is excessively wordy during many of the scenes. The concept of "less is more" would have made this story better for me.

While I overall enjoyed the book, it's probably my least favorite Lois Duncan book.

I have created a Facebook group for enthusiasts of vintage teen books such as the ones reviewed in this post.  Please follow this link to join.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Dark Forces #9 Eyes of the Tarot and #10 Beat the Devil

In Dark Forces #9, Eyes of the Tarot, Bonnie is told by her grandmother to put the deck of old tarot cards back in the trunk.  Bonnie disobeys and takes the cards home.  She learns to use them and finds that she is an expert.  Bonnie has dreams in which the characters shown on the cards interact with her.  Soon, Bonnie realizes that she is in grave danger and that an evil magician is using Bonnie and the cards to return to power.

I enjoyed this book.

In Dark Forces #10, Beat the Devil, Doug loves video games.  One night, Doug wanders into a new video store in a deserted part of town.  The owner has only one game to sell, Beat the Devil. In the game, the player must beat the devil or have his soul consumed by the devil.  Doug quickly becomes obsessed with the game as the devil begins to take control of his soul.  Doug's only chance is to finally win the game—to beat the devil.

The cover of this book is fun.  It shows an old 1984 computer.  The game icons are displayed above the computer and are so delightfully accurate as to how lame game icons looked in 1984.

This story plays off of the belief many people have that video games are bad for children and teenagers.  In this book, a video game is actually bad, so bad that it is evil.  I love it!

Doug describes the colors in the game as brilliant and much more impressive than what he has ever seen in a video game.  I was thinking about how games looked in 1984, and somehow, I don't think it would take much to impress someone from 1984.  That is, I don't think a game from 1984 with "brilliant" colors would come close to what we have now.

This is an excellent book.  I always enjoy the ones that feature dated computers and applications.

I have created a Facebook group for enthusiasts of vintage teen books such as the ones reviewed in this post.  Please follow this link to join.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Third Eye and Locked in Time

In The Third Eye, Karen has the ability to see what has happened to missing children.  At the insistence of a young policeman, she agrees to find a missing girl.  Karen is devastated about what she learns and vows never to use her talent again.

Later, Karen once again agrees to find some kidnapped children, but the toll the experience takes may be too great.

This is an excellent book.  The book is quite suspenseful, and I found that I cared greatly about what happens to Karen and the others. This might be my very favorite Lois Duncan book.

In Locked in Time, Nore goes to live with her father, new stepmother, and new stepbrother and stepsister.  Soon, Nore notices strange behavior between her stepmother and her children.  Eventually, Nore realizes that they want her dead, because she has the ability to uncover their deception.

I don't have any particular comments to say about this book, but I enjoyed it greatly.  This book is also one of my favorite Lois Duncan books.

I have created a Facebook group for enthusiasts of vintage teen books such as the ones reviewed in this post.  Please follow this link to join.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Dark Forces #7 Unnatural Talent and #8 The Companion

In Dark Forces #7, Unnatural Talent, Andrew wants to be an excellent basketball player. Andrew's father is the coach of the high school team, and he is under intense pressure to be the best.  Unfortunately, Andrew has no basketball ability—until he performs a spell from a book he purchased.

The spell summons a demon, who gives Andrew what he wants.  But  Andrew  soon learns that the demon wants payment, and the payment is more than he can handle.

I enjoyed this book but not as much as other titles in the set.

In Dark Forces #8, The Companion, Jeff has had a secret friend since childhood.  Jeff's secret friend is Kim, a little green man who insists on coming with Jeff to his new boarding school.  Jeff soon learns that Kim has been using him to gain control of his soul, and Jeff can do little to stop him.

I had trouble getting into this story.  I might have enjoyed it more if I could have understood how Jeff came to like Kim to so much that he kept Kim as a companion for so many years.  Since I wasn't able to read about the early years, I had trouble accepting the premise.

I did not enjoy the first two-thirds of the book very much, but I greatly enjoyed the last one-third of the story.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Stranger with My Face, Daughters of Eve, and Gift of Magic

In Stranger with My Face, Laurie begins having problems with her boyfriend, who thinks he saw her on the beach.  Soon, others report seeing Laurie when Laurie knows she was not present.  After Laurie finally sees the mysterious figure, she realizes that she has a double—a double only present in spirit form. Later, Laurie learns that this mysterious person is planning to take over her life.

The story is quite suspenseful.  The reader gradually realizes what the mysterious person is planning and sees the mistakes that Laurie makes that place her in danger.

This is an excellent story.

In Daughters of Eve, several girls become new members of a secret society known as the Daughters of Eve.  Faculty sponsor Ms. Stark insists that women are treated unfairly in society and that the girls must seek revenge.  Some of the girls are uncomfortable with what Ms. Stark wants them to do.

This book introduces too many characters too fast and with minimal description.  I never could keep some of them straight, and this did reduce my enjoyment of the book.

Lois Duncan revised this book by stating several times throughout the text that the small town is stuck in a time warp where men treat women like they did 100 years ago.  In spite of those statements, the text still reads just like a book about feminism written in the 1970s.  Not enough was revised to change any of that.

In this book and in Killing Mr. Griffin, I find it curious how easily the teenagers are able to avoid discovery while perpetrating criminal acts on school property.  The books were revised in 2010, but modern books would have considered the prevalence of security cameras which most all schools now have.  Cameras should have been taken into consideration in the revisions.

This is a very good book, but it would probably not appeal to many male readers due to how negatively most males are portrayed in the story.

In A Gift of Magic, Nancy and her siblings were each given a gift by their grandmother. Nancy's gift allows her to read other people's minds and influence their behavior.  Nancy begins to use her gift to force others to behave the way she wants.  Ultimately, Nancy learns a lesson about life.

On page 174, the phone would have had caller id in a modern book, so that's a flaw in this revised modern edition.  Of course, the scene would not have worked the way it was written if the change had been made.

In the interview section in the back of the book, Lois Duncan mentions that readers tend to skim so she avoids using multiple names that begin with the same first letter.  I wish other authors would realize that all names in books should begin with different letters.

I enjoyed this book.

I have created a Facebook group for enthusiasts of vintage teen books from the 1980s to the present.  Please follow this link to join.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Dark Forces #5 The Bargain and #6 Swamp Witch

In Dark Forces #5, The Bargain, The Coastals is a struggling rock group.  The members are high school students who want nothing more than to become famous.  One night at a club, Chort introduces himself to the group.  He promises the members instant fame if they will enter into a bargain with him.  He assures them that they will be able to pay his fee.  What the members do not realize is that the fee will be their souls.

This book moves very slowly and is quite detailed.

I enjoyed this story.

In Dark Forces #6, Swamp Witch, Linda stays with her best friend, Heather.  The housekeeper, Tubelle, thinks Linda is trying to steal a boy away from Heather.  Unknown to Linda, Tubelle casts spells to bring about Linda's destruction.

I hate it when authors imply something without coming out and stating it.  If an author is going to use racial stereotypes, then the author might as well be upfront.  I was unsure about Tubelle's race.  That is, I made an assumption about Tubelle's race and then wondered if I was being racist.  This really bothered me.

On page 3, Tubelle states, "I is getting her breakfast ready."  On page 7, Tubelle states, "Made some extra for mah baby."  Nobody else in the book speaks this way, and Tubelle's race is not mentioned.  I assumed that Tubelle is African American and was surprised to see the dialect in a young adult book from 1983.  I then worried about whether I was the one who was guilty of racial stereotyping, even though I was pretty sure I was correct.  This worried me for a good portion of the book.  I couldn't decide for sure how to picture Tubelle.

Finally, on page 100, we learn more about Tubelle's grandson, Ben.  "Ron knew that Ben was sensitive about his background.  To bring up the superstitions that many of the blacks in the area still lived with was a delicate matter.  Even among friends."  This is an indirect statement, but it does make clear that Ben and his grandmother are African American.  At least I finally knew that I had not misinterpreted the intent of the dialect.

This book reads like a book from the 1950s or before because of the racial stereotypes.

I enjoyed this book.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Don't Look Behind You, Summer of Fear, and Down a Dark Hall

In Don't Look Behind You, April's family becomes part of the witness protection program after April's father testifies in a trial that results in the conviction of drug smugglers.  April does not understand the seriousness of the situation and makes several mistakes that place her family in deadly danger.

I could relate to April, although I wouldn't have made her mistakes.  I was always a young person who did what I was told and understood why I should follow orders.  I would not have endangered my family like April did. However, I understand her naiveté, as many teens would make those kinds of mistakes.

I greatly enjoyed this book.  It is very suspenseful.

In Summer of Fear, Rachel's cousin, Julia, comes to live with Rachel and her family after her parents are killed in an accident.  Pretty soon, Rachel discovers that Julia is trying to steal her boyfriend and is turning her family against her.  Rachel finds evidence that Julia might be a witch, but nobody will believe her.

I also greatly enjoyed this book.

In Down a Dark Hall, Kit is sent away to boarding school at Blackwood School for Girls while her mother and stepfather go on their honeymoon.  Kit is resentful and doesn't want to attend the school.  Upon Kit's arrival, she senses that the school is evil.  Soon, Kit and the other girls notice strange events and try to figure out what is happening.

This book is quite spooky and mysterious.  I love the atmosphere.  I also love how the girls work to solve the mystery.  They can't figure out what is going on, so they puzzle out the situation.

I couldn't help thinking of the Nancy Drew games as I read this story.  The setting would be perfect for a Nancy Drew game.

On the subject of Nancy Drew, the back cover refers to the school as "Blackwood Hall."  I'm pretty sure that exact name is never used anywhere in the book.  The school is just called "Blackwood."  I feel like someone was having a little fun with the promotional blurb.

This is an excellent book.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Dark Forces #3 The Doll and #4 Devil Wind

In Dark Forces #3, The Doll, Cassie is drawn to a doll that is available as a carnival prize at the fair. Her boyfriend, Jack, wins the doll for her.  As soon as Cassie takes possession of the doll, she notices that it seems to resemble her but gives it no further thought.

Jack notices that Cassie is under the doll's spell and that the doll is growing larger and taking on a more human appearance.  Meanwhile, accidents surround Cassie and her friends.  Jack believes the doll is cursed, but can he convince Cassie that she must get rid of her prized possession?

Some of the events are quite unsettling.  One scene in particular disturbed me, as it involved the death of a beloved animal.

This is an excellent book.

In Dark Forces #4, Devil Wind, Peter and Mary enjoy their afternoon sailing until they enter a mysterious cove.  While inside the cove, fog envelops them, and the two young people become separated.  Peter has a terrifying experience that he cannot remember later.

Peter begins acting strangely, and Mary researches the history of the area in order to find out what is happening.

This book is a bit gruesome.  Let's just say that it involves animal mutilation.  The details are not described, but the reader can easily imagine the scene.

I enjoyed this book.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

I Know What You Did Last Summer and Killing Mr. Griffin

I purchased a set of 10 Lois Duncan books on eBay.  The books are from 2010.  I was not aware until after I received the books that I had purchased revised editions.  Lois Duncan revised the text of each book to include references to modern technology.  She also made some other minor changes, such as to clothing styles.

At first I was annoyed that the books are revised, but then I decided that I did not care. Ultimately, I greatly enjoyed reading the revised books.  I especially enjoyed that each book has an interview with Lois Duncan in the back after the end of the story.

In I Know What You Did Last Summer, four friends are in a vehicle that hits and kills a young boy.  The driver insists that the friends not report the accident.  One year later, the friends learn that someone knows what happened, when this person begins harassing them.

I noticed a curious mixture of cultural references in this book.  Lois Duncan inserted modern references to webcasts and the Iraq War.  However, one girl works at the Wards department store, and that should have been changed.  Oops.  Wards no longer exists.

I enjoyed this book.

In Killing Mr. Griffin, some of Mr. Griffin's students decide to scare him to get payback for him being a difficult teacher.  Unexpectedly, Mr. Griffin dies, and the students cover up the crime.

While I enjoyed the book, I couldn't relate to the characters at all.  I also found the premise to be too disturbing to enjoy.  I am a teacher, and one of my former students is in prison for a sadistic murder.  It's sobering to think that someone I knew and interacted with on a daily basis later murdered somebody.

Furthermore, violence in schools against students and teachers has worsened in the last 20 years.  This book was published back back before school shootings became common. Reading this book was not escapism.  It was a bit of a downer.

I did overall enjoy the book, but I doubt I would ever read it again.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hardy Boys Wanderer Books and Judy Bolton Picture Covers

I really enjoyed reading the Hardy Boys Wanderer books early this year, so much so that I decided that I wouldn't mind having them in hardcover with dust jacket.  However, I didn't want to invest the time and money to try to find them.  I have made no effort in trying to acquire any and figured that I would probably never own any of them.

This is because I know all too well how very difficult it is to acquire the complete set of Nancy Drew Wanderer books in hardcover with dust jacket in any type of decent condition.  I have been working on my Nancy Drew set since the early 2000s.  I do have all Nancy Drew titles from #57 through #78 in hardcover with dust jacket, but a few could still be upgraded.  While I enjoyed reading the Hardy Boys Wanderer books, I am not interested in spending years and a lot of money building a set of them in hardcover.

I spotted a small bulk lot of Hardy Boys books in which some books appeared to be hardcover books.  In my recent post about the hardcover Nancy Drew digest books, I stated that you should always "be observant" when looking for books.  That's how I find good books.

I clicked on the listing and examined the photos.  I saw a mixture of hardcover and softcover books, and I determined that the hardcover books all had dust jackets.  I purchased the lot and ended up receiving 11 Hardy Boys Wanderer books in hardcover with dust jacket and a Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Super Sleuths book in hardcover with dust jacket.

None of the books are library discards, which makes the purchase simply outstanding. The cost was also very inexpensive.

I will end up selling the extra copies of #78 and #79 as well as the Super Sleuths book which is in worse shape than the one already in my collection.

By the way, I still don't intend to seek out the remaining Hardy Boys Wanderer books in hardcover with dust jacket, but I wouldn't mind for more of them to fall into my hands.  I am very happy with the ones that I now have.

These books are like other items in my collection that I own due only to sheer luck. That's why I have owned the scarce Tom Swift game since 1998, and I don't even collect Tom Swift.  I just can't make myself part with the Tom Swift game.

I also happened upon a bulk Nancy Drew lot that contained four Judy Bolton picture cover books, #35, 36, 37, and 38.  I purchased the lot.  The lot was priced fairly for what it contained.  I received that lot today and was astonished about the excellent condition of the Judy Bolton picture cover books.  I knew immediately that all four are in better condition than the copies in my collection.

Here is a photo of the new books on the left and the four from my collection on the right.

I have owned the four on the right since 2002.  Prices for the high-numbered Judy Bolton picture covers were still quite steep back then.  Those four books cost me a total of $370.93 in 2002.  It is sickening to think that they cost that much and are worth just a fraction of that amount now.  The most sickening part is that I will be selling them and will likely get no more than half that amount, if even that much.

The upgrades only cost me around $20 each.  There is a law about collecting that holds true most all of the time:  The upgrade will cost less.  There are exceptions, but in my collecting history, the upgrades have almost always been much less expensive than the first copies purchased.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Dark Forces #1 The Game and #2 Magic Show

In Dark Forces #1, The Game, Julie and Terri are identical twin sisters, but their lives are changed when Julie is paralyzed in a car accident.  Julie feels sorry for herself and begins playing with a Ouija board in her room at night.  Julie becomes possessed by an evil spirit, and Terri must find a way to help her.

I like the little cultural references that appear in books from the 1980s, since those were my formative years.  On page 25, Terri reflects, "All of a sudden it occurred to her that they didn't make red M&Ms anymore.  She hadn't seen one in years."

So true.  We didn't have red M&Ms at that time because of the health scare with red dye #2. M&Ms never used red dye #2, but they discontinued that color for 11 years.  My favorite M&Ms are green, orange, yellow, and brown. That's the way it was in the 1980s, and that's the way it should be.  The blue and red ones never have looked right to me since they weren't around when I was young.

The constant point of view shifting in the middle of all scenes makes it hard to remember which girl is which.  The book would have been easier to read if the chapters had alternated with each girl's point of view.

The resolution at the end of the book is too quick and easy.

I enjoyed this book.

In Dark Forces #2, Magic Show, Chris inherits a sorcerer's book of spells from a deceased magician.  Chris begins using the book and quickly gains power.  Unknown to Chris, a spirit is using him to get revenge.  Lucy knows that her boyfriend is in danger, but can she help him?

On page 22, Chris asks Lucy to play a game of Asteroids with her.  Yes!  I played Asteroids probably hundreds of times in the early 1980s.

This is a very good book.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Scholastic's Point Horror Series and Fear Street

I have already mentioned how I read one R. L. Stine book as a teenager and did not care for it.  I decided to give Stine another try and purchased some of his books.  I also purchased some of Diane Hoh's Nightmare Hall books and some other miscellaneous teen books.

The books seen in this picture are the books that I sampled that are the main subject of this post.

It did not go well.  I tried to read all of them, but I only read enough of three of them to be able to list those books on my list of books read in 2016.  Even the three that I read were partially skimmed.  The other five books were skimmed until partway through and then abandoned without finishing them.

Seven of the eight books are Scholastic books.  This gives me little confidence in any teen horror book published by Scholastic aside from the ones written by Richie Tankersley Cusick.  I will probably try to avoid all Scholastic teen horror books from now on other than Cusick.

Let's start with R. L. Stine.  I cannot stand his writing style.  That must be why I did not like Blind Date when I read it as a teen.  I realize that many of you love R. L. Stine, but the allure of his books completely escapes me.  I think if I had been introduced to Stine's books at a much younger age than 16 to 18, I might have enjoyed them.  I suspect that most of us who did not read Stine as teens are unable to enjoy them as adults when reading them for the first time.

I find Stine's characters and their behavior to be obnoxious.  The characters in Stine's books go into hysterics over nothing.  They scream at each other and get scared often when nothing is wrong.  Stine's writing is repetitious with lots of short sentences, all designed to take up lots of space.  Here is an example.

To be fair, most of the text isn't as bad as this example.  However, I have a low tolerance for this style of writing, and examples like this are scattered throughout each of Stine's books.  This writing style is too much like books for very young children, and I am not interested in those kinds of books.

I tried four different Stine books and enjoyed none of them.  I did enjoy some parts of some of the books, but not enough to want to read more of them.

I tried Diane Hoh—or at first, I thought I did.  I began reading Nightmare Hall #2 The Roommate.  I couldn't believe how similar the style is to R. L. Stine.  I felt like I was reading another Stine book, so I looked at the copyright page.  I discovered that the book was actually written by Nola Thacker.  Okay, so Diane Hoh wrote a bunch of books, but some of Hoh's books were really written by Nola Thacker.  Here is the most awful part of The Roommate, and it reads just like R. L. Stine.

Somebody please save me!  I wasn't feeling too good about the Nightmare Hall series, but I wanted to read one actually written by Diane Hoh before making a final decision.  I started reading Nightmare Hall #3, Deadly Attraction, which is credited to Diane Hoh on the copyright page.  Too many characters are introduced too fast, and I found no reason to care about them.  The text isn't nearly as choppy as Stine and Thacker, but I still didn't like it.  The girls are shallow and only interested in hunks who are also shallow.  Spare me.

I decided that I wouldn't be reading any more Stine or Nightmare Hall books.

I tried The Vampire's Promise by Caroline B. Cooney.  The story is hard to follow, switching between characters and between past and present scenes for all the characters.  I couldn't keep anything straight and quickly grew bored.  Actually, I was bored from the first page.  I gave up within the first 30 pages since it wasn't worth it.

I tried Junior High Private Eyes.  This book actually reads the most like a normal book of all of these books.  Unfortunately, it wasn't very interesting, and I abandoned it as well.

After I photographed the books for this post, I tried Camp Fear by Carol Ellis, which is another Scholastic teen horror book.  Too many characters are introduced all at once.  I can never keep up with a plot when an author does that.  Despite my confusion, I tried to forge ahead, and then I gave up.  Authors who can write well avoid throwing a bunch of information at the reader all at once.

Finally, I tried The Accident by Diane Hoh.  It is okay, and I was able to get through the entire book.  However, I won't ever read it again.

The bottom line is that I won't be keeping any of these books, and at least I don't have to worry about building a set of R. L. Stine books.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Twilight Darkness #25 Deadly Rhyme and #26 Scavenger's Hunt

In the final two books of the Twilight Where Darkness Begins set, the series changes from horror to mystery with no supernatural events.  When a series strays from its premise, it is clearly on the decline and needs to end.  The series should have ended after #24.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #25, A Deadly Rhyme, Angela is a new student at an exclusive prep school, Glencora.  Strange accidents befall several students and teachers, and Angela is nervous.

There is mention of a spirit at the beginning of the story.  However, I never expected the spirit to appear, and it never did.  This is not a ghost story.  It is a mild mystery where a living and breathing person decides to cause trouble out of vengeance.  This story is not horror or anything similar to it, and the story is only slightly interesting.

The book has too many characters.  I kept having to flip back towards the beginning of the story to try to recall each one.  I kept getting confused.  The author also randomly switches between referring to teachers by their first and last names.  In one instance, a teacher is called by her first name for quite a few chapters, then the text abruptly switches to her last name with no explanation.  I had no idea who was meant and was very confused.

Information is revealed in a fashion that is confusing, and it happens several times.

This book was not written well.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #26, Scavenger's Hunt, Kyle Scavenger visits her family's ancestral home with her aunt.  Aunt Ruth is hosting a scavenger hunt on the property.  And it's not worth the effort to explain further.

Like the previous book, this book has no supernatural events.  This is a murder mystery and nothing else.  I did not enjoy it very much.

Nancy Drew is mentioned three times during the story.  On page 7, we learn that Kyle read the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books as a child. Later, Kyle is called "Nancy Drew" twice by her boyfriend.

I overall greatly enjoyed reading the Twilight Where Darkness Begins series.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Strange Buyer Questions

Potential buyers who ask strange questions, especially ones that are unnecessary, are always concerning to sellers.  Fortunately, most of these buyers do not make a purchase.  For some reason, they like to contact sellers and ask questions that are already answered in the item description.  It's like they aren't really interested in the item, but they need for the seller to answer a question before they can let it go.

I recently had a prospective buyer ask me two questions.  The first question was whether the price written inside was in ink or in pencil.  The second question was for me to "be more specific as to the 'light wear' " that I described.

It's really hard for me to answer the second question without being snarky.  I am also always quite concerned when I receive these kinds of questions.  I immediately checked the buyer's feedback where I determined that this buyer has an above average number of problems with sellers.  This buyer leaves negative and neutral feedback on a somewhat regular basis.  While the buyer might have genuinely had more difficult sellers than the average buyer, it is always concerning to see a buyer with an above average number of problems.

When I answer these kinds of questions, I word my response in such a way as to hopefully dissuade the buyer from purchasing the book.  I told the buyer, "The price inside is written in pencil. However, I believe part of it is heavy enough that it will not erase. The penciled price is on top of another erased price that did not erase completely. So it won't be possible to completely remove all traces of the prices."  That was how I attempted to dissuade the buyer.

In regard to the buyer's first question, I tried not to be snarky.  I wanted to write, " 'Light wear' is wear that is light."  I also wanted to write, "Look at the pictures."  I refrained, but what I wrote wasn't much different.  I replied, "Light wear is wear that is minor rather than major. You can see the light wear in the picture. Hover your cursor on the photos to view them large. You can see a small amount of white showing through at the very ends of the spine and corners. That's the light wear."

The buyer did not purchase the book, which was fine with me.

Some buyers ask for me to take additional pictures of the book or jacket.  Most of the time, I understand why.  One buyer wanted a photo of a certain illustration inside a Three Investigators book.  I assume that the buyer was seeking a variant.  That makes sense.  Other buyers want photos of the front and back flaps of the dust jacket.  I understand this request as well.  The best way to make sure a price code is either black or red is to ask for a picture.  Sometimes it is also easier just to request a photo than to make certain that a seller gives the correct last title in the series list.

Then there are the other picture requests.  One buyer asked for me to take "random pictures" of several pages from different parts of the book with no explanation as to the purpose of the request.  I was given no information about which pages I should select for the "random pictures."  I assumed that the buyer probably wanted to know about the paper quality or wanted to check for water damage, but I would have appreciated the buyer giving me an idea as to the purpose of the request.  I photographed some random pages, and as expected, the buyer did not purchase the book.

I have had several prospective Hardy Boys buyers ask me to take pictures of the pre-text list, title page, and/or copyright page, telling me that they are seeking a certain printing.  I am not nearly as knowledgeable about the Hardy Boys series as I am about Nancy Drew, so in each case I looked in Hardy and Hardy Investigations to see what I didn't know that I should have mentioned.

Strangely, I could find nothing special about those pages in the books about which the buyers inquired.  I don't know what the pictures were going to reveal about the books. Perhaps some additional information has come to light about some books, and since I am not active in Hardy Boys groups, I don't have that information.  In any case, I am left perplexed and wondering whether some of the picture requests are just to see if I'll take the pictures.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Twilight Darkness #22 Haunted Dollhouse, #23 The Warning, and #24 Amulet of Doom

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #22, The Haunted Dollhouse, Jessica and her mother have moved into an old house.  An old dollhouse is discovered in the attic and is brought downstairs.  Soon, Jessica notices that the dolls in the dollhouse change position on their own and that the furniture also moves.  After something happens in the dollhouse, it then happens in the original house.  Jessica wants to get rid of the dollhouse, but her mother refuses.

The prologue is quite effective in setting up a spooky atmosphere for the story.

One scene almost caused me to have a panic attack.  It was similar to something very bad that happened in my life last year, and I began to get upset anticipating and fearing the same result. Fortunately, the scene in the book has a happier conclusion, so I was able to calm down and enjoy the rest of the book.

This is an excellent book.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #23, The Warning, Lois loves her boyfriend, Ronnie, and life is good.  Her best friend keeps warning her about her boyfriend, which is annoying.  Lois has no worries until her fingers begin typing hateful messages during typing class. Somebody hates her and wants bad things to happen to her.

Ronnie is an obvious abusive boyfriend.  He is manipulative and calls Lois "honeybunch." Yuck.  He gets angry when Lois does not do what he wants, but Lois is oblivious to his faults. I hate reading books where the protagonist is so clueless.  However, the story does accurately depict how someone like Lois would act while in an abusive relationship.

The boyfriend situation is tied to the warnings that Lois types during her typing class.  The mystery behind who is possessing Lois's hands is quite surprising.  The culprit cannot possibly be guessed until the reveal.

This is a very good book.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #24, The Amulet of Doom, Marilyn's aunt, Zenobia, dies of a heart attack.  After Zenobia's death, her spirit comes to Marilyn, telling her to retrieve Zenobia's amulet from her body and to guard it.  Once the amulet is in Marilyn's possession, she realizes that the amulet contains a dangerous spirit.

While this is a good story, I did not care for it. This set features two books written by Bruce Coville, this book and Spirits and Spells, and both books are centered around magic and fantasy with characters who appear from another world or via time travel.  They don't fit the premise of the rest of the set, and I did not like them very much. They don't mesh well with the other stories, and that's my issue.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Building a Set of Hardcover Nancy Drew Digest Books

I have been working on building a complete set of the Nancy Drew digest books, #57-175, in hardcover since 2001.  It's been 15 years, and the set is still not complete.

I began building the set because at that time I did not like softcover books at all.  I first decided to build a set of the Wanderer books with dust jackets, #57-78, and quickly expanded to library bindings of all of #57 -175.

As the years have passed, the frequency with which I find hardcover digests that I need has decreased significantly.  Hardcover versions of #130 and up are extremely scarce. They exist, but most of them are still in the hands of the original owners.

Earlier this year I tallied what I needed and was shocked that I only needed 29 of the digests in hardcover.  I spent some time during the summer searching for the 29 books I needed in hardcover.  I was able to locate three of them, bringing the number I needed down to 26 books.

I have never felt that I would ever complete the set, but that kind of difficult goal is fun to work towards as a collector.  Finishing the set would still be quite improbable, but I was thrilled to see that I was beginning to get closer.

After a recent unexpected acquisition, I now see completion of the set as distinctively more possible, although still quite difficult.

I saw a near-complete set of Nancy Drew digests for sale for $300 and realized that some of the high-numbered books were hardcover editions.  I wasn't sure how many, and the seller's price was too high for me to purchase without knowing for sure what the lot contained.  Also, the listing had some contradictory information that concerned me.  The seller's picture is seen below.  The Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books at the end of the second shelf were not part of the lot, which I knew.  Remember that you can click on any image to see a larger version.

A few Aladdin books on the top shelf are missing the Aladdin icon at the top spine, which reveals them to be rebound hardcover books.  The variance in heights for the books on the second shelf shows that some are rebound hardcover books.  But I couldn't tell how many for sure.  I inquired about which books were hardcover and learned that the lot contained 27 hardcover books including at least 10 of my needed 26 books.

I purchased the lot, even though the price was still too high for me.  15 years ago, I never paid more than $5 per hardcover digest book.  In recent years, I have paid $5 to $10.  When I realized that I needed only 29 hardcover digest books, I decided that I would be willing to pay $10 to $20 each for the remaining books if in very good condition.  That's why I decided to purchase this expensive lot.

I was nervous waiting for the books to arrive, since I knew from past experience that bulk lots are almost always stacked in a box and mailed with no protection.  That was certainly the case with these books, but fortunately, nothing was damaged since the books were not able to shift much inside the box.

I was happy when I removed the books from the box and discovered a total of 32 hardcover books in the lot, which was five more than I was told.

These are the hardcover books that I received.

I was thrilled to discover that nearly all of the hardcover books are not library discards. While building a set of hardcover Nancy Drew digests is very difficult, acquiring those hardcover books in copies that are not from libraries is nearly impossible.

Only six of the books are library discards, and I quickly recognized those six books.  I knew the scuff on the spine of #89, and I recognized the way "discard" was written inside the books.  #89, 90, 92, 96, 120, and 143 used to be my books, and #89 with the scuffed spine is the book scanned years ago for my website.  I upgraded them and sold them, and now I have them back again.  I am a little dismayed that I have them back again while at the same time I am amused.  This is not the first time books have come back to me.

I am keeping all 26 of the books that are not library discards, and I will sell the six books that came back to me.  I will also sell the large number of softcover books that came in the lot.  This purchase was well worth the cost considering what I added to my collection.  Of the 26 books, five books are upgrades of copies in my collection.  Nine books are variants of books already in my collection, and I will keep both versions.  The remaining 12 books are new additions to my hardcover digest set.  Here are the books that I will keep.

This purchase brings the number of hardcover digest books that I need down from 26 to just 14 more books.  The following books are the only books that I still need in hardcover.

109. The Mystery of the Masked Rider, 1992 (read update)
114. The Search for the Silver Persian, 1993
115. The Suspect in the Smoke, 1993
122. The Message in the Haunted Mansion, 1994
123. The Clue on the Silver Screen, 1995
130. The Sign of the Falcon, 1996
145. The Missing Horse Mystery, 1998
148. On the Trail of Trouble, 1999
158. The Curse of the Black Cat, 2001
160. The Clue on the Crystal Dove, 2001
168. The Bike Tour Mystery, 2002
169. The Mistletoe Mystery, 2002
170. No Strings Attached, 2003
175. Werewolf in a Winter Wonderland, 2003

It's interesting that I still need a few that are not particularly high-numbered.  However, some of the mid-range titles are harder to find even in softcover, such as #114 and #122, which is why I have not yet found them in hardcover.  Since all titles from #130 and up are quite hard to find in hardcover, I am actually surprised that I now have as many of those titles as I do.

Here are all of my books together on the shelf.  The back shelf starts with #57 on the left and goes through #84. The front shelf begins with #85 on the left and ends with Ghost Stories on the right.

I was asked earlier this year how to find the Nancy Drew digest books in hardcover.  I have some methods that have helped me locate them, but I am not willing to divulge everything I know until I complete my set.  The primary method, however, is obvious and can be inferred from this post:  Be observant.

Keeping in mind that this recent transaction is an anomaly, my present acquisition rate of just one or two per year means that I cannot expect my set to be complete for at least another seven years.  I am not sure that I will complete the set, but I am ever hopeful and enjoy the process.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Twilight Darkness #19 Dance of Death, #20 Family Crypt, and #21 Evil on the Bayou

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #19, Dance of Death, Regan comes to live with her aunt and uncle at Ferncrest Manor.  Regan senses an evil presence in the house, and she is mystified about how nobody else notices.  Regan begins having vivid dreams about the previous owners of the house.  Two twin brothers once lived there, and the brothers were rivals for the affection of a young woman.  Now long dead, both brothers haunt the house.

On page 72, Regan refects, "Reading was as necessary as eating or sleeping for her."  I would have to agree with that.  On page 73, we learn that Regan would "even read cereal boxes and matchbook covers when nothing else was available."  I have done that as well.

This is an excellent story.  There is a mystery between the twin brothers.  As I read, I began to get an idea of what the secret might be.  The mystery is very intriguing.  Even though the book has ghosts, the ghosts did not scare me.  This is a mystery from the past that one brother wants Regan to solve, while the other brother works to thwart Regan's efforts.

This is an outstanding book.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #20, Family Crypt, Janet skips school to go on a cruise on the lake.  The ship gets stalled near an island, and Janet spends the night on the island.  Janet discovers an old cemetery and rides on a horse that nobody can find the next day.  Unfortunately for Janet, her presence on the island allowed for an evil spirit to escape, putting Janet and her friends in serious danger.

The beginning of the book is not interesting at all.  The historical information given is rather confusing and lengthy.  Otherwise, the book is excellent and very suspenseful.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #21, Evil on the Bayou, Meg goes to stay with Aunt Belle, who is bedridden and quite elderly.  Meg notices that the photographs on the stairway seem alive as she walks up the stairs.  Meg sits with Aunt Belle, and each visit leaves her drained. Meanwhile, Aunt Belle starts looking younger and healthier.  In horror, Meg realizes what is happening.

The plot of this book reminds me of the movie Alison's Birthday, which I saw on television several times at around the time this book was published.  Alison's Birthday was released in 1981, and this book was published in 1984.  In the movie, Alison's grandmother plans to switch bodies with her granddaughter.  That is not quite the same premise as this book, but it is close enough.  The movie is very creepy and so is this book.

This book is excellent.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Gender Inequality in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Books

While reading the Hardy Boys Digest series, I realized that the modern Nancy Drew is constrained by her gender.  The Hardy Boys are allowed much more interesting adventures, since they are boys.  The Hardy Boys get to be truck drivers, volunteer firefighters, and tightrope walkers.  In one book, they even get to use machine guns and drive a tank.

Nancy Drew gets to investigate museum sabotage, fundraiser sabotage, zucchini smashing, any other lame sabotage that Simon and Schuster can create, and the occasional disappearance.  The Hardy Boys get lots of sabotage as well, but they also get all the more interesting types of sabotage stories.

This means that the modern Hardy Boys books have more varied adventures than the modern Nancy Drew books.  This is baffling, considering the trend in society towards gender equality.  For some inexplicable reason, Simon and Schuster is taking Nancy Drew in the opposite direction, choosing to keep Nancy Drew in a strict gender-defined role that limits her ability to sleuth while allowing the Hardy Boys to have exciting adventures.

In the early 1930s, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys received equal treatment.  In the early books, both series have the same kind of adventures.  The young people explore spooky places, are abducted, help those less fortunate than themselves, and bring criminals to justice.  The adventures are of the type that could be experienced by either gender.  The only difference is that the Hardy Boys' adventures are more physical, with them playing a few pranks and getting into some fights.  Otherwise, the early Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series are the same.

It's been said that Mildred Wirt Benson, author of the early Nancy Drew books, believed that the girls' series books published before the time of Nancy Drew were "namby-pamby." She wanted Nancy Drew to be better than that.  This resulted in Nancy Drew's adventures being almost just like the boys' series adventures of the time, which had previously not been the case with many girls' series books.  Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys had gender equality, or pretty close to it, during the 1930s.

Once the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series were sold to Simon and Schuster during the 1980s, the premise of Nancy Drew began to shift, gradually becoming more tame. In the Nancy Drew Digest series, Nancy is no longer allowed to have as interesting of adventures as the Hardy Boys.  That trend has continued all the way into 2016, and it has worsened.

The trend with Nancy Drew has been the exact reverse of society.  The modern Nancy Drew is no Katniss Everdeen or Tris Prior.  In 2016, Nancy Drew is instead "namby-pamby," which is exactly what Mildred Wirt Benson said of the girls' books from before the creation of Nancy Drew.

In the Nancy Drew Diaries books, Nancy and her friends speak of Nancy's interest in solving cases like it's a joke.  Nancy is forgetful and doesn't understand the Internet. Her friends think she needs a chaperone to keep her out of trouble.  Most importantly, Nancy spends her time waiting for things to happen and remarking about how she needs to get serious about solving the case.  The old Nancy Drew was never like that.

Why has Simon and Schuster done this to Nancy Drew?

Many Nancy Drew fans were quite upset about the premise of Nancy Drew Girl Detective.  Simon and Schuster must have received a large number of complaints. Collectors of the baby boomer generation have extremely strong opinions about what Nancy Drew should be.  Those people strongly denounced the Girl Detective series. They couldn't believe how Nancy Drew had been made forgetful and how her first case involved smashed zucchini.  They insisted that Nancy Drew needed to be exactly like the original Nancy Drew of 1930.

I wonder if Simon and Schuster misunderstood.  Is it possible that the folks at Simon and Schuster have never read an original text Nancy Drew book and have no idea what the stories are like?  Could they possibly think that Nancy Drew of the 1930s has lame adventures like the lame early series books that Mildred Wirt Benson hated?  Did they think that Nancy Drew was held back by her gender in the 1930s?

Simon and Schuster might have tried to make Nancy Drew more like old times, not realizing what a strong character she has always been.  They have turned Nancy Drew into an insipid character with boring, unimaginative stories that have an undercurrent of silliness that was never present in the original series or in the Nancy Drew Digest series.

As I previously wrote, the Hardy Boys Adventures contain imaginative stories, and strangely, the Hardy Boys Adventures have little physical action, which means that a few name changes could have easily turned any of the stories into excellent Nancy Drew books.  Oddly, Simon and Schuster is giving all the creative plots to the Hardy Boys, and I can't figure out why, unless they want to destroy Nancy Drew.  Surely they don't, because that wouldn't make sense.

For whatever reason, Simon and Schuster is treating the two series in a sexist fashion and is slighting Nancy Drew as a result.  One striking example came to me as I began reading the latest Hardy Boys Adventures book that features hazing.  The Hardy Boys had already investigated at least two previous hazing cases in the Digest and Undercover Brothers series, and I wondered why Nancy Drew has never investigated hazing.  I thought sarcastically, girls never haze each other.  Or at least, the people at Simon and Schuster must not think girls ever haze each other or must think it would be wrong to depict girls hazing each other.

I then had a hunch as I continued reading the Hardy Boys book, since the text was scattered with clues.  I was gleeful about the irony of my previous thoughts about girls and hazing when one of the hazing culprits turns out to be a girl.  Oh!  So then why does Nancy Drew not investigate hazing when girls are capable of hazing in the Hardy Boys series?

None of this makes sense to me.  Why is Simon and Schuster doing this to Nancy Drew?

While I have many complaints about the Nancy Drew Diaries series, only two truly matter.  First, the stories are bland, and almost all of them feature boring sabotage plots.  Second, Nancy Drew herself is bland, and she struggles to find a way to motivate herself into solving each mystery.  Correct these two problems, and the series will improve greatly.

Nancy Drew has lost her way.  Can she be saved?  I am losing hope.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Twilight Darkness #16 Drawing the Dead, #17 Storm Child, and #18 Watery Grave

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #16, Drawing the Dead, Cynthia returns to Chapel Valley, her childhood home.  Upon Cynthia's arrival, she begins drawing deeply disturbing pictures.  It's as though something is controlling her pencil. Cynthia soon notices that her drawings foretell the future.  Her emotions have become volatile, changing from love to hate suddenly.  Cynthia becomes fearful, knowing that an evil spirit is controlling her.

The climax of the story where Cynthia does what she can to get rid of the evil spirit does not make sense.  Of course this type of story never makes sense, but I don't understand why what Cynthia does should solve the problem.

Additionally, I did not like this story very much.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #17, Storm Child, Cindy has taken a job as a nanny for a rich family.  Her charge is Ian, a troubled young boy who behaves violently.  His behavior worsens each time a storm hits the area.  Accidents begin occurring, and Cindy must confront the fact that Ian is causing them.  Cindy must find a way to calm Ian before someone gets killed.

I enjoyed this book, although it took several chapters to get into it.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #18, Watery Grave, Julie sees the name Lavinia in her Spanish book, then it disappears.  A sea captain keeps appearing in the mist, calling out Lavinia, as though Julie is Lavinia.  Julie learns of the sunken ship Lavinia and of the ship's missing captain, who is now a spirit that haunts the area.

The spirit is mentioned in a legend about a sea creature that forces a woman to join him forever as his love.  Almost too late Julie learns that she is the object of the kelpie's desire.

This book is not written well.  The story idea is good, but it is poorly executed.  The story drags at times.  Too many words are used to describe certain situations.  Some startling scenes are described in a roundabout way that takes away from the emotional impact.  I don't want to read every detail about every piece of furniture in the room when I want to know why somebody screamed!  I don't care about the furniture!

The first part of the book is rough, but the later part of the story is excellent in spite of the flaws.