Friday, August 17, 2018

Figurehead of the Folly and Strange Pettingill Puzzle by Augusta Seaman

In The Figurehead of the Folly, Joan goes to stay in Miss McKeever's boarding house for her summer vacation.  Joan works for her board by taking care of Mary Lou, who is an invalid.  Joan quickly becomes acquainted with the residents of the boarding house.  Mr. Doane keeps a figurehead in his room along with some ship models.

One night a prowler messes with Mr. Doane's figurehead, causing it to fall.  Joan and Mary Lou suspect a mystery surrounds the figurehead, and they watch for clues as they keep an eye on the other boarders.

This story would make an excellent play.  Almost the entire story takes place inside the house with characters entering and leaving.  A play based on this story would be wonderful.

This is an excellent story.  The characters are described well and really come to life.  The mystery is interesting.

The Strange Pettingill Puzzle contains two stories.

"The Strange Pettingill Puzzle" was reprinted as The Riddle of the Lonely House by Scholastic.

In "The Strange Pettingill Puzzle," Peter and Christine are staying in a cottage on the seashore for the summer.  Soon after their arrival, they meet Alan Pettingill, who shows them a way to get into an abandoned old mansion.  The young people discover a prowler in the vicinity and try to figure out who it is.  Meanwhile, Alan's family was supposed to inherit the old mansion, but the will was never found.  The young people search for it.

This is a very good story.

In "The Curious Case of Callista," two members of the Four-Corners Hobby Club come into possession of an old doll named Callista.  The children uncover a mystery concerning the doll and hunt for clues.

"The Curious Case of Callista" is for younger children, and I did not enjoy it.  The story has too many extremely detailed explanations of ordinary events.  I was bored and skimmed the story.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Trixie Belden #3 Gatehouse Mystery and #4 Mysterious Visitor

In Trixie Belden #3, The Gatehouse Mystery, Trixie and Honey explore the old gatehouse on the Wheeler property.  When Brian and Mart return from camp, they along with Trixie, Honey, and Jim form the Bob-Whites, making the old gatehouse their secret clubhouse.

Trixie finds a diamond embedded in the floor of the gatehouse, and she concocts a strange theory where a gang of thieves stayed in the gatehouse, losing one diamond.  Trixie suspects the Wheelers' new chauffeur, Dick, but everyone else thinks she is crazy.  Trixie sets out to prove that she is right.

Only the third floor of the Wheeler house is air-conditioned.  I did not think this strange years ago, but now I do.  I realize that it was uncommon back then for homes to be air-conditioned.  However, the Wheelers are so rich that I feel they should have done the entire house.  Why not?

I only partially enjoyed this book on this reading.  I know the story by heart, and I was not very interested in the later part of the story.  I also was not interested in the culprit's lengthy explanation of every detail, so I skimmed the climax of the story.

In Trixie Belden #4, The Mysterious Visitor, Trixie and the Bob-Whites become friends with Diana Lynch, who is struggling to adjust to being wealthy.  Di is inducted into the club, and the Bob-Whites help Di plan a Halloween party.  Di's Uncle Monty, a long-lost relative, has recently appeared, and Uncle Monty seems determined to make Di's life difficult.  For this reason, Trixie is certain that Uncle Monty is an impostor.  She is determined to uncover the truth, despite the danger.

On page 54, Trixie wonders whether the "person Di hated so violently" was Uncle Monty.  I mention this because I like using the word "violently" in front of "dislike" to indicate my feelings.  One time recently, a coworker expressed surprise at my use of the word "violently" as if I were strange to use it.  I started wondering about my usage of the word.  I knew I got it from somewhere, and I was glad to see it in this book.  Do any of you use "violently" in this fashion?

The Bob-Whites, particularly the boys, are disgusted about all of the rubber creatures that Uncle Monty hid for the party in order to scare the guests, saying that the pranks are "dangerous."  I never have seen them as such a big deal as the Bob-Whites do, which shows how times have changed.  Nowadays, this sort of prank would be considered very tame and probably one used just for younger children.

On page 197, Trixie tells the others that if she is wrong that they can "chop off [her] head."  This is followed by some banter about corpses and heads being chopped off.  This never bothered me before, but in the last 20 years many heads have been chopped off by terrorists, so I now find the flippant nature of the passage to be in bad taste.  The passage would not have been considered in bad taste at the time it was written.

This book holds up well, and I enjoyed it as much as ever.  The entire story is excellent.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Acquiring That Elusive Book

On February 24, I wrote:
I wasn't quite ready to try reading the books of Augusta Huiell Seaman.  Her books are high on my reading list and are, by the way, the only books I have admitted to having high on my list.  I feel that I need to work into Seaman's books because of the difficulty I have in switching between modern and vintage books.

Additionally, I want to wait a little longer because I still need to acquire one book.  Please don't ask which book, because I am not going to tell you.  I prefer to keep that information private, since I have had people take advantage of me when they know that I need a certain book.  They will price the book much higher than if I did not need the book.  I will hopefully be able to locate the book in the next few months, and if not, then you'll know by which book I skip when I read and review Seaman's books.
In June and July, I read through Augusta Huiell Seaman's books, despite lacking that one elusive book.  I wrote the reviews, and now most of the reviews have been published.  Finally, I acquired The Vanderlyn Silhouette, which arrived in the mail today.  I searched for a copy for 14 months.  The Vanderlyn Silhouette is one of Seaman's most scarce books.

This acquisition came just in time.  I have published the Augusta Seaman reviews up to just five books before The Vanderlyn Silhouette, which equals two Augusta Seaman blog reviews.  The review that should include this book will publish in the next 7 to 10 days.  I should be able to wait until this weekend to read the book.  I want to read the last 2 1/2 Trixie Belden books first, and I hope I can do that by this weekend.  At that time, I will read The Vanderlyn Silhouette and will adjust my remaining Augusta Seaman reviews.

Bitsy Finds the Clue and Riddle at Live Oaks by Augusta Seaman

In Bitsy Finds the Clue, Bitsy begins her freshman year at William and Mary in Williamsburg.  Bitsy can't get along with her roommate and is quite lonely.  She gets lucky when her mentor, Celeste, lets her stay in her family's home, Romney House.  Bitsy soon learns that Romney House has a mystery.  Celeste's two great-aunts and great-uncle will not allow the house to be restored and seem to be hiding something.  Bitsy and Celeste discover that the secret could dishonor the family, and they hope to uncover information that will reveal the truth.

This is an excellent story.  The old Romney House has secret passageways and spooky events.  I especially enjoyed the setting with Bitsy in college and staying with a friend's family.

The Riddle at Live Oaks contains two stories.

In "The Riddle at Live Oaks," three children search for a family treasure that was hidden on a plantation during the Civil War.  The children believe that an elderly former slave holds the key to the mystery, but he has had amnesia ever since the Civil War.

"The Inn of the Twin Anchors" was reprinted by Scholastic as The Mystery of the Old Violin.

In "The Inn of the Twin Anchors," two girls and a boy live in an old inn.  While beachcombing, they meet an old hermit who seems afraid of a man who has recently arrived in the area.  The children also notice that the hermit's Stradivarius violin has disappeared and then reappears later.  The hermit acts secretive, and the children try to figure out what is wrong.

Both of these stories are good.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Trixie Belden #1 Secret of the Mansion and #2 Red Trailer Mystery

In Trixie Belden #1, The Secret of the Mansion, Trixie lives at Crabapple Farm near the town of Sleepyside, New York.  The Wheeler family moves into the neighboring mansion, and Trixie immediately becomes best friends with Honey Wheeler.  The girls explore the nearby Frayne mansion while old Mr. Frayne is sick in the hospital.  They discover Jim Frayne, who is Mr. Frayne's nephew.  Jim is hiding from his mean stepfather.  Old Mr. Frayne is dying, and the young people search for a fortune that is said to be hidden in the old mansion.

Trixie earns a $5 allowance per week for doing chores around the house.  When I read the books in 1983 to 1984, I received $5 per week, so I thought the amount was fine.  I didn't know that the book was first published in 1948.  $5 in 1948 is now worth over $50.  We are expected to believe that the Beldens are poor, yet their daughter is given the equivalent of over $200 per month.  I assume Brian and Mart would have received similar amounts.  The Beldens aren't so poor after all.

I enjoyed this book, but not quite as much as I once did.  The problem is that I practically have the story memorized.  Also, I always have trouble switching from one type of book to another.  I read this book right after reading the last Augusta Seaman book, and the style is quite different.  Trixie is also skewed younger than Seaman's books, so I struggled with that as well, which is what I expected.
    In Trixie Belden #2, The Red Trailer Mystery, Trixie, Honey, and Miss Trask set off in the Wheelers' trailer to find Jim, who has run away.  The girls learn about a group of trailer thieves, and they soon suspect that the family living in a red trailer is involved in the thefts.  The girls keep an eye out for the red trailer family as they search for Jim.

    The cover art of this edition depicts the scene where Trixie finds Joeann's cut-off pigtails.  This is a bizarre choice for the cover art, although it is interesting.

    I enjoyed this book mostly as much as I did when young.  Like the first book, I pretty much have the story memorized, but I still enjoyed it just about as much as ever.

    Thursday, August 9, 2018

    Stars of Sabra and Mystery of the Empty Room by Augusta Seaman

    In The Stars of Sabra, Penelope finds a old chest hidden in the foundation of her house.  The old chest contains a journal that details events that occurred during the Revolutionary War.  Penelope and her friends follow clues based on the journal entries and eventually find a valuable object that enables Penelope's father to purchase a piece of land that he has always wanted to own.

    I have already stated that I tend not to like the Seaman stories where the journals feature actual historical figures.  I am more interested in the stories that feature completely fictitious people.  This book contains a large amount of information based on historical figures, and it all bored me.  For that reason, I did not enjoy this book.

    In The Mystery of the Empty Room, Lois, her sister, and their guardian come to live with a family friend, known as Uncle Si.  Uncle Si sells antique furniture, and the entire house is full of furniture and lots of junk.  The girls gradually adjust and manage to clean up parts of the house.  Lois' sister, Jean, discovers an empty room on the second floor.  Uncle Si allows no one to enter the locked room.  He also owns a nearby cabin that is fully furnished and is kept locked.  The girls sense a mystery and decide to get to the bottom of it.

    This is a very good book.

    Tuesday, August 7, 2018

    Revisiting the Trixie Belden Series

    I wanted to read the Trixie Belden series again, but I was concerned that I might have trouble getting into the stories.  In a way it's strange that I felt that way.  I have always loved Trixie Belden, but I have read so many boys' series books in the last five years that my perspective has changed.

    Trixie Belden is skewed younger than most vintage juvenile series books that interest me, so I feared that could make a difference.  I had not read the Trixie Belden books since sometime in the 1990s, so I was concerned that my outlook might have changed too much.  The main reason I worried is that I do have strong sentimental feelings towards Trixie Belden, and I didn't want my memory to be tainted.

    I read Trixie Belden when I was in the sixth grade, but this was when I had mostly outgrown the Nancy Drew series.  I discovered the Sweet Valley High series less than one year later, which started my journey reading young adult books.  This means that I read Trixie Belden a bit later than what would be expected and at the very end of my childhood reading experience.

    I read the hardcover books from the 1970s, which were what my elementary school library had.  My mental image of Trixie Belden is how she looks on the covers of these books.  Trixie looks way too young to me on all other formats, even though the other formats are more accurate in their depiction of Trixie Belden.  I might not have read Trixie Belden in the sixth grade if the books had been the previous formats.  Trixie rather looks like an older teenager on these books, and I was on the verge of beginning to read books for teenagers.

    Ever since I have been online, I have been quite dismayed that these books are called the "uglies" or the "short and uglies."  Some of us Gen Xers tend to favor this format, and it's upsetting to have it disparaged constantly by everyone else.  Recently I finally noted that a few people admit to liking this format.  I think many people who like this format are afraid to speak up.  The last time—and only other time—I have ever stated how I hate the name given to this format, I was taunted by another collector.  That's just great.  It's bad enough that everyone else makes fun of the format we like, but we also get insulted about it.  How about respecting other people's opinions? 

    When I decided to try to read the first Trixie Belden book in July, I selected the deluxe edition, since I have always considered the deluxe editions to be very nice books.  I quickly decided that I couldn't read it since Trixie looks too young.  I pulled out the thin hardcover edition—I do refuse to use the popular name for them as can be seen on my website—and continued reading.  The change in format helped considerably, since Trixie looks right to me.

    I always use a scan of the actual book I read when I review books, regardless of condition.  I do not use the scans from my website since those are low quality.  Many years ago, the data storage amount allotted for the site was very low, so I had to use low quality scans.  The scans aren't good enough for this blog.

    Since I decided to read the thin hardcover books of the 1970s, those books will be featured in the reviews for volumes 1 through 16.  And you know what?  For me, they look perfect.  No, they are perfectly perfect.  Most of you might not like them, but this Gen Xer does.  In fact, as I have read and enjoyed them, I have decided that I love them.

    For volumes 17 through 38, I will read the Goldencraft hardcover editions, which means those will be featured in the blog.  Finally, I will have to read the softcover edition of volume 39. 

    I have read the entire set before, except probably volumes 36 and 39.  I am certain that volume 36 was added to my set last, but I also believe that I did not own volume 39 during the time that I last read the books.

    To be more specific, I have read the first six Trixie Belden books many times.  I have read most titles of #7 through #16 at least several times.  I have read #17 through #19 and #33 at least twice.  I have read #20 through #32, #34, #35, #37, and #38 at least once.  #36 and #39 are the only two books that I have probably never read.

    I have now read far enough into the Trixie Belden series to be able to report that I did struggle with some of the earlier books (Note the use of earlier rather than earliest.).  If that surprises you, read the last sentence of the first paragraph of this post again.  I knew that what I have been reading the last few years has changed my perspective on vintage series books significantly.

    I enjoy some of the early Trixie Belden books as much as ever, but others don't hold the magic for me that they once did.  Some stories contain too much explanatory information about charities or other topics.  For me, the series really hits its stride beginning with volume 10, and at that point, I began enjoying the books just as much as I did years ago.  I am thankful for that.  Reviews of the books will follow in the coming weeks.

    Sunday, August 5, 2018

    Brass Keys of Kenwick and House in Hidden Lane by Augusta Seaman

    In The Brass Keys of Kenwick, Audrey is an art student who plans to make a model of a house for a project.  She has chosen Miss Jenifer's house.  Audrey stays with the family next door and works on her model in a studio in Miss Jenifer's home.

    Audrey and her new friends soon notice prowlers, then one night Miss Jenifer has a stroke.  It is believed that a sudden fright caused the stroke, and the young people believe that a prowler was the likely cause.  The young people try to discover what really happened in hope that the knowledge will help Miss Jenifer get well.

    This is an overall excellent book.  I did not enjoy the last few chapters once I learned that Miss Jenifer's secret is based on actual historical figures.  By this point in my reading of Seaman's books, I had developed an aversion to that style of story.

    The House in Hidden Lane contains two stories, both for younger children.

    In "The House in Hidden Lane," the Tanner family stays in Aunt Abigail's home.  Aunt Abigail has tried to find a family treasure that is said to be hidden in the house.  The Tanner children search for the treasure.

    In "Just Around Our Corner," Alma's family moves into a new house.  Two elderly ladies live next door, and they are shut-ins.  Around the corner is a rowdy family, and Alma quickly becomes friends with the children.  The elderly Cady sisters are a constant source of interest to the children, who notice some peculiar behavior.  The children soon have a chance to help the Cady sisters gain happiness.

    Both of these stories are good, but they are not as satisfying as Seaman's full-length novels.

    Friday, August 3, 2018

    River Acres Riddle and Charlemonte Crest by Augusta Seaman

    The River Acres Riddle: A Book of Mysteries contains three short stories by Augusta Seaman.

    In "The River Acres Riddle," Dorita and Marietta find a piece of paper tacked to a fence post near their house.  The piece of paper has a coded message written on it.  The girls are unable to decipher the message, but in the meantime, they notice several strange events.  Someone keeps prowling in the immediate area of their home, and the girls learn about a car accident that happened the night the paper was tacked to the post.  Sensing that all of the events are intertwined, the girls continue working on the code.

    This story is okay but nothing special.  I was never very interested in it.

    In "Cat's Cradle," Shirley Anne and her family live on a ranch near San Antonio.  Shirley Anne finds an injured Mexican near the ranch, and the Parsons nurse him back to health.  During Pablo's recovery, he and Shirley Anne become good friends.  Shirley Anne teaches him to play cat's cradle.

    One day, Pablo tells Shirley to memorize the statement, "It is magic to skip the first and take every fifth!"  Pablo insists that the message will save her someday in a time of great need.  And so it does.

    This is a very short story, but it is very good.

    In "The Hexagonal Chest," Leslie finds a hexagonal chest on the beach and hides it until she can open it.  Meanwhile, Leslie's aunt disappears, and strangers are spotted in the area.  When Leslie finally gets back to the chest, it has vanished!

    This story is in first person, which is unusual for Seaman's stories.

    Mammy speaks in dialect, and she has pretty long speeches.  I found the dialect obnoxious and began skipping it.  It's too much trouble to have to sound out all the dialect in order to figure out what is being said.

    Aside from the annoying dialect, this is a very good story.

    In The Charlemonte Crest: A Modern Mystery in Colorful Haiti, Molly and Helen become good friends.  Helen shows Molly an ornate candlestick that is a family heirloom.  Molly accidentally drops the candlestick, and the bottom slides open.  The girls discover a packet of letters that leads them into a mystery.

    This is one of the first books by Augusta Seaman that I read.  I enjoyed it but found some of the historical content to be a bit much.  I wanted to read the book again for this review, but I did not make it very far.  I did not feel like reading all of the historical content again.

    This is a good story, but it is rather didactic.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2018

    Shadow on the Dial and Disappearance of Anne Shaw by Augusta Seaman

    In The Shadow on the Dial, Naomi and Enid enjoy visiting an old plantation that once belonged to their ancestors.  The girls are dismayed when they learn that a wealthy man, Mr. Speer, plans to purchase the plantation and tear down the old house.

    The girls become acquainted with Ronny and Leila, who are Mr. Speer's children.  When Ronny learns that the girls have a secret about the old house, he promises to sway his father from tearing it down, if they will share the secret with him.  The four young people join together to uncover the secret of the old plantation, which can be found by locating the missing sundial.

    This book is very good to excellent.

    In The Disappearance of Anne Shaw, elderly Anne Shaw suddenly vanishes from her home.  Most people are unconcerned, since Anne has done this before.  Kenneth, Mercedes, and Sanford feel differently, since they are aware of strange intruders in Anne Shaw's home.  It is up to the young people to rescue Anne Shaw.

    The was the second book by Augusta Seaman that I read last year.  I read the book again for this review.  I am glad that I read it again, since I noticed something that I did not spot the first time.  I recently read The Secret of Tate's Beach.  When I read this book last year, I had not read that book and did not know about Mr. Tate, who makes an appearance in this book.  The Disappearance of Anne Shaw is set just a short distance from The Secret of Tate's Beach on the New Jersey shore.

    The last part of the story where the mystery is explained is way too lengthy and difficult to understand.  I struggled with it last year, and on this second reading, I skipped it.  That portion should have been shorter and more concise.

    Except for the last part of the story, this is a very good book.