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.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hardy Boys Adventures #13 Bound for Danger

In Hardy Boys Adventures #13, Bound for Danger, Principal Gerther tells Frank and Joe that they must join the basketball team because they need more extracurricular activities.  Both boys are puzzled, because they are terrible at basketball.  The players on the basketball team are quite unhappy, since Frank and Joe are not good enough to be on a team that hopes to play for the championship.  Later, Frank and Joe realize that they are supposed to be investigating hazing by team players.

The beginning of this story is much more interesting than the beginning of Nancy Drew Diaries #13, The Ghost of Grey Fox Inn.  I was intrigued from the first page.

This book has lots of great humor.  I laughed out loud a number of times throughout the book.  I did not laugh at all during the Nancy Drew Diaries book.  I was just bored and annoyed during that book.

One chapter is titled "Hack Attack."  This caught my attention, since one Hardy Boys Digest book features a game titled "Hack Attack."  Furthermore, this story reminds me a lot of several Hardy Boys Digest books which have plots centered at Bayport High School.  I tend to like those books.  For these reasons, I suspect that this book was written by one of the Hardy Boys Digest authors.

On page 89, Joe compares the situation to a "totally dystopian society."  Some parts of this series are like a dystopian society.

The following passage is narrated by Frank on page 97.
"And the people who made it through the hazing," I added, "have convinced themselves it was worth the struggle.  It's a psychological phenomenon called 'cognitive dissonance.'"

A brief shadow passed across Principal Gerther's face, like he had just remembered I was annoying.
That's how Frank is in this series, and I find it very funny.

The boys use Facebook to contact another boy in an attempt to gain information. Technology is used well in this series, and Frank and Joe often use the Internet to help them solve cases.  That's how it should be in a modern book set in 2016.

The promotional material for the Nancy Drew Diaries series indicates that Nancy Drew solves her cases without technology.  That sounds okay, except that Nancy doesn't understand the Internet in the second book, and... never mind.  I'll control myself. Nothing is wrong with using technology in modern books so long as it is used correctly and not in a fashion that makes the primary character look inept.  The Hardy Boys Adventures series uses modern technology effectively in a suspenseful setting.

This is an excellent book from beginning to end.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Twilight Darkness #13 Vicious Circle, #14 Footprints of the Dead, and #15 Spirits and Spells

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #13, Vicious Circle, children are disappearing one at a time. First, an important possession disappears. Hours later, the child disappears.  When the children return, they are silent and unresponsive.  Jenny fears that her little sister, Andrea, will be the next child taken.  How can Jenny protect Andrea from the evil that lives near the river?

This book includes some excessively lengthy flashbacks of the former life of the evil spirit.  I found the flashbacks to be way too long and rather confusing.  I would have preferred for those parts not to have been in the story.

Aside from the flashbacks, this is a very good book.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #14, Footprints of the Dead, Dani retuns to the island of St. Jacques to live on her family's sugarcane plantation.  Dani is shocked at how much the island has changed.  The people are now so poor, and her beloved Uncle Victor is hated by the villagers.  Dani cannot understand what is wrong.  Later, Dani learns about the evil voodoo practiced in the mountains and how voodoo is used to bring people back from the dead.

One character is likable until partway through the book when the reader learns this character's secret.  Dani has no idea, and the reader's stomach will churn upon learning the information. This makes the book quite suspenseful, since for a good part of the story Dani has no idea what is really going on.

This is a compelling story about zombies.  It would have made a good introductory book for a zombie apocalypse trilogy.  The plot is resolved in this book, but it is left open-ended.  More zombies will come to life later, and I wish that this book had been part of a trilogy.

This is an excellent book.

In Twilight Where Darkness Begins #15, Spirits and Spells, Gerry and his friends play a new role playing game in an abandoned old mansion.  The premise is that the players are trapped in the mansion and must find certain hidden objects before morning, or else they will be killed.  Soon after the friends begin playing, they learn that the game is real and that they are truly prisoners in the mansion.  They must defeat the evil presence or lose reality as they know it forever.

I did not like this book.  The story gets very positive reviews, so I suppose it is just me.  I did not care for the magical aspect.  This story is not at all like the other books in the set, which all feature characters set on Earth who are haunted by spirits.  This book features visitors from another world and has lots of magic.  I was not in the mood for that kind of story.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Nancy Drew Diaries #13 The Ghost of Grey Fox Inn

In Nancy Drew Diaries #13, The Ghost of Grey Fox Inn, Nancy, Bess, and George are attending a wedding.  Bess's cousin Charlotte is marrying a news anchor, but someone must not want the couple to wed.  A ghostly figure is seen at night, and various items begin to disappear.  Nancy investigates.

How boring can you get?  Each book is a variant of previous books in the series.  This is my synopsis of the Nancy Drew Diaries series.

Nancy Drew and her friends attend a social function or event which is being sabotaged. Nancy must tell herself multiple times to get serious about solving the case, because otherwise, she wouldn't bother.

And at this point, I wonder why I bother.  I am only still purchasing each new Nancy Drew Diaries book in order to acquire the hardcover version with dust jacket.  The hardcover books will probably always be scarce in years to come, so I don't want to miss getting my copies.  However, I feel like I am being suckered.

The opening of this book is not interesting.  The wedding information is not interesting, either.  Simon and Schuster apparently feels that girls want girly stuff, so wedding preparation will be so fun to read!  Actually, it might have been somewhat interesting if I had cared at all about the two people getting married.  I didn't care!

I noted at the end of Chapter 2 that George is eating lots of food.  That again?  Why?

On page 63, we learn that Nancy gets very nervous being in front of a room full of people.  This is the kind of detail that annoys me about this series.  They want Nancy not to be perfect.  Okay, fine, but Nancy is supposed to be a strong person, and having her be scared in front of a room of people doesn't fit the image I have of Nancy Drew.

The people who don't like Nancy Drew being perfect are fine with Trixie Belden.  Here's the deal.  Trixie isn't afraid to be in front of people.  Trixie is just impulsive and makes decisions in haste that often end badly.  That's how Nancy Drew Girl Detective was written, and I was fine with that.  Both Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew were strong characters up until the beginning of the Nancy Drew Diaries series.

Nancy Drew isn't strong any longer.  On page 36, Nancy struggles to keep her voice from shaking when she sees a dark figure in her room.  Most of us would be terrified, too, but Nancy is supposed to be stronger than that.  Her pulse should quicken, which is all the description we need.  In fairness, I must note that later in the book, Nancy's pulse quickens, which is the appropriate response for Nancy Drew.

Nancy should be confident.  I understand wanting to make Nancy not perfect, but this is the wrong way.  Nancy Drew Girl Detective is confident but makes mistakes.  This Nancy Drew is nervous and trembles in fear?  No way!  Trixie Belden doesn't even do that!  Some readers like Trixie Belden better because she isn't perfect, but Trixie is confident.

Page 95:
It suddenly became clear that my investigation needed to get serious—and fast.
Nancy never used to think that way, probably because her mysteries used to be interesting.

On page 97, Nancy accidentally discovers a secret passage.  The old Nancy Drew would have known to check for one, but this one stumbles into the discovery of one.

Nancy Drew has been turned into a weak, timid character.  She lets the mysteries come to her, and she lets the mysteries solve themselves.  She doesn't investigate. Her behavior is totally lame.

Nancy pretty much is a blank slate in this series.  We don't know much about her except that she reluctantly solves boring mysteries and gets scared easily.

These books are written by anonymous authors who have nothing to lose if the quality is substandard.  That's always been the case for Nancy Drew.  However, the publisher has the responsibility to demand higher quality, but they apparently don't want higher quality.

Additionally, the books are supposedly written by authors who submit story ideas to the publisher.  But how very strange that every author submits a story about sabotage.  Or is it that Simon and Schuster only accepts the boring story submission ideas?  I get the idea that Simon and Schuster only wants Nancy Drew sabotage stories.

I also begin to suspect that Simon and Schuster wants to destroy Nancy Drew, but I realize that I am venturing into crazy conspiracy theory territory.  Seriously, I am trying to make sense of what has happened to Nancy Drew, and the only logical answers are crazy conspiracy theories.  If the current Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books were equally bad, I would not have any of these suspicions.  Since the Hardy Boys Adventures are much better than the Nancy Drew Diaries, I am suspicious.

The last part of this book is much more interesting than the first part.  If only the entire book could have been like the last part.  Nancy is a strong character near the end of the story.

This is a good book overall, but I've read this same story a few dozen times and have grown tired of the predictable plot.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Twilight Darkness #10 Avenging Spirit, #11 Nightmare Lake, and #12 Twisted Room

In Twilight Darkness #10, The Avenging Spirit, strange accidents happen at Thunder Rock. Christina finds herself drawn to Thunder Rock, where she is nearly killed.  Christina soon realizes that a restless spirit will never be at rest until he takes revenge on the descendant of the person who wronged him.

I overall enjoyed this book, but I consider it below average as compared to the rest of the set.

In Twilight Darkness #11, Nightmare Lake, Burt and Sammi vacation at a lake when Sammi discovers a skeleton in the woods.  Their dog jostles a stick of wood loose from the skeleton, and later, the young people learn that the skeleton was a vampire.  The removal of the wood has brought the vampire back to life.  Burt and Sammi are thrust into a nightmare as they try to avoid being bitten by vampires.

This is overall a very good book up until the end. Unfortunately, the ending ruins the story.  Since I know how the story ends, I will never be able to read and enjoy this book again.  I closed the book feeling quite disgusted.  I won't state what happens, but if you don't mind being spoiled which will result in you not being able to enjoy this book, read "Cliches to Avoid: 4 Story Endings Your Readers Will Hate."  It is the second ending listed on the page.  Ugh.  I can't stand it when authors do that.

In Twilight Darkness #12, The Twisted Room, Lisa goes to live with Great-Aunt Nikki, who is a recluse who is stuck in the past.  Lisa sees a girl beckoning to her from the window next door and goes to visit her.  Marie invites Lisa to a party... a party that was held on June 10, 1944.  Lisa is pulled between past and present by Marie, and almost too late Lisa realizes that Marie is using her to change history.

I learned something new when I read this book. On page 127, Aunt Jenny (Great-Aunt Nikki) tells Lisa that many years ago margarine was white and used to come in a clear bag with a capsule of yellow dye.  They would break the capsule and knead the bag until the margarine turned yellow. Even my parents had never heard of the yellow dye, since they were young children when restrictions on margarine were lifted.  I found this very interesting.  Read this page for more information.

This book is quite disjointed during the opening chapters.  The back cover summary is also confusing, since the summary makes it sound like Marie is the protagonist when she is instead the evil spirit. By halfway through the book when the plot begins to make sense, the story becomes quite interesting and compelling.

The first half of the book is confusing and a bit depressing, and the second half of the book is excellent.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A Wet International Package

I went to the post office to pick up a package that had arrived yesterday.  As soon as I saw the package, I knew that the books were likely damaged.  I could tell that the top of the package had been wet.

Once I had the package in hand, I could feel the dampness on the outside.  When I arrived home, I opened the package.  Water had soaked through the package.  The below picture shows the inside of the box right after I removed the books.

Since photos often make it harder to see what is obvious in person, compare the above picture to the below picture, which shows the box a few hours later after it had partially dried.

Now for the books.  At first, they looked fine.

However, the seller had not wrapped bubble wrap around the bottom or top edges of the books, which meant I had a problem.  Once I extracted the books, I discovered that three of the four books were partially wet.

The above picture shows that the book in the lower right was wet along the top of the front cover.  That book was damaged the most.

The below picture shows that the books in the upper right and lower left were each wet along the bottom edge of the back cover.

The pages of the those three books were also damp towards the outer edges.

The following book did not get touched by moisture at all, as far as I can tell.

This is unbelievably fortunate, since I purchased the four books just to get the above book.  The other three books are duplicates of books I already have.  While I am not happy that three books arrived wet, I am very happy that the book I needed was spared from the damage.  So this isn't all bad.

The three books that arrived wet are now in front of a fan.  The pages are now dry, but the inner portion of the boards probably still holds moisture.  I hope that I can get the boards dried out completely before mold or mildew sets in.

Unfortunately, the boards have already warped slightly as they dry.  Books are never the same after moisture exposure.  At least these books did not get completely wet, so the damage will most likely not be that bad, so long as the books don't mold or mildew.

I am concerned that I picked up the package 24 hours after it arrived, which means that the books were wet for more than 24 hours.  That's not good.

This situation serves as another example of why sellers should completely wrap books in plastic before mailing them.  Packages do get wet sometimes, and once books get wet, they are permanently damaged.

I am not going to tell the seller about the damage.  We have a language barrier, and besides, I did receive the books.  The one I wanted is fine.  When I purchase books internationally, it is with the understanding that much can go wrong and that I am willing to take the risk.

I purchase a lot of books internationally, and the transactions from outside North America always have a greater risk.  Transactions with Canada are of no higher risk than domestic transactions via media mail.  When the packages come from overseas, much more can go wrong.  I have had at least three international transactions from Europe that went missing and never arrived, and I have had several damaged packages over the years.

I will sell the three books that are extras, and I will not price them cheap, even with the damage.  These books were not inexpensive.  I have found that many collectors do not know how expensive it is to import international editions.  Prospective buyers have often asked me to lower my prices for the international editions.  It's quite common for international editions to cost $15 to $25 each after international postage is added to the initial cost.  That's why sellers of international editions do not usually offer them at low prices.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Blue Velvet Dana Girls Books

In 1954, the first eight Dana Girls books were issued in a format known as the "blue velvet" editions.  The name was chosen because the texture of the boards resembles blue velvet fabric.  The boards do not have fabric on it; rather, the appearance makes the texture look like fabric.

The boards look similar to the Grosset and Dunlap boards of the late 1940s, except that these books were printed in 1954.  Furthermore, the Dana Girls books of the late 1940s have solid green covers, not blue.  Even the Nancy Drew books from the late 1940s have blue covers that are a different texture than these books.

I now have the set of all eight dust jackets, although one dust jacket is matched with a tweed book.

The jackets are distinctive for the blue velvet books.  Each jacket has a code on the back panel.  The code appears in the lower right corner of an ad for Nancy Drew #1-31. These are the codes.


We don't know what the codes mean.  The volume number is present in each code, but what is the significance of the "D" and the "49"?

Here are pictures of the jackets.  The code is visible on the back panel of each jacket.

All of the jackets have the ad for Nancy Drew #1-31 on the back panel.  The front flaps all list Dana Girls to #16.  The back flaps have several different lists.

The blue velvet books come with two styles of endpapers.  Some of the books have the usual green endpapers that appear in the tweed books.

Some of the blue velvet books instead have endpapers that are grayish green.

It's strange that I have one blue velvet jacket paired with a regular tweed book.  On the other hand, it's not strange at all.  The jackets from two books were probably swapped back when the books were new.

Collectors have theorized about these books for years, but no one knows for certain why only #1-8 were issued in this format and why the jackets have special codes on the back that appear on no other Dana Girls books.

We have observed that the blue velvet books generally appear either in Canada or in the far northern United States near Canada.  Two of my books were originally owned by somebody who lived in Bangor, Maine.  My other books came from Wollaston, Massachusetts.

The main theory about these books is that they might have been Canadian editions, which would explain why they appear in Canada or near the Canadian border.

Another possibility is that these books were issued as some type of special promotion. They could have been offered through a certain retailer or as some type of book club. This is just speculation on my part.

Perhaps one day we will know exactly why this set of books was issued and where the books were sold.