Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Ski Trail Mystery and Storm Over Garnet by Virginia McDonnell

When I finished reading the final Kim Aldrich book, I wanted to read more of them.  I love suspenseful books like the Kim Aldrich books.  I looked over the list of books written by Virginia McDonnell, hoping that she might have written at least one other book that could be similar to the Kim Aldrich books.  Most of McDonnell's books are nurse stories, which do not interest me at all.

McDonnell wrote a book titled The Ski Trail Mystery, which was published in 1966.  The book didn't appear to be about nursing and sounded like a good mystery, so I purchased it.  I am so glad that I did.

In The Ski Trail Mystery, Chris Murphy is in the Ski Patrol at High Tor.  Chris hopes to be promoted to the leader of the Ski Scouts during the following year, but he must prove himself by doing something distinctive.  Chris' cousin, Suki, is visiting, and she and Chris spot a wolf on a nearby trail.  The young people learn that there is a bounty on wolves captured in their area.  Chris vows to get the reward.  Chris and Suki follow the wolf and discover a trail of red jewels.  The jewels could be rubies or garnets.  A garnet mine run by Chris' father is nearby, and the mine is no longer producing fine garnets.  The red jewels might be a clue to what is happening.

I do not care to reveal many spoilers, and a lot happens that I do not mention.  This book is also deeply suspenseful like the Kim Aldrich books.  The book does not involve murder or grim events like the Kim Aldrich books, but it does have a similar tone.  This is an excellent book.

I found one more book by Virginia McDonnell that I decided to read.

In Storm Over Garnet, Kaki Morrison is feels threatened by the opening of Star Mountain Lodge.  Garnet has been the gathering place for local skiers each day after school, but after the nearby lodge opens, most people go there.  Garnet may soon be forced to close, but Kaki believes that if she wins a ski competition that she might be able to help save Garnet.

This book classifies loosely as young adult and is a coming-of-age story.  The book is not highly suspenseful like the other books that I chose to read by Virginia McDonnell, but it is still very good.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Kim Aldrich #3 The Deep Six and #4 The Long Shot

In Kim Aldrich #3, The Deep Six, Kim witnesses the theft of a Cadillac from the street outside her apartment.  She and a reporter, Colin Ryan, speak to the owner of the vehicle, learning that he left his briefcase inside the vehicle.  The briefcase contained the only copy of the newest will of his wealthy client.

Hours later, the client is killed in automobile accident, and his wife is near death in the hospital.  The couple's daughter is disabled, and the new will makes arrangements for her.  The old will makes no provisions for the girl, so Kim and Colin work on finding the stolen car so that the girl will not be sent to an institution by her other relatives.  It soon becomes apparent that the vehicle was stolen for the will and that certain people will stop at nothing to keep the new will from coming to light.

The child is said to be "severely retarded" according to the author.  At the end of the book, the reader learns that the little girl just needs glasses, which is why she always had what was perceived to be a dumb look on her face and never responded to anything.  This makes no sense.  Even if she couldn't see, she should have been able to respond to sound.

The fatal accident that kills the girl's father was caused by a heavy oil slick on the highway.  The next day, Kim and Andy nearly get into a fatal crash from the same oil slick.  I find it strange that nobody had cleaned up the excessive oil.

This is another outstanding book.

In Kim Aldrich #4, The Long Shot, wealthy Mr. Van Alstyne plans to send his daughter, Robin, to summer camp, but he is afraid that she will be kidnapped and held for ransom.  Kim is hired to be a counselor at the summer camp, and her sole duty is to keep Robin safe.  Unfortunately, Robin doesn't want to be kept safe and constantly causes trouble and runs away from camp.  Soon, the worst happens, and Robin is abducted.  Kim and her new friend, Kevin Clark, who is a counselor for a boys' camp, search for Robin.

On pages 159 and 160, Kim thinks of a girl who was buried alive in Florida.  I assumed that this was a real story, but it would have been before my time.  A quick Internet search revealed the horrifying ordeal of Barbara Mackle, who was buried alive in a fiberglass box.

This book takes a lot longer to get deeply suspenseful, and at first, I expected it not to be as good as the other three stories.  Around halfway through the story, the book hits the same level of suspense as the previous three books in the series, and at times, it is even more suspenseful.  The later part of the story reminds me of the tone of modern young adult horror novels.

After I finished the last book, I was disappointed that I had reached the end of the series.  As of that time, I had read 224 books this year, and the Kim Aldrich books were in the top 10 best books read this year along with three of the Roy Stover books, and a few of the books by Capwell Wyckoff.  In the top 10 best out of 224 books is a rather high ranking.

All four books in this series are outstanding.  I highly recommend them.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Kim Aldrich #1 Miscalculated Risk and #2 Silent Partner

The Kim Aldrich series was written by Virginia "Jinny" McDonnell and was published by Whitman.  The series consists of four books.

1.  Miscalculated Risk, 1972
2.  Silent Partner, 1972
3.  The Deep Six, 1972
4.  The Long Shot, 1974

Kim Aldrich is an insurance investigator.  She is out of high school, but her age is not given.  I assume that Kim is somewhere between 18 and 20 years of age.

These books read very much like the more exciting boys' series books.  One could also say that they are skewed towards young adult.  These are not your typical Whitman children's books.  The stories are deeply suspenseful and involve murder.  In each book, Kim is accompanied by an attractive young man.  Kim's companion is different in each book by necessity, since Kim is attracted to the young man but cannot completely trust him.

In Kim Aldrich #1, Miscalculated Risk, the Madden family is suing the city of Neadham.  Their son, Pete, slipped on rocks on the beach and was crippled.  The family contends that the city had no warning signs about the slippery rocks, while the city claims that they did.

Kim becomes acquainted with the Maddens' attorney, Andy Hill, and she helps him investigate.  Kim and Andy quickly learn that someone is trying to keep them from discovering the truth and that this person will resort to murder to keep the facts hidden forever.

At one point in the story, it is revealed that Pete was adopted.  Kim acts like the adoption could have some huge bearing on the case, like any shenanigans would have something to do with him being adopted.  It is really odd.

This is a rather excellent story.  The entire book is deeply suspenseful.  Kim is quite obviously in grave danger, and someone is murdered.  This a great mystery.

In Kim Aldrich #2, Silent Partner, Kim is on a ski vacation in the Austrian Alps.  While on a ski lift, she becomes friendly with Jim Whitcomb and a young boy named Roby.  Both Jim and Roby fascinate Kim.  Sometimes they are friendly, and other times they seem to ignore her like they are unaware of her presence.

Kim witnesses an attack on a skier where his ski poles are stolen.  The melee results in two deaths, and Jim will not let Kim tell the authorities what she witnessed.  Later, Roby disappears, and Jim gradually confides in Kim what he knows about the mysterious events in the Austrian alps.  As Jim and Kim search for Roby, they must also keep away from some very dangerous men.

Kim does really dangerous things in these books, very much like what the Hardy Boys do in the Hardy Boys Digest books.  On page 199, Kim climbs up to the top floor of a building via the balconies.  Nancy Drew was never allowed to do activities like that.

These books are quite suspenseful and are extremely good mysteries.

Both of these books are outstanding.

Kim Aldrich #3 The Deep Six and #4 The Long Shot

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Meg Duncan #5 The Mystery of the Black-Magic Cave and #6 Mystery in Williamsburg

In Meg Duncan #5, The Mystery of the Black-Magic Cave, Meg, Kerry, and Uncle Hal travel to Merrybones, Maine, where Uncle Hal stays in his cabin and the two girls stay in a boarding house.  Uncle Hal's friend, Emily Hawthorne, is being threatened.  Emily's family once lived in the town, and she recently returned.  For some reason, she is not welcome.

Meg and Kerry learn that a coven of witches has meetings in a nearby cave.  The girls soon suspect that many of the prominent women of the town may be involved.  The girls wonder whether the women are the ones threatening Emily.

This is a really good mystery.  The story is excellent.

In Meg Duncan #6, Mystery in Williamsburg, Meg and Kerry are hostesses at an antique toy show in Williamsburg.  Meg searches for the valuable George Washington clothespin dolls, which have been missing for years.  An old dollhouse loaned to the show by Miss Mariah apparently holds the key to finding the dolls.  Several men appear to be way too interested in the dollhouse, and Meg fears that the clothespin dolls will be located by one of the men before she and Kerry can find them.

This is a very good book.

If the entire Meg Duncan series had been written exactly like the first two books, I would not have a very good overall opinion of it.  Instead, the series gets better and better, and in particular, #3, 4, and 5 are quite good.  I enjoyed #6 slightly less than the preceding three volumes but better than #1 and 2.  Overall, the Meg Duncan series is a very good series.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Meg Duncan #3 The Treasure Nobody Saw and #4 The Ghost of Hidden Springs

In Meg Duncan #3, The Treasure Nobody Saw, Meg enjoys the thrill of a thunderstorm.  As she looks outside, she is astonished to see a car drive up to the deserted Haywood house.  A figure in white goes up the steps.  Meg cannot get anybody to believe her, but she is certain that someone is staying in the Haywood house.  Meg investigates and becomes acquainted with the family that is staying in the house.

On page 114, Meg suggests that Abby put something white in the attic window if she needs something.  Meg tells her that she read about it in a book, and Abby remarks that she remembers the book.  In Nancy Drew #28, The Clue of the Black Keys, Terry signals by putting something white in the attic window.  I wonder if this is the book.

This book is very good.

In Meg Duncan #4, The Ghost of Hidden Springs, the old Hannigan house is reputedly haunted by the spirit of a young girl named Kathleen who drowned.  Several people see the ghost near the summer house.  Meg and Kerry find flowers on Kathleen's grave, then they meet a girl named Kathleen who is staying in the area with her mother.  Kathleen looks just like the dead girl.  What is going on?

As I read this book, I noticed that the sentences are not as short and that I like the style better.  I assume that this has to do with the different authors who wrote the books.  In any case, the series keeps getting better and better.  This is a very good book.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

New Listings on eBay and Etsy + Site Strong-Arm Tactics

I moved a bunch of books into bulk lots on eBay.  Some of the books came from existing listings on eBay and Etsy, and others are books that I had not previously listed anywhere.  Since some of the bulk lots came from existing listings, not all of them are showing as new listings.  Take a look at the "Bulk Lots" category to see all of the bulk lots, and be sure to check the lots that are down near the bottom of the page, since some of them are new.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Some of the books listed in the eBay bulk lots came from Etsy.  I deactivated those Etsy listings when I placed the books in the bulk lots.  Some of the deactivated listings still had a month to go, and I did not wish to lose those listings completely.  I have changed the deactivated listings to other books and have reactivated them.  This means that I have a number of new books listed on Etsy that are not showing as new listings.

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

Check the following categories in my Etsy shop to find the new listings, and keep in mind that they may be showing towards the bottom of the category pages.

Nancy Drew Blue/PB/Other
Nancy Drew Library Ed
Old Girls' Series

On June 1, I wrote about how eBay was tightening control of whether sellers could run promotions.
As is typical, eBay is tightening its control over sellers, ostensibly to give buyers a better experience.  Beginning in late June, eBay will only allow sales to be run on items that have been listed for at least 14 days.  eBay says that this is so that buyers will have price transparency.

New items cannot be included in a sale, because the buyer doesn't know if the seller artificially raised the price before listing it.  So eBay feels it is better for new items not to be on sale, since the seller might be trying to pull a scam.  How about letting buyers make the decision on whether the seller's price was artificially raised before the item was put on sale?  But then, eBay doesn't think buyers are smart enough to figure that out.

I do not use eBay's "Good 'Til Canceled" option for my listings.  This is because I typically float more than 250 listings each month on my allotted 250 free listings.  If I were to use "Good 'Til Canceled," then I would lose control on when my items get relisted, since eBay would do it for me.  This would cause me to pay listing fees on some items where I can avoid the fees.
I was amused this week to learn that eBay backed off that promotion policy for now.  According to eCommerceBytes, The policy has been reversed at least through the holiday season.  I still probably will not run any eBay promotions for the foreseeable future.

I mentioned on June 1 that I float more than 250 listings per month and that I cannot use "Good 'Til Canceled" for that reason.  There is a rumor that eBay is trying to force all sellers to switch to "Good 'Til Canceled."  Apparently on the mobile app, sellers now must use "Good 'Til Canceled," and many sellers are concerned that eBay will soon force PC users to switch to "Good 'Til Canceled."  eBay always has a plot afoot.

eBay isn't the only site using strong-arm tactics.  Etsy has begun to implement some of the same restrictive policies that eBay has had in place for years.  I find the messages that display on my Etsy Dashboard to be somewhat concerning.

The middle message is the one that concerns me.  Etsy is now giving better placement to listings with lower shipping prices.  I notice that the message "Lower your shipping prices" is grayed out for me, so I may not be impacted.  However, I am still concerned about what this could mean in the future, especially should Etsy ever decide to take it further.

My listings are set at $3.95 shipping, but I do have a free shipping promotion on orders of $35 or more.  I feel like my shipping promotion is good and does bring results.  I am concerned that in the future Etsy could insist on free shipping like eBay does.  That would not work for me with my pricing method on Etsy.

I have some books priced as low as $1.99 plus $3.95 shipping.  If the books are purchased in an order of $35 or more, then those books would cost only $1.99.  If Etsy were to insist on free shipping, then the $1.99 books would have to be priced at no less than $5.99, which means that the shipping wouldn't be free when part of an order of $35 or more.  I hope I don't ever have to change my pricing method on Etsy.

Finally, some of us have seen the end of our Internet tax-free experience, and I have no doubt that the rest of you will follow in the next few years, so prepare yourselves.  Those of us who live in Washington, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma now pay state sales tax on most all online purchases.  eBay is pretty much the lone holdout.  However, eBay will start charging sales tax for buyers from those three states beginning in 2019. 

I have to pay 9.1% sales tax on my online purchases, and I must say that it hurts a bit.  Midwest City, Oklahoma, has the highest city sales tax in the state of Oklahoma.  It really hurts when the book costs over $100.  Ouch.  I keep reminding myself, though, that the Oklahoma Internet sales tax law is paying for my own pay raise of $6,657.  I am still ahead by quite a bit.  I remind myself of that each time I see 9.1% added to an online purchase.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Adventurous Allens Series in Dust Jacket

I finally acquired a copy of The Adventurous Allens Marooned in dust jacket, which means that I now have all five Adventurous Allens books in dust jacket.

I know what some of you are thinking.  You recall that my reading of this series was akin to torture and that I will never read another book by Harriet Pyne Grove.  That is true.  However, I am also fondly attracted to these books, even though I keep no other books by Harriet Pyne Grove in my collection and avoid all of her books like the plague.

The reason is quite simple.  I own the original cover art to the fifth Adventurous Allens book.  Read "A Mystery Solved" from December 28, 2008.

I can't help but feel a fondness for the series when the cover art to the fifth book hangs on my wall.

The premise of the Adventurous Allens series is excellent.  The first three books are pretty good, even though reading Harriet Pyne Grove's prose is difficult.  The last two books are the ones that tortured me.  Below are links to my reviews of the series.

"The Adventurous Allens" from September 15, 2010
"The Adventurous Allens Part 2" from September 16, 2010
"The Adventurous Allens Find Mystery" from October 1, 2010
"The Adventurous Allens Afloat" from October 8, 2010
"The Adventurous Allens Marooned" from October 23, 2010
"The Adventurous Allens' Treasure Hunt" from October 25, 2010
"Adventurous Allens Final Thoughts" from October 26, 2010

The series was revised and reprinted as the Penny Allen series. 

"Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Haunted House" from October 31, 2010
"Penny Allen and the Mystery of the Hidden Treasure" from November 2, 2010

The revised books are much better than Harriet Pyne Grove's original text.  If you are interested in reading the story of the Adventurous Allens, then consider reading the Penny Allen books.  They are very good. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Meg Duncan #1 Disappearing Diamonds and #2 Witch's Stairway

The Meg Duncan series consists of six books first published by Whitman in hardcover and later reprinted by Golden Press in softcover.

1.  Meg and the Disappearing Diamonds, 1967
2.  The Secret of the Witch's Stairway, 1967
3.  The Treasure Nobody Saw, 1967
4.  The Ghost of Hidden Springs, 1970
5.  The Mystery of the Black Magic Cave, 1971
6.  Mystery in Williamsburg, 1972

These books are aimed at a slightly younger audience than the Trixie Belden series.  I was concerned when I began revisiting the Trixie Belden series that I might struggle with it since it is skewed younger than most books I enjoy.  My Trixie Belden experience went well after I adjusted to reading the books.  I decided to read Meg Duncan immediately after reading Trixie Belden, since that would give me the best chance of enjoying the Meg books.  As I have stated previously, what I have read just before reading a series can influence how much I enjoy it or whether I can even read it.

In Meg Duncan #1, Meg and the Disappearing Diamonds, Mrs. Partlow's diamonds vanish during a tea party.  At first, Meg fears that her friend Kerry's cousin might have taken the diamonds and hidden them.  Later, Meg realizes that someone else must be to blame.

This is a good story, but the culprit is way too obvious.  The reading level is a tad bit too low for me, and that affected my enjoyment.

In Meg Duncan #2, The Secret of the Witch's Stairway, Meg searches for the missing Ashley family silver.  Meg has a few clues, which she follows during her search.

This mystery is also a bit too simple.  After all, the title of the book pretty much tells us all we need to know about where the silver might be hidden

Even though the reading level is also a bit too low for me, I did enjoy this book more than the first book.  Generally, this series gets better as it continues.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The True Cost of Selling on eBay

I followed a link in my eBay account to a pie chart that I had never seen before.  It presented clearly what I already knew.  I decided to share the information, since it shows that the cost of selling on eBay is indeed high.

The data is for September 14 through October 14.  My sales have been quite bad for this time period.  This is partly due to me putting far more effort into Etsy than eBay.  I have not listed many new items on eBay, and my sales always suffer greatly when I do not list new items.

Here is the breakdown of my eBay sales and fees for September 14 through October 14.  Click on the image to see a larger version.

One part of the data puzzled me greatly, which is the $43.90 in subscription fees.  I finally figured out that since my yearly store subscription renews each September that I was charged for both September and October on September 30.  I pay $21.95 per month for my eBay store subscription, which is $43.90 for both months.

Aside from that, everything makes sense.  My total sales were $590.57.  My prices are set as free shipping, so I pay for shipping.  The cost of shipping all of my items was $87.01, but that does not include my supplies.  $87.01 is what was sent to eBay to purchase the postage. 

I received a whopping $6.68 fee discount for being a top-rated seller.  What an insignificant discount.  I earn more in eBay Bucks each month for my purchases than I get as a seller for being top-rated.

The net sales of $373.95 is what eBay says I get after all fees are subtracted.  It sounds great until I consider what I actually paid for the books.  I suspect that most buyers don't think about that when they ask sellers for huge discounts.  The books sold during this time period cost me $234.40.  I also had to pay for shipping supplies, which is probably around $25.00 for boxes, tape, and paper for the shipping labels.

That leaves me with $114.55.  Wow, I made a profit!  But then, my time is worth something, isn't it?  I'd say that my time is easily worth at least that much.  So what did I gain?

I gained the pleasure of helping people acquire books for their collection.  I do enjoy it. 

Even though the profit isn't much, it still is a profit.  Every little bit helps me afford the books I want to purchase for my collection.

Now you know why I am putting more effort into my Etsy shop than my eBay store.  The fees are not as high on Etsy.

The next time you consider asking an eBay seller to take their $50 book and reduce it to $20, think about what the seller's true cost of selling on eBay is.  The seller did have to pay something in order to acquire the book.  The book wasn't free, and those eBay fees add a lot to a seller's cost.

The same goes for Etsy, even though the fees are lower.  I recently had a prospective Etsy buyer offer me $50 including postage for a group of books that altogether were priced at around $144.  Um, no.  I won't do extreme discounts like that.  The books actually cost me more than $50 total.  After the buyer persisted and asked what I would take, I came up with an amount I could live with and only responded because it would have been helpful to have had all of the books taken off my hands.  The buyer didn't respond.

Even on Etsy, keep in mind that the sellers had to pay for the books and that the sellers do still pay Etsy fees.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Trixie Belden #39 The Mystery of the Galloping Ghost

In Trixie Belden #39, The Mystery of the Galloping Ghost, Trixie and Honey travel to Minnesota with Regan to stay on a ranch.  At the ranch, Regan hopes to learn some new techniques that he can use with the Wheelers' horses.  Trixie meets a ghost hunter, and she even sees what might be a ghost riding a horse.  The ranch is in danger of being lost to a developer, and Trixie suspects trickery.

One of the ranch's horses is named Jupiter.  This is odd, since one of the Wheelers' horses is Jupiter.

The ranch owner's name is Bill Murrow.  The author refers to him as Bill throughout the book, and this kept confusing me since Regan's first name is Bill.  I don't understand why the surname wasn't used.  It would have helped me for sure.

The plot is very flimsy, especially towards the end.  For instance, a horse goes missing, and everyone searches for the horse for at least a couple of hours.  It seems to me that they search in the entire surrounding area.  Later, Trixie realizes where the horse must be, and she goes directly there and finds it.  The location is rather close to the ranch, close enough that Trixie and Honey can walk there.  This doesn't make sense.

While I consider this book to be overall good, it bored me for the most part.

As I read Trixie Belden #35 through 39, I kept thinking of the Nancy Drew Diaries series, which is the current incarnation of Nancy Drew that is being published by Simon and Schuster.  I can make multiple comparisons.  The authors of the final Trixie Belden books didn't try very hard, just like the authors of the Nancy Drew Diaries series put forth little effort.  The Trixie Belden authors had to have looked at the publisher information sheet for the series, but it's more like they simply pulled names off of it and used however they wanted, kind of like Mad Libs (see Nancy Drew Diaries #10 review).

Trixie is "smug" in these final books, which is like when Nancy Drew or her friends "smirk" in the Nancy Drew Diaries series.  Both words annoy me so much.

And now I will stop myself before I go off into a long rant about the Nancy Drew Diaries series.  But I will make one final remark.  What was done to Trixie Belden in the final Trixie Belden books was bad but nowhere near as bad as what has been done to Nancy Drew in some of the Nancy Drew Diaries books.  Just read my review of Nancy Drew Diaries #16 to see how Nancy Drew has been turned into a coward.  The inconsistencies of the final Trixie Belden books are bad, but at least Trixie mostly retains her correct character traits, unlike Nancy Drew in the Nancy Drew Diaries series. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Trixie Belden #37 Pet Show Mystery and #38 Indian Burial Ground Mystery

In Trixie Belden #37, The Pet Show Mystery, Trixie sees Norma Nelson feeding the pheasants on Glen Road.  When Trixie realizes that the pheasants cannot find enough food during the winter, she and the Bob-Whites organize a pet show.  The proceeds will purchase seed for the birds.  As plans get underway, someone tries to sabotage the show.  Trixie must find the culprit before the show is ruined.

It's a bit rude for Trixie to upstage Norma and find a way to feed the birds without asking Norma for help or trying to involve her at all.

The characters behave inconsistently in this story as compared to earlier books in the series.  Quality control was lacking.  That aside, the story is overall very good.

In Trixie Belden #38, The Indian Burial Ground Mystery, an archaeological dig commences in the Wheelers' game preserve.  Trixie and Honey get jobs at the dig.  Meanwhile, thieves are breaking into the homes of the wealthy.  One night, the girls see a ghost in the game preserve while the Manor House is being robbed.  Is there a connection, or have the Indians' spirits risen from their graves?

This book is full of characterization errors.  Suddenly, Trixie likes riding Lady the best.  It was always Susie before.

Miss Trask actually screams when the Manor House is robbed.  Miss Trask would never scream.  On page 171, Miss Trask grumbles.  Ugh!  No, she wouldn't!

I just wanted to slap Trixie all through this book.  She is described as "smug" over and over throughout the book.  This reminds me of the "smirks" in the Nancy Drew Diaries series.  I cannot stand it.

Trixie also pouts on page 180.  Say what?!

On page 151, Trixie and Honey are able to pull a man and a dog out of a cellar by pulling them up by rope.  The man and dog are said to weigh around 200 pounds altogether.  I am a bit skeptical about whether the girls really could have done it.

This is a very good book, but in order to enjoy it, the reader must ignore the glaring inconsistencies.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Trixie Belden #35 Mystery of the Memorial Day Fire and #36 Mystery of the Antique Doll

In Trixie Belden #35, The Mystery of the Memorial Day Fire, the Bob-Whites are watching the Memorial Day Parade with the rest of the town when a large explosion occurs inside a downtown building.  The Bob-Whites are dismayed to learn that Nick Roberts' father's shop was the location of the explosion.  The shop has been destroyed and Mr. Roberts is suspected of being the culprit.  Trixie suspects a newspaper reporter of setting of the explosion, perhaps to create news.

Beginning with this book, the stories are around 20 pages shorter than the preceding books in the series.

The Bob-Whites are selling T-shirts to help Nick's father, and on page 122, Trixie claims that she doesn't know anybody, which makes it hard to sell anything.  She then states that she is afraid to try because she fears that "people will hang up on me or laugh at me."  Since when has Trixie ever worried about failure or what other people think?  This is such a major character inconsistency that I am dumbfounded.  How could the author screw up like this?

Later in the book, the Wheelers' tack room is on fire.  The horses are inside, and nobody removes them.  The horses are just left in there to inhale smoke while the fire department is called.  Sure, the fire is put out, but the horses still could have died of smoke inhalation.  Not only that, but Regan is absent without explanation.  I thought Regan is paid to take care of the horses.  I suppose that's why everyone just leaves the horses in the stable to die.

This book is overall good, but it is certainly below average as compared to most books in the series.

In Trixie Belden #36, The Mystery of the Antique Doll, Trixie and Honey are enlisted to help Mrs. De Keyser, an injured woman who lives on Glen Road.  A new antique shop has opened next to Mrs. De Keyser's house, and Trixie finds it strange that the owner, Mr. Reid, knows very little about antiques.  Later, Trixie and Honey plan to go to Paris for the weekend with the Wheelers as a reward for being finalists in a spelling bee.  Mr. Reid requests that the girls pick up an antique doll for him and bring it to the United States.

The problem with this book is that so much of it makes little sense.  It's odd for Trixie and Honey to be finalists in a spelling bee.  This is random and inconsistent with the rest of the series.

It's also odd that Trixie and Honey are suddenly on the school's newspaper staff along with Mart.

I kept wondering about the antique doll.  It is strangely not mentioned until page 70.  The titular subject is completely absent until nearly halfway through the story.

It's strange for Trixie and Honey only, and no other Bob-Whites, to get to go to Paris on a weekend in the middle of the story.  It's also bizarre for the Wheelers to turn the girls loose in Paris unchaperoned except for their cab driver, who was not known to them beforehand.

The next paragraph contains a plot spoiler, so skip it if you don't want to know.  I contend that this story is too stupid for a spoiler to matter, but I have done my duty in warning anyone who cares.

The antique shop owner was using the girls to smuggle something into the United States—something hidden on the doll.  You would think that the objects would be hidden inside the doll.  But no, the rather heavy and unwieldy items are sewn into the doll's dress.  How utterly obvious and stupid.  Oh, and the objects?  They are printing plates to be used to print counterfeit money.  OMG.

The book is actually overall good, but the plot is beyond stupid.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The James Budd Series by Dale Carlson

As I read the final Trixie Belden books, #35-39, I noticed advertisements for the James Budd series.  I was intrigued, especially because Dale Carlson also wrote the Jenny Dean series, which I enjoyed.  I purchased the four books.

The James Budd series consists of four books.

1.  The Mystery of the Madman at Cornwall Crag, 1984
2.  The Secret of Operation Brain, 1984
3.  The Mystery of the Lost Princess, 1984
4.  The Mystery of Galaxy Games, 1984

I find it interesting that Dale Carlson wrote a series for Grosset and Dunlap at about the same time that she wrote a series for Golden Press.  It's rather uncommon for an author to have series published almost simultaneously by rival publishing companies.

James Budd is like a teen version of James Bond.  His girlfriend is Honey Mack.  James and Honey are described as the perfect couple, perfectly matched to each other.  Both of them have spectacular fighting abilities.

I'm not going to do proper reviews of the four books, but I do want to mention the plot of the third book, which is particularly absurd.  In The Mystery of the Lost Princess, Sam Star, who is James' guardian, is in Europe looking for the lost princess of Mornia.  Meanwhile, Sasha is a girl who goes to school with James and Honey.  While in gym class, Honey notices that Sasha is being abused.  She has scars on her back from beatings.

James and Honey decide that they must get Sasha away from her aunt.  James comes up with an insane scheme to have Sasha pretend to be the lost princess of Mornia.  This means that he is even planning to fool Sam Star.  James and Honey look up facts about Mornia in books and have Sasha memorize them.

The scheme is so very wrong, and as soon as James decides to do it, I just knew that Sasha was probably going to turn out to be the real lost princess of Mornia.

I mostly read all four books.  They are not very interesting to me.  I have never liked spy thrillers, so I'm not surprised that I found them boring.  The books could appeal to those who do like spy thrillers.  If you are one of those people, then consider trying these books.

The final Trixie Belden books, which were published at the same time as these books, are not as good as the earlier Trixie Belden books.  Let's just say that I like the final Trixie Belden books much better than the James Budd books.  In my opinion, the James Budd books are bland and uninteresting.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Trixie Belden #33 Mystery of the Vanishing Victim and #34 Mystery of the Missing Millionaire

In Trixie Belden #33, The Mystery of the Vanishing Victim, the Bob-Whites decide to hold a rummage sale.  A Model T Ford is donated to the sale, and the Bob-Whites advertise the sale by using the Model T to pick up donations.  The vehicle is vandalized, and meanwhile, a man is run down by a vehicle.  The man does not know his own name, and he disappears.  Trixie vows to find him.

This book contains too much information about various collectibles, automobiles, and other explanatory information.  It is so boring!  The mystery is uninteresting, and I have never liked this book.

I remember purchasing this book at Target, probably in 1983.  I remember reading it, and I did not enjoy it.  Most of the books I read were from my elementary school library, although my mother did purchase a few of the older editions for me at a garage sale.  This was the only Trixie Belden book that I purchased new and the only title higher than #16 that I read when young.  If I had only purchased a different book than this particular one from Target, perhaps I might have purchased some more of the higher-numbered ones, like the ones that are actually good.

In Trixie Belden #34, The Mystery of the Missing Millionaire, Trixie and Honey find a wallet on Glen Road near Mr. Lytell's store.  The girls turn the wallet over to Mr. Lytell, who gets in touch with the owner's daughter.  The girls learn that the man has disappeared, and his daughter, Laura, is very worried.  Laura needs money to hire a private investigator, and Mr. Lytell loans her some money.  Trixie doesn't like Laura, because Jim pays too much attention to her.  Trixie is quite suspicious of Laura and doesn't know whether she has just cause or is suspicious because of her feelings.

A subplot has Mart falling for a get-rich-quick scheme.  I find it rather hard to believe that Mart, of all people, would fall for a scam.  It would have been more believable for Bobby to have fallen for a scheme, since Bobby lacks all common sense.

This is a very good book.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Trixie Belden #31 Mystery at Maypenny's and #32 Mystery of the Whispering Witch

In Trixie Belden #31, The Mystery at Maypenny's, a factory plans to expand using part of Matthew Wheeler's game preserve.  The factory also plans to take part of Mr. Maypenny's property.  Mr. Maypenny is strongly opposed to the plan, while Mr. Wheeler is in favor of it.  Even the Bob-Whites are divided, with some of them wanting the economic development and others wanting the game preserve to stay completely intact.

Mr. Maypenny's nephew comes to visit, but he doesn't stay long after Mr. Maypenny becomes furious that his nephew is trying to obtain power of attorney.  An environmentalist also becomes involved, and the situation worsens when dead ducks are found in the game preserve.

The story has some flaws, but this is still a very good book.

In Trixie Belden #32, The Mystery of the Whispering Witch, Fay Franklin lives in the old Lisgard mansion with her mother, who is the housekeeper.  Fay's mother has to be hospitalized, so Trixie and Honey spend the night in the mansion with Fay.  The mansion is said to be haunted, and the girls are visited by the witch.  Terrified, the girls make it through the night, but nobody will believe their story.  It soon becomes apparent that Fay thinks she is possessed, but Trixie suspects a more earthly explanation.

This book probably would have scared me if I had read it when young.  Now, it does nothing for me.  I don't find it scary because the story is too strange for a Trixie Belden book.

While the main mystery is explained away, the ending of the story implies that Trixie actually had been visited by the witch's spirit.

This is an overall good story.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Trixie Belden #29 Mystery of the Velvet Gown and #30 Mystery of the Midnight Marauder

In Trixie Belden #29, The Mystery of the Velvet Gown, Trixie helps with the school's production of Romeo and Juliet.  The drama teacher, Miss Darcy, has borrowed some costumes for the production.  The velvet gown disappears, and Trixie finds Miss Darcy with the costume later.  While Trixie trusts Miss Darcy, she begins to suspect that all is not right.

In the meantime, Miss Darcy's father has been abducted in England, and a classmate is jealous that Diana has won the role of Juliet.

The plot has too many different parts that don't fit well together.  The jealous classmate is not relevant to the rest of the story except that the jealous classmate helps the girls towards the end of the story.

The abduction of Miss Darcy's father is relevant to the plot, but it appears to be inconsequential until late in the story.  In short, the story could have been plotted better.

This book is good but nothing special.  I became bored towards the end of the story.

In Trixie Belden #30, The Mystery of the Midnight Marauder, a vandal who calls himself the Midnight Marauder performs acts of mischief during the night.  Strangely, the vandal warns his victims ahead of time, which is most curious.  Mart is one of the suspects, simply because he will not admit to why he was at the school late one night.  The Bob-Whites know that Mart is innocent but cannot figure out the guilty party.  Trixie soon realizes that the advance warnings hold the key to determining the Midnight Marauder's true purpose.

This story is extremely good, and the plot is quite compelling.  Mart is involved with the school newspaper, and Mart's role in the story is what makes this book so good.  I cannot give any further information without revealing a major plot point.

This is an excellent book.